Sandy Yazmin Colohua Gomez, now 22 years old, was born in Chimulahaucan, a community near Mexico City where most families earn a meager income by working in the landfill. The workers, like Sandy’s father, spend their days sorting trash and transporting it in carts pulled by donkeys down dusty roads. In this community, life is tough and money is scarce. Clothing, toys, furniture and even food come from the landfill. There is no money for doctors or dentists. Children often don’t go to school because they can’t afford pencils and notebooks. Even if they could, they are not welcomed due to poor hygiene habits.

As a child, Sandy’s struggles went deeper than lack of money. Her parents were addicted to alcohol and abusive toward Sandy and her siblings. At the young age of 3, Sandy went to live with her grandmother in a home filled with love, but also with many strict rules. It was here that Sandy learned the value of hard work and the importance of forgiveness – two lessons that she would need throughout her life.

Sandy had the opportunity to attend school through 9th grade, but was unable to attend secondary school despite being awarded a scholarship. There simply wasn’t enough money to cover the remaining costs, and her grandmother needed her to earn money for the home instead.  When Sandy’s grandmother passed away several years later, it devastated her and she searched for a more fulfilling jobs to fill the void.    

In 2013, Sandy discovered the art of weaving plastic labels and the Mitz Foundation 5by20 program through other women in her community. The Mitz Foundation teaches the artisans how to use imperfect beverage bottle labels and otherwise unusable consumer packaging to make beautiful bags, ipad covers and other items. At first, Sandy had a very difficult time learning how to weave Coca-Cola labels into handbags and gave up many times. But with perseverance and encouragement, she finally completed one and then became very good at it. The sense of accomplishment she felt from learning this handcrafting skill was transformative for her confidence and outlook for the future.

In addition to teaching women how to make handcrafted items, the Mitz Foundation teaches the artisans about finances. They open savings accounts and learn about setting reachable goals. They learn about the dangers of “loan sharks” and high interest rates. These were critical lessons for Sandy and she began creating goals for the future.

Two years later, Sandy feels financially stable, proud and happy. She’s saving money to finish her education online, and she’s taking time to learn new skills, like dancing and swimming. Last December she achieved a longtime dream of a visit to the beach in Vera Cruz for the very first time in her life.  In Sandy’s words, “I’m happy because my dreams are coming true!”