Meet Elvia! ♡
Elvia was born and grew up in the Palajunoj Valley, a village on the outskirts of Xela. During primary school she lived with her grandparents in a district far from her house, because in her family there were some difficulties with her father. When she was 12 years old she came back home to her mother, who was in need of help. Her dream was to continue studying, but she wasn’t able to have this opportunity. So she decided to help her mother work in the field and go with her to sell vegetables in Xela. When Elvia was 14, she decided to search for a second job so she went alone to the city, knocking on doors and asking if someone needed a person to clean or cook. She did this without language problems because she spoke Spanish in her house (as well as her Mayan language K´iche) and by showing her willingness to learn to do it in the required way because she was conscious that her culture was different.
Elvia knew Xela and it really fascinated her even if it was a place really different from her village, but the people’s answers weren’t the ones that she hoped for: some asked for her academic qualifications that she didn’t have, people looked at her Mayan clothes, someone else didn’t trust her and others thought that she wanted to hurt them because of rumors of thieves who went around stealing from the houses. In the end, a woman asked her only for her criminal history and offered her a cleaning job in her house where she had also to stay during the night and take care of a child. Elvia was happy for the opportunity she was given but after some months she realized that it was a hard job (sometimes she continued washing clothes until 10 p.m.) and the woman didn’t always pay her on time as she had promised her. There were even times when she had shown up because the woman said to her that this job was better than selling potatoes with her mum.
Courageously, Elvia left this job and continued to search for another one in Xela because her desire was still to help her mother financially. She began to work in a comedor (rustic restaurant) and then in several different shops but she wasn’t happy: she realized that without an academic qualification, nobody would pay her well. There was a moment in which she thought about her life and the things that weren’t working (the salary, the tense atmosphere among neighbors where her mother was working and the city girls’ nasty looks directed to her ruined hands because of the work in the field contrary to them who could take care of themselves and study) and so she thought of going to the United States to solve all her problems but in the end she didn’t go because her mother said to her that she preferred having her closer. Time passed and Elvia stayed in Xela and continued working in a shop that she didn’t like, without interacting with anybody, planning to work as quickly as she could in order to get out of there because she was convinced that it was impossible to forcefully create a bond with someone and praying to God to help her endure it because deep down she didn’t want to stay in the shop but she had to do it for the money.
Without her realizing, in the same period AMA was really close by when she went to the city, the organization went to her village mostly to train women. Her little sister tried to get her to participate but being so busy at work distracted her. Over time, her sister also started to go down to Xela, to the headquarters of the organization to attend the workshops when she discovered that AMA was looking for someone to do the cleaning so immediately she thought of Elvia. At the beginning, Elvia didn’t want it because she was afraid of losing her job and at the same time, she wasn’t sure that in AMA they would accept her because she didn’t have an academic qualification. She had her first interview and she was really surprised a lot of women that were trying to joke with her, but Elvia couldn’t help keeping distance because in her opinion, for sure, there would still be the same bad situation like the previous jobs. In the end, they accepted her and so she started to do cleaning in AMA three times a week, allowing her time to also help her mother with the work in the field and the sale of vegetables. In AMA she knew a woman who sewed for the organization and she needed a help: Elvia started to clean faster in order to have more time to learn to sew, even if this job couldn’t be paid and so she spent many days sewing and understanding that this kind of job takes a lot of patience.
After some months there was the biggest surprise: they told her that there was an open position for a textile production assistant and they had thought of her. She was recruited and in January 2015 she started to work in AMA, very content with the opportunity but also conscious that of the fact that she still had a lot to learn. Her family and neighbors in her village reacted well to this news, also very happy for her because since she was young, she had been going alone to the city, and with great difficulty, had finally achieved her goal. She wouldn’t end up in a marriage of convenience, as many women in the village desperate for work often do, even though these women were grateful for the opportunity to learn how to sew from Elvia.
Elvia feels that in these three years AMA has enriched her knowledge greatly (the first time she started to sew, it took three days to make a small bag, nowadays she can sew six small bags a day), and has helped in improving her attitude. Before this experience she was really shy and she didn’t talk to people because she was afraid of their reactions but in the organization it didn’t happen that way - seeing lots of open and smiling people was something that made her feel comfortable because, in contrary, she came to work being so serious but she realized that when she went out from AMA she was really happy and felt blessed. Nowadays, she sometimes feels sad because she sees that lots of young people in her village are in her previous situation. Furthermore she is realizing that in Xela lots of people continue to discriminate or ask for academic qualifications for any job and for this reason she feels lucky and hopes that this project can help her learn more and eventually help her realize her dream - to study in order to become a clothes designer before getting married and having children.
Donate today to help pay for the necessary equipment Elvia needs to continue to provide crucial support to PIXAN and the women of Guatemala!
Written by Laura De Benedictis.