From: San Genaro, Chorrillos, Lima
Group Members: Berta Flores, Emilia Serrano
Maná Color is a sewing group that makes many products, specializing in products made from the colorful mantas, which women in the Andes Mountains use to carry their babies, and in products made from repurposed fabric flour sacks. The group formed in 2001 and operates out of their workshop on the second floor of Maná member Berta Flores’ house.
The members of Maná met each other years ago, when they worked together at a community soup kitchen. There they cooked and worked so their children could have free lunches. The members jumped at the opportunity to work with Bridge of Hope, even though they didn’t all know how to sew. Berta says, “I wanted to work with the group so much that I said I knew how to sew – even though I didn’t.” The members pooled their talents and resources to form a group – one had finished high school and could keep the finances; another knew a little about sewing; and two had very old, used machines that had been passed down in their families that the group could start sewing with.
This is a group that demonstrates problem-solving skills when facing challenges, and they embody Fair Trade values such as solidarity in their solutions. While health insurance is unusual for workers in Peru, the group pitches in when necessary to create their own healthcare. For example, when one of the artisans broke her arm, she was unable to sew for three weeks. The group decided to divide her share of the work between them, and give her the same distribution of income that they would receive. In addressing the situation in this way, they created their own “insurance”, assuring that this member still received pay. With the money from their sales, the members have also been able to buy five new sewing machines.
With the support of the Bridge of Hope Project, they learned about taxes, bookkeeping, and took sewing lessons. The group members have been able to improve their houses and send their children to school, thanks to their involvement in Fair Trade. Maná Color hopes to increase their orders they receive so that they can add more members.
The members of Maná have found that this group has helped them psychologically as well. They have learned how to have friendships; before they were only housekeepers, wives, and mothers. Now they make a big effort to maintain these friendships and show each other how important they each are. One way of doing this is celebrating each one’s birthday in their house together. They have also learned to shares their struggles, grow as people, and value themselves and the work that they do. The word maná means “manna” and comes from the Bible. God provided for the people of Israel when they were in the desert, and the members of Maná want to remain thankful everyday for the blessings that God has provided in the midst of the struggles.