Training program begins in Santa Lucía Utatlán

First cohort of 28 women from the Chuchexic and Paxub communities to launch HCT training program

“Get to know us, we are the women of Chuchexic (Los Planes, the bird tree) and Paxub (among wild flowers)”

This is the story of our first experience of starting work in three  rural communities in the Municipality of Santa Lucía Utatlán in the department of Sololá. A 100% indigenous community of the Quiché ethnic group, Sololá is one of the poorest departments in Guatemala.

Maybeline with a new HCT member

Maybeline Chavajay, our new HCT Director

For me, it was the first time that I was able to meet, work, get inside and learn more about the community of Santa Lucía Utatlán. What I liked the most was the organization they have in the community: you can see the activism of the women. Although many of them do not understand the concept of empowerment, they have done an incredible job of organizing to come together and be part of the program.

Visiting the women led me to see the inside of their houses, but also inside themselves, to know their stories, the challenges they face every day and to learn more about the challenges of their lives, likewise, they allowed us to learn more about their dreams, desires, how their families are, what skills they have, they even told us about some family problems they face, I think they saw in us someone to trust. Most of the interviews were very smooth and enjoyable.

Gathering the first group of women was definitely one of the biggest challenges we went through. We plunged into the community without knowing what we were facing, we had to earn the trust of each woman and the time to be able to present the work that ViviendasLeón does. However, most women expressed their feelings and commented that in recent months and in previous years, various organizations had come to the community promising and offering benefits to them and their community, but nothing materialized. This is one of the reasons why they questioned us about when our benefits would appear. To us this demonstrated their ability to be well organized and surprised us when we saw a group of active women despite all of the disappointing experiences they have had.

From the beginning, the project was intended to open in a single community called Los Planes. However, this information spread quickly and reached another community and to our surprise, several women from a nearby community called Paxub found out about the program and approached us,  requesting that we make room for them. Currently, of the 28 participating women, 9 are from the Paxub community. The distance and lack of transportation to get to Los Planes, the place where we usually meet, has not been an excuse for them.

The diagnosis that we are doing with the women has allowed us to know their challenges and their limitations. This encourages us to prepare a program that meets their needs through the workshops and the benefits that ViviendasLeón promotes such as the creation of small farms. Through the HCT program, we hope that each woman will be motivated to boost her skills and change some ways of thinking and that in the future will each be an agent of change in her community.

Each of the women faces new challenges and different needs every day. However, the desire to learn and discover new things remains within them, hope prevails and they believe that someone can support them and trust them. They join us with an expectant attitude to start the ViviendasLeón project.

Christina Saraí

Doña Christina Saraí, HCT member

Christina is woman from the Paxub community, married with 3 children, and one of the interviewees.

When we asked her if she is interested in creating a business or having a small business that helps her generate income, I cannot forget her facial expression when answering this question. I remember her eyes lit up and she said: “Yes, I want that!” 

When we asked her what kind of business she wanted to create, (it should be noted that in some interviews, this was a difficult question to answer because they had to think carefully about their answer, however, Cristina was clear about it), she said: 

“I want to create a vegetable market in my community, because just to go to the center of town (a more urban town) I spend about Q.40.00 quetzales ($5*) to buy vegetables and supply my family for a week. I want to do that here so the women of my community no longer have to travel to the center to buy vegetables. I want to grow my own vegetables and sell them. I have dreamed of this project and I have always wanted it and I want to make it come true”. 

Cristina surprised me because she was not only thinking of herself, but of the needs of all the women in her community. Her empathy is reflected towards the needs of an entire community and this is also part of the empowerment of women.

*A day laborer in the communities of Santa Lucía Utatlán earns Q40.00 ($5.25) for a day’s work in the fields.