UPAVIM today is a 75 member cooperative association with 38 employees and more than 68 women (some are also employees) working as seamstresses and doing handicrafts. The employees work as teachers, nurses, administrators, cooks, cleaners, secretaries, bakers and soy producers. UPAVIM has employees from outside the community, including an accountant, lab technician and a full-time doctor.
We continue to expand our fair trade crafts production through links with other groups and through new lines of crafts. Aside from our Guatemala markets and sales, we have an independent contractor in West Virginia, Mary Joan Ferrara-Marsland, who since 1998 has worked for us doing our sales and distribution, retail and wholesale, in the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world. Having a market in the United States expands our reach in sales and helps us get a fair price for our work. The profits from our sales directly benefit our school.
Also in 2002, the Montessori day care finally became a legalized school and the Center for Alternative Learning was born. The Center for Alternative Learning currently employs 8 teachers and a Director working with grades Kindergarten through 6th. 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.
Most recently, our biggest success is extending the school day for our students to a full day program. The English program has allowed us to keep our students in school longer and provides them with at least two hours of English classes a day. The English program is staffed by international volunteers headed by a Program Coordinator. As our school continues to grow in programs and opportunities, we have also been working on expanding our building and physical space in order to best support our students.
We began constructing The Annex, the newer building next to our old building, in 2000. It now has four completed floors, housing the bakery, soy production facility, the school, tutoring program and library. Current goals are to complete a rooftop playground and install solar panels. The cost is approximately $12,000.
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 their families.