UPAVIM today is an 80+ member cooperative association with 41 employees and more than 68 women (some also employees) working as seamstresses and doing handicrafts. The employees work as teachers, nurses, administrators, cooks, cleaners, secretaries, bakers, soy producers and a lab technician. UPAVIM has employees from outside the community, including a general manager and a full-time doctor.
We continue to expand our crafts production through links with other groups and through new lines of crafts. Aside from our Guatemala markets and sales, we have had an independent contractor in Maryland, Mary Joan Ferrara-Marsland, who since 1998 has worked for us doing our sales and distribution in the United States and Canada. In our best year, 2007, we sold almost $450,000 out of her house. We now rent a warehouse near to her house that she, and a few part-time employees work from. The recession has made things tougher but we are hoping to exceed 2007 sales one day soon. In 2002, we joined AGEXPRONT, the national trade organization that awarded us a prize for Best Non-traditional Textile Exporter. Keep checking our shopping cart website for our new product lines in development, including embroidered items, recycled jewelry and bags and judaica jewelry.
Also in 2002, the Montessori day care finally became a legalized school and the Center for Alternative Learning was born. It currently employs 8 teachers and a Director working with children Kindergarten through 6th Grade. Thanks to the hands-on, peer tutoring approach, the contrast between our school and the two primary schools in the neighborhood is dramatic. This has already realized a dream of ours, and we hope to continue to add more students and teachers to our school.
The Annex, the newer building next to our old building, now has 3 floors completed and houses the bakery, soy production facility, school, tutoring program and library. The equipment in the bakery was bought with help from Rotary Clubs of California, and the soy facility, which includes a large refrigerated room, was purchased through support from the Palmer Foundation, the Woods Family Foundation and individuals. Our biggest challenge right now is finishing the construction on the Annex – the 4th floor. We began construction of this building in 2000 and we have completed the first 3 floors and basement which house the above mentioned programs. We accomplished this thanks to the support of the Palmer Foundation and the Global Fund for Women. We have one more floor to complete which will help ease the cramped space conditions in the school. We would like to move the tutoring program and library, plus make more room for the crafts program, enabling us to expand and hopefully make more money for the programs. We need to raise over $100,000 to complete this 4th floor!!
With your support whether through donations or just buying and marketing our products, we can accomplish these goals and continue to make UPAVIM a self-sustainable women´s cooperative dedicated to training the women of our community and providing better lives for our families.