UPAVIM’s Early Years
UPAVIM came into being when a partnership was made with a group from Bemidji, Minnesota through an organization called “Sister Parish.” Sister Parish pairs US and Central American churches in a relationship based on inter-exchange. The first delegation from Minnesota arrived in March of 1989 and met with eight women from La Esperanza. It was during this visit that they agreed to help us establish a dental clinic which was dedicated in November of 1990. Soon after it was apparent there was a strong need for a daycare and so in December of 1990 we discussed the need to construct our own building in order to have space. Up to this point we were working in a building owned by the Catholic Church. In order to request funding a name was chosed (UPAVIM).
We began the construction in 1992 and finished it in 1994 through the generosity of Rotary Clubs District 5580, “The Self-Development of the People of the Presbyterian Church, USA”, Levi Strauss and Elizabeth and Charles Davis.
We began making crafts in 1991 to provide jobs for the women and to pay for the Growth Monitoring program and day care. Our first craft products were barrettes and scrunchies. When our first big order for 50 scrunchies for a La Leche League conference came in we were so excited! We’ve come a long way since that day. With the completion of the building in 1994, we expanded the crafts production and added the Montessori daycare facility. During this time, various UPAVIMas have made trips to the United States Fair Trade Conferences which helped us to increase our sales through organizations like 10,000 Villages and SERRV. Dedicated volunteers like Lane and Priscilla Hart enabled us to maintain a U.S. market in the 1990’s by taking orders and shipping in the U.S. We then became members of the Fair Trade Federation.
Also during this period several women were trained by Dr. Lilian Moncada Davidson, professor at Queens College in New York. We opened a day care center and began integrating the Montessori method into our pre-school clases. We made plans to open our own school some day with other teachers experienced in the montessori system. In the following years, the teachers have continued their studies in the United States, El Salvador, the Conference of the Reading Council in Guatemala and in workshops. The Kellogg Foundation financed a trip for two cooperative members to travel to Brazil to observe a similar project.
Through these investments in human resources and the expansion of the market for our crafts, UPAVIM grew from a small community health project to a successful, independent, democratically run business cooperative that provides social services in a growing community, which receives no assistance from the local or national governments.