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  • Writer's pictureUpavim Community Development Foundation

A Special Message from Mary Joan, UCDF Board President

December 30th, 2021

Friends of UPAVIM,

As another year comes to a close, I have been reflecting a lot on my 23 year relationship with UPAVIM and the hard working women that keep it alive. During these years there have been growing pains and setbacks, renovations, hurting as women have passed away or lost children under tragic circumstances, worsening gang problems, substantial cutbacks through the great recession in the U.S. of 2008 which affected U.S. craft sales and Guatemala terribly, and let’s not forget the tiresome pandemic which we all continue to navigate.

But repeatedly through all of these events that confront UPAVIM, their resiliency has been stronger. The women together, figure out solutions to manage the challenges and setbacks, adapt, and move forward. They really are quite amazing and they don’t let anything keep them down for long. This is partly why they are still around after 30+ years from their humble beginnings and why I have remained involved.

When I first visited the community in 1998, people were living in metal and cardboard shacks which over time have been replaced with sturdy concrete block homes. Where dirt roads once ran through the neighborhoods, tarred roads, and sidewalks exist with small tiendas strewn throughout. It really has become a thriving community. UPAVIM is a beacon that you can’t miss as you come down the road, a constant presence and major resource for La Esperanza – the place of “Hope”. The UPAVIM bakery is very popular, the library is well used, the school is in demand, the scholarships help approximately 300 children a year attend school, and it provides work for many of the women in the community. The clinic, laboratory, and pharmacy keep people from having to travel far for primary healthcare and lastly, the tutoring program provides a safe, fun, and educational refuge for kids after school.

What I have also seen in these 23 years is how so many of you continue to help year after year to make all of this happen. Just this morning I looked through the list of December donations and saw names of many old friends. Thank you for believing in UPAVIM and its value in their challenged community. The women and their income-generating projects fund most of their needs but that generous support of our friends makes all the difference to their success. You ARE appreciated and needed.

Our Year in Review

This past year we at UCDF (The UPAVIM Community Development Foundation) and the women at UPAVIM made a concerted effort to start focusing on changes that would help UPAVIM work towards sustainability in hope that one day we would no longer be quite so reliant on our generous donors. As you can imagine, this is a tall order, but everyone has taken on the challenge with gusto. Some programs such as scholarships will always need funding, but others, we hope, may not. It will take time though and a lot of work.

UPAVIM started the year by restructuring its juntas (boards) that they have to manage all departments. They chose a new President, Esperanza Lopez, at the start of 2021 for the UPAVIM governing board who is by all reports very good, working well with all the staff and juntas, and making positive changes. The women have also been working with a Guatemalan business owner as a consultant, Alberto Monterroso, who has guided them through the process of identifying problems, figuring out solutions, setting goals for all of the departments of UPAVIM, and they are now working towards achieving those goals.

Despite the pandemic challenges, there are even more good things to report.

  • All of the UPAVIMas were able to get vaccinated and they also transported many people in the community to be vaccinated.

  • Sales have been very good with Alisa Woofter, the U.S. distributor. Crafts hired 3 new sewers and the sewers come every day to UPAVIM to deliver products and receive new materials to sew.

  • The daycare and kitchen are still closed but online learning continues for the school. The teachers have been able to safely tutor the children one on one at UPAVIM who are not doing well with the online format. It is hoped schools will reopen in February.

  • Through donations, the school purchased 8 much-needed replacement computers for teachers to work with. It’s been a huge help with online learning and creating materials and worksheets.

On the U.S.A. side, the UCDF board also restructured and I am happy to report we are working more efficiently and achieved many goals this past year. The board is an all-volunteer board, with little free time, therefore we decided to hire a part time Administrative Manager, with profits from the endowment to help us get more organized. Kelly Sanders was in this position for 2021 and was hugely instrumental to in migrating our bookkeeping system to Quickbooks and rebuilding the website. Check out the new website if you haven't already!

Kudos to Kelly Sanders for helping us get these huge undertakings completed. Unfortunately, Kelly will be leaving us at the end of 2021 but we have already hired a new Administrative Manager, Allison Havens, who will start in January. She lives in Xela, Guatemala, which will put her in closer contact with UPAVIM. The board is very much looking forward to working with her.

In 2021, we also held our first-ever Volunteer Reunion, virtually, for former UPAVIM volunteers from the past 30 years. Did you know over 90 people have volunteered at UPAVIM in that time? About 15 people, from all over the world, attended this successful event and we hope to have more reunions this coming year. We are still trying to locate people and get their contact information. Please write to us atucdfadmin@upavim.orgif you are a former volunteer and don't think we do not have your information!

I will be stepping down from UCDF at the end of this year after this long and very rewarding journey together. It was truly an honor for me to work with these amazing women in crafts for 20 years and on the board for 18 years. I will be handing the reins as Board President over to Janessa Landeck who has been UPAVIM’s Treasurer for many years.

I hope you will continue to support UPAVIM. Buy crafts, consider joining the Board, hold a fundraiser, or make a donation today! Don’t forget, we DO need and appreciate you. Thank you SO much!

All the best to you and yours in 2022! Happy New Year!

Sincerely yours,

Mary Joan Ferrara-Marsland

UCDF President

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