The sewing group at Children’s HopeChest’s Pueblo Modelo CarePoint in Guatemala has become the light of Christ in their community, recently sewing over 1,500 masks to help protect people from coronavirus.
All Guatemalan citizens have been ordered by the President to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you want to go outside, you need a mask. When a person does not wear a mask in public, they face a monumental fine of 7,000 quetzales, or about 1,000 U.S. dollars. The decision to wear a mask in public may seem obvious given the consequences, but masks have recently been incredibly expensive to purchase and difficult to find. These conditions put pressure on those who are living in poverty or have inconsistent income who may not be able to afford a mask and may face jail time instead of a fine.
Debora, the leader of Pueblo Modelo CarePoint, recognized the market to create masks when a local government orphanage director reached out to her.
The director asked if the CarePoint’s sewing group was able to create 200 masks for the orphanage children. Without thinking twice, Debora said, “Yes!” and rallied the sewing group. Debora is an incredible asset in her community, who not only leads the CarePoint, but also teaches the sewing group. Generally, the sewing group produces t-shirts, and goes to fairs and markets to display their products. Debora had already downloaded an Olson mask pattern and made masks for her family. The masks that she planned for them to make are excellent quality, with a size for children and a size for adults.
Nine of the women in the sewing group (five are mothers who have children enrolled at Pueblo Modelo CarePoint) met the next day to cut fabric, which Debora already had on hand! After cutting and dividing the fabric, each woman took her supplies to work from home. Over two days the six women produced 200 masks, which were then delivered to the orphanage!
Besides helping the orphanage, the masks also provided much-needed income for the women, which will definitely help their precarious situations as Guatemala has been “shut down” for almost four weeks. Additionally, in the Pueblo Modelo community, the main source of income for families comes from seasonal jobs, including construction or working small shops. This opportunity to create masks and earn money was a timely blessing.
After word got out about the quality and quick turnaround time for the 200 masks, four directly implemented CarePoints that needed masks in their communities requested an order of another 1,350 from the sewing group! Debora and Eric (another CarePoint leader) bought the materials the same day and organized all of them the next day. As a co-op, the sewing group pays a five percent small business tax. Debora called each woman and told them how much tax they would owe. Instead of discounting their pay, each woman showed up with the tax owed in-hand and gave it to Eric before receiving their pay, which for most of the women was the equivalent of at least two weeks wages, if not more. No one complained. We believe most felt dignity in paying taxes and contributing to Guatemala.
The women were so excited to have more masks to work on and the new opportunity for income. The women can work from home on sewing machines that they pay off for their own use. Two of the women who had not yet fully paid for their sewing machines finally saw the value of having that vital capital in their home and cancelled the balance owed empowering them to take the machine home. One woman recently took on another order for 100 masks and put her family back to work providing much needed income given the circumstances of mass unemployment.
In the video that they made to thank Children’s HopeChest, you can see that the women’s whole families are getting involved in the mask production. Husbands, sons, daughters and, even some in-laws all passed the Easter weekend together making the masks. Everyone wants to be a part of the exciting opportunity to work on masks that will help to save lives and provide some crucial income during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some even commented that the project provided an opportunity for renewed family unity as well as a comfortable space to share their faith with family.
Fifteen women fulfilled the order of 1,350 masks in less than a week! When they finished, they said, “Do you have more masks for me to make? We want to keep working!” Leaders from the other directly implemented CarePoints were also thrilled to receive the masks.
The sewing co-op has been registered with the informal, micro-business agency of Pueblo Modelo’s local municipality. This past week the government announced an economic stimulus to micro-businesses legally registered to help them during this time. On Thursday, April 16, the agency was scheduled to turn in the list of micro-businesses to be considered for a government stimulus. That morning, Debora was contacted by the agency head and told that her group qualified and graciously extended the enrollment time regarding the stimulus to Friday morning. The agency head just happens to be one of Debora’s former Sunday school students from years ago!
These women are working hard to gain their own income, and they are creating products that will help save lives. We as a Christ-centered organization, believe that we are called to restore dignity and share about His love in a tangible way. We are praying for each other and we know that as part of the same body we can rejoice together and work together.
Help Children’s HopeChest support more stories of hope! Stand with HopeChest by equipping us to respond quickly and proactively to COVID-19’s impact on the vulnerable communities we partner with. By giving a gift where it is needed most, you empower HopeChest to provide support to local needs and our CarePoints overseas that are bracing for potential impact.