Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas Gifts with a Difference

If you think your friends and family already have enough pens, socks and DVDs, why not send a beautiful card telling them that a gift has been made in their name to a little village in Guatemala?

You could help install a fuel-efficient, clean burning stove. This will improve the health of families, reduce deforestation, and help remove 3.4 tonnes of CO2 per year from the atmosphere. 

Or, you could provide a Mayan child with an education, helping a young Mayan go to high school — an expense far beyond the reach of most San Antonio families.
And then there’s the Centro — the small community centre providing support, courses, preschool and more.

If you would like to make a donation, and receive some of our cards like these shown here for Christmas gifts, please contact Susan at LatinAmerica@innovativecommunities.org

Thank you so much for all you help us do for the villagers of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Up-Coming Scarf Sales Vancouver Island

The following sales will provide an opportunity to do your Christmas shopping, while helping a worthy cause at the same time. All profits go to help the projects in San Antonio Palopo on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. 

Fair Trade Fiesta
November 16 & 17
10 am - 4 pm
Filberg Centre,
Anderton Avenue

Saanich Holday Craft Fair
November 23 & 24
10 am - 4 pm
Saanich Fairgrounds
(Booth 5, Sunshine Room)

Fair Trade Fiesta
November 23
10 am - 3 pm
Eagle's Hall
2965 Boys Rd. (off Island NHwy)

VIDEA Fair Trade Fair
November 30
10 am - 4 pm
First Metropolitan Church Hall
923 Balmoral St.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guatemala Get-Together, Film Launch, & More

You're invited to the launch of a short documentary on the work we do in San Antonio Palopo, produced by filmmaker, Judy Jackson - and more! 

WHEN: Friday, November 8, from 4-6 pm
WHERE: Garry Oak Room, 1335 Thurlow Road, Fairfield (behind Sir James Douglas School; parking is off Thurlow - see map below).

Please join us, the ICO Guatemala Scarves for Stoves group, for celebration, information, film launch and nibbles – a fun way to learn about what we do in the small town of San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala.
There'll be:
  • Guatemalan appies
  • Screening of a short film on San Antonio Palopo by Salt Spring Island filmmaker Judy Jackson
  • Mini-update on projects
  • New scarves and shawls for sale
  • Chance to meet with members of the project and to find out more about what’s going on

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scarves for Sale on Saltspring Island

Harbour House Lobby

For several years, the Harbour House Hotel Restaurant and Organic Farm on Saltspring Island has been supporting the Guatemala project by selling scarves and other items in its lobby. We are ever so grateful to the hotel for helping in this way. Now, Mistaken Identity Vineyards (below) on Saltspring is also selling scarves and shawls. 100% of all sales go to support the projects. If you know of another location where we might sell our project-enabling products from the Lake Atitlan area, please email the webmaster, Tricia, at: tricia...at...photo-j.com. 
Scarves and Shawls among the wine at Mistaken Identity

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Visit to Centro - San Antonio Palopo

Don't miss the  Guatemalan Scarf Sale Saturday April 13th (Click for Details)

4-year-olds at work – this headstart program will help 
them be successful when they start school next year
Posted by Susan Gage:
Margaret Gray and I just got back from three weeks of working in San Antonio. Lots of great memories, many of them from our visits to the Centro – the community centre. Now in its third year, the Centro runs programs for all ages: from 4-year-olds about to head off for school next year and students needing extra help, through a number of women’s programs (Spanish, basic living skills, crafts), on up to the weekly lunch and social time for las ancianas, women aged from 70 and up. 

Isabel (right) with the help of a volunteer, serves soup for the ancianas
This year our long-time employee Felipa Tobar decided to retire, and we now have two bright young women, Isabel and Brenda, working part time. As well as planning and running the centre programs, they administer the scholarship program (we are sponsoring 19 secondary students this year), and coordinate volunteers. Volunteers are a major part of the programming: two volunteers (either scholarship students or their parents) come to each of the pre-school session to help Brenda run the program. Twice a week there are tutoring sessions, where students who need help work in groups under the direction of scholarship students. More volunteers arrive to help cook the lunch for the ancianas. Fathers of scholarship students help build sheds and do the gardening. This really IS a community centre, where the whole community pitches in and helps.

One of our goals this year was to work with the board of the centre to help them understand their role, and to have them take more control. Murray Richmond (who has a background in board development) came for a week and helped us develop a framework; we honed our Spanish skills meeting by meeting, as we discussed issues such as conflict of interest and confidentiality. We’re hoping that our 5-woman team, meeting monthly through Skype with Kathy Coster, our Canadian rep, will provide mentorship to our enthusiastic young staff, and help ensure that the centro is responsive to community needs.
Getting those grades up - a grade 4 student gets help in from a volunteer tutor.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Weaving a Future in San Antonio
Wednesday, February 27
Today at 2:00 we’re meeting with the San Antonio weavers.  Jacqueline has spent a month helping them create new scarf designs in spring and winter colours. In San Antonio there are now two women’s weaving co-ops: Mujeres Unidas (Women United) and Artesania Palopó (Palopó Handicraft). Most of their members are widows; all are poor. As well, there are several family weaving groups. 

Jacqueline has called this meeting to talk about fair trade.

By 2:00, just one woman has arrived at the casa. But this is Guatemala; by 2:20 the room is packed with weavers in their matching blue huipiles. We talk about fair trade. What would be a fair price for a handwoven scarf 6 inches by 70 inches? There is intense discussion, most of it in kaqchikel, one of the Mayan languages. Our ‘Scarves for Stoves’ group is paying well above the going rate, but we realize that it’s still not really enough for a scarf that has taken a whole day to weave on a backstrap loom. We discuss the need for a tag to explain to buyers the importance of paying a fair price, the importance of working together. But most of all, we talk about markets.

“This is our work. This is what we do!” says Sandra, the founder of one of the co-ops. “But who will buy it? How can we feed our children?”

When we started selling the scarves several years ago, we thought of them mainly as a way to raise money for clean-burning stoves. Now, increasingly, we realize that creating a market for these weavings and paying a fair price, is key in helping these women raise themselves out of poverty. In the end, several of us will head back to Canada, our suitcases bulging with scarves, and our hearts filled with a determination to try to expand the market for these beautiful weavings, each of them representing a small step forward for these weavers and their families.

Posted by Susan Gage

Monday, March 25, 2013


1648 ROCKLAND (at the corner of Terrace)

Artist Carole Sabiston is co-hosting, with the ICO Guatemalan Scarves-for-Stoves Team, a scarf sale in her beautiful home. We did a sale together two years ago and we are delighted that Carole has generously offered to host one again, as it was a great success - everyone loved it. This year we are especially excited as four of our team, who have been working with the weavers on new designs, have just returned from Guatemala with a whole new shipment of scarves and shawls. 

Many of you are already familiar with the work we’ve been doing in small impoverished Mayan villages, replacing open hearths (which are so bad for the health of families and for the planet) with clean-burning, made-in-Guatemala stoves. When you buy a hand-woven Mayan scarf for $20 to $40, you help provide a living for a village weaver, and also contribute towards a stove. And every penny we make goes towards the project: we pay all our own travel costs.

The Scarf Sale will be held a month before Mother's Day, so it is a great opportunity to buy a meaningful Mother's Day gift ... or a gift for yourself.

Our goal for this sale is to raise enough for 25 stoves - $3,200. Please join us and pass this on to any interested friends. Please note there is limited parking.