• Carrin Robertson

Francis' Story

One of the best things about UPAVIM is that it gives many women the freedom to work from home. As I’ve mentioned previously- balancing running a household, bringing up family and earning a living is one of the many challenges in La Esperanza. The Crafts program at UPAVIM where I’m currently working, helps women and families like Francis’ earn a living and make their lives much better. Francis is one of the women who works from home, she has her own sewing machine and workshop space, so can work which hours suit her best. Like many of the women, before coming to UPAVIM, Francis learnt to sew in a Maquilla- a large scale factory, churning out clothes and doesn’t necessarily abide by labour laws like what we have in EU. Some do, and things are improving, but associations like UPAVIM allow more transparency along with each woman to choose how they work. It's first and foremost an Association, rather than a traditional business, so we don't have definite work hours for makers, only for the design and cutting department. However it's obviously important to make sure we produce consistently and on time, and the women here want to do that, as it keeps our customers happy, so a great cycle.

I was asked to help interview and photograph a few of my colleagues, which is really important for fair trade to help best connect makers with the customers who buy their products.Transparency is key to ensure Fair Trade, and every woman I’ve spoke with is really happy to have their voices heard and stories shared with people who buy products from us. Angela and I met with Francis at her house, and the following interview I’ve translated into English from Spanish- everything is in Francis’ own words.

Angela: Tell us your story, for example where are you from? How many children do you have and how was your childhood?

Francis: I’m from Guatemala (City), my mum is from Quiché (K’iche), and also my dad is from the City as well, like I am. My childhood… well, I was young when I started working- I was 14 years old, to help my parents. I’ve been working from that age until now. And I got married, and now I have 4 children. The first (girl) is 22, my Second (boy) is 20, the third is 18 (boy) and the youngest girl, she is 7 years old.

Angela: And how did you start to work at UPAVIM?

Francis: So, my first daughter went to school in Sol Naciente in the same town as UPAVIM. I was working in a Maquilla (sewing factory), but it was long hours and not a lot of pay. So I decided it was time to leave. A friend and I decided to ask for work at UPAVIM, Greg was there- one of the volunteers, I asked for work- we started with voluntary hours to begin with and and then I started in 2004.

Carrin: Oh wow, 15 years!

Angela: It’s her Quincinera!

Francis: (laughing) Yes! On the 4th of April, I’ll have worked here for 15 years.

Carrin: Congratulations!

Angela: What do you like making the most?

Francis: Truthfully, I really making everything, these bags for example I really like making. (Francis is currently making Men’s Toiletry Bags). The little baby shoes I like, with cow faces and cat faces, I really like making. I like the variety.

Carrin: I think a lot of the other women love making the cute cow shoes too! Also, do you only sew by machine or do you do any handcrafting at all?

Francis: I do both. These little cow shoes, first I sew the face by hand, and then afterwards I make the rest using my sewing machine. So I do both things, sewing and handcrafting.

Angela: How has UPAVIM helped you?

Francis: UPAVIM have helped me a lot because, before only my husband was working and we had a child to bring up, and then of course we had our second daughter. With gaining work, I’ve been able to push my (4) children forward, they’ve graduated from school.

Angela: One of your daughters is a teacher at UPAVIM.

Francis: Yes, One of my daughters is a teacher at UPAVIM. She’s an English teacher.

Carrin: Jennifer?

Francis: Si, Jennifer.

Carrin: Ah, Jennifer is your daughter! I didn't know that! (Jennifer is the head of the English teachers here and oversees the English teacher volunteers who work at UPAVIM)

Angela: What do you think of the products you make being used half way around the world?

Francis: I think it's really satisfying, because what I’ve made, the products are in various countries, being sold. I thank God, because for this we’ve been helped. People buying our products, helps us here to have work and to continue to have work.

Angela: What are your hobbies?

Francis: My hobbies? For example what?

Angela: Like music, or going out walking, or watching TV? Like when you’re not at your machine?

Francis: I like cooking, and watching TV and listening to music. More at the weekends, I spent time with my kids- we go out walking, because most of the week I am working. I go to church.

Carrin: Aha, yes. Relax at weekends. And do you have a favourite song, or a favourite type of music? This question isn’t on the list, it’s just me asking (!)

Francis: Yes, I like romantic music.

Carrin: Ahhh

Francis: Yes, sometimes I listen as well when I’m working, sometimes in English- I don’t know the words, but I like the melody.

Carrin: Yes, I like what you’re listening to now.

Angela: Yes its nice and soft.

Francis: Yes, I like soft music.

Angela: And. Anything you’d like to say about UPAVIM?

Francis: About UPAVIM? With thanks from God, it’s helped us a lot. I give thanks to God and also to the people who buy our products.


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