We are a group of  75 women who live in the marginalized community of La Esperanza in Zone 12 of Guatemala City.

We are all mothers and homemakers. Some of us are widows, some of us have been abandoned by our husbands or we confront alcoholism and/or domestic violence in our families. Many of us are the sole providers of economic support for our families.

UPAVIM’s Beginnings

In 1989, partnering with a very supportive Sister Parish group from Bemidji, Minnesota, a group of Guatemalan and American women began a baby-weighing program to address infant malnutrition in La Esperanza. They called it the Growth Monitoring Program. Soon after, a handicraft making project was launched. The craft program sought to generate sustainable and independent sources of income for the Guatemalan women, as well as provide a financial base for the development of other programs. The craft program eventually grew into what is now UPAVIM Crafts (Artesanias), a business that sells a huge variety of Fair Trade handcrafted goods to national and international markets.

Over time UPAVIM purchased land and built their own building to house a dental and medical clinic, laboratory, pharmacy, day care and preschool, Alternative Learning Center (a full-day school for students in kindergarten through 6th grade), with an English program, a bakery, soy production facility, a crafts workshop, and a library.  Not all exist still today but these programs have provided services not only to our women, but to thousands of people in La Esperanza and other nearby communities. Our projects are supported by a nominal fee for some, craft sales and other income generating projects we have started as well as international donations and grants.

UPAVIM Today

UPAVIM today is a 75+ member cooperative association with more than 70 members working as seamstresses and doing handicrafts. In addition, UPAVIM provides employment for the women of the community as teachers,  administrators, cooks, cleaners, secretaries, accountants, nurses, bakers and soy producers.

UPAVIM in Action

UPAVIM Crafts (Artesanias) is the heart of UPAVIM. UPAVIM Crafts exports beautiful fair trade gifts and crafts around the world, and financially supports the Children’s Center and Alternative Learning Center. In addition to Artesanias, UPAVIM proudly runs its own bakery, and pharmacy.

UPAVIM also offers a variety of educational services to La Esperanza and surrounding communities, including a free public library, academic scholarships, a tutoring center, the Children’s Center, a Montessori early childhood program, the Alternative Learning Center, a full-day school for students in kindergarten through 6th grade with K-3 being Montessori, and an afternoon English program.These programs provide services not only to our women, but to thousands of people in La Esperanza and other nearby communities. Some programs are free and the rest charge a low price. These programs are supported by fees, craft sales, other income generating projects we have started as well as international donations and grants.

“Empowered Women Grow Communities”

UPAVIM’s mission: to support the women of La Esperanza in their fight for better economic, healthcare and educational opportunities for themselves, their families and their community.