“I feel good now that I am making and saving money.”
Doña Martha, 36, lives with her family in the Chimalhuacán community in Mexico State, just east of Mexico City. It’s a desperately poor community made up of dusty roads lined with thousands of homes that lack basic necessities. Most days you can’t mistake the stench of the landfill down the street that stretches for miles, but the residents don’t seem to notice. The landfill is a part of everyday life for Chimalhuacáns. It’s where they make meager incomes working long hours sifting through trash that they haul into horse drawn carts and transport to the sorting stations. It’s where they find furniture, mattresses, clothing and toys to fill their homes. And the landfill is also where many find food to feed their families and horses.
Doña Martha and her husband have always worked hard to try to get ahead, often taking second jobs and seasonal agriculture work to earn additional income. Despite their hard work, they never could seem to pay down longstanding debts with high interest rates. Feeding their four children was a challenge, doctor’s appointments became financial crises, and their limited budget meant school was not an option for their children.
But things are looking up for Doña Martha thanks to an artisan program made available to women in the community through the Mitz Foundation and Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative. In 2013 Doña Martha learned how to weave handbags and other crafts using recycled “over-run” and outdated Coca-Cola plastic labels. Doña Martha and other participants’ items are sold through the Mitz Foundation catalog. Through the program she has also learned critical business and personal finance skills.
Since beginning to make handbags and crafts, Doña Martha has more than doubled her family’s income. She opened her first savings account and has learned to set realistic goals and celebrate her accomplishments. With her new income, she is able to send her youngest child to school, take her children to the doctor when ill, feed her family and she has finally paid down the family’s debt. She feels immense pride with these accomplishments and in her own words says, “I feel good now that I am making and saving money.”
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