Artisan Spotlight

Posted on 08 November 2018

Mayan Hands artisan with needle felted animalDiega Churunel is a member of Las Estrellas, a cooperative of Mayan women who craft Maya Hands delightful felted wool animals.

It’s easy to understand the impact of extreme poverty when Diega describes her childhood. She recalls there were times when she and her six siblings shared a single egg for dinner. During school recess, Diega stayed in the classroom making knotted bracelets, which she later sold for a few pennies. Though she loved school, she had to stop her studies after sixth grade like most Mayan girls her age. 

These days, Diega marvels at the changes in her life, something she attributes to her work with Mayan Hands: “Now I can buy what we need. I have a good home, grow our food and have chickens, turkeys and sheep.” 

“I work with joy. My income sustains our family and allows my daughter to go to school. This work is life.”

A single mother, Diega is adamant that her daughter’s future be bright. Karen Lily is now in secondary school thanks to a Mayan Hands scholarship and Diega hopes that she will fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer.

Diega teaching needle felting to new artisans

This year, Diega was happy to share the economic benefits of fair trade with more women. For the first time, she taught two cooperatives to make felted wool birds, a popular Mayan Hands product. The women have turned in their first orders and now receive regular monthly income.

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