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Our Story

"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.

Unidas Para Vivir Mejor

United For a Better Life. UPAVIM strives to provide opportunities for women to recognize their potential, both individually and as a group of women united by the desire to create a better life. We believe that when women acknowledge their own capabilities, and have the space and structure to develop their talents, they begin to empower themselves.

Located in a "Red Zone" of Guatemala City, La Esperanza is a community plagued by gangs and violence. For the women of this community, UPAVIM offers a place of sanctuary. It is a space for them to be with their sisters and friends, the women of their community who give them love, hope, strength and purpose. It is also a place of employment to provide income and security for their families. While faced with the numerous challenges of poverty and violence, UPAVIM remains a beacon of hope for the women and children of this community.

"Through UPAVIM, we have learned to recognize and appreciate our qualities, and through this we have succeeded in empowering ourselves and our families.” -upavima (translated from spanish)

“Gangs exist because young people have nothing to motivate them to fight for a better future, so it is important for our community to have a place like UPAVIM, with schools to educate the children of the neighborhood and give them a safe place where they can learn and develop aspirations for their future. It gives me great comfort to know that my children can count on UPAVIM and are not playing in the street risking their lives.” -upavima (translated from spanish)

Finding a solution to all of the challenges facing our community requires a real commitment from each one of us – as empowered women, mothers, partners and workers – to take the lead and make the necessary changes, and to do so in solidarity with our community and in solidarity with the most vulnerable and excluded people in Guatemalan society.

UPAVIM’s beginnings

In 1989, partnered with a 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. Soon after, a handcraft-making program 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 variety of handcrafted goods to national and international markets.

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, soy factory and health clinic. 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), and an English program. For more information about our programs, visit our Growing Communities page.

A director’s board (junta directiva) and five sub-committees (consejos), made up of volunteers from the women of the UPAVIM community, control the day-to-day implementation as well as long-term development of UPAVIM’s products and services.

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