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Women visit co-ops in Guatemala
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Visitors to Guatemala included (front) Jane Harrison, (back, from left) Kathy Doyle, Tami VanDreese, Carolyn Meyer, Janet Butteris and Bonnie Gerner.

Six women from Southwest Wisconsin recently spent time in Guatemala visiting cooperatives.

Tami VanDreese, Janet Butteris, Bonnie Gerner, Carolyn Meyer, Jane Harrison and Kathy Doyle spent time with various Guatemalan women’s co-ops, learning and helping them.

The main journey was to Esperanza outside of Guatemala City to UPAVIM, a co-op run by a Guatemalan women’s governing board who provide sewing and craft work for members as well as a school, clinic and bakery for the community.

At UPAVIM, the six women helped cut tin cans for a craft project, helped the librarian sort books, filled orders to be shipped to the U.S., and helped special needs children make valentines for their parents.

The women, along with a translator who is one of the founders of UPAVIM, visited two other co-ops near Chichicastenago, where the women do basket weaving, felting and cloth weaving.

In Santiago, the six women helped make tortillas and served the elders at a nonprofit organization, similar to American senior citizen centers. They also visited a shop where the owner takes boys off the street and teaches them the craft of woodworking.

The women also received a history lesson when they visited two memorials — a Catholic church where the priest had been murdered by the government because he had been offering sanctuary to the local people, and a memorial for coffee workers (some children) who were killed while at work in the field. Both of these killings took place in the 1990s.

The people here, poor as they are, are also a happy, giving people. This was the fifth trip to Guatemala for Harrison, a member of First English Lutheran in Platteville, and the first for the rest of the group.

The women plan to support the Guatemalans they met by buying coffee and craft items made by UPAVIM or by Mayans or otherwise supporting their cause.