Saturday, September 4

The End of the Beginning

"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
-Benjamin Franklin

Margarita, Ramona, and Ramona with the finished sample product

The summer start-up program came to an end on August 19. The project was capped off with a graduation ceremony; the women received certificates of completion for the business and design course and we took time to reflect on the six weeks we had spent together.

The certificate each woman received for successfully completing the program

"Thank you, Jose and Morgan, for working with us. No one has ever come here to teach us with both authority and understanding. We have all learned a lot from this course, and with God's help, we will be able to use these new skills in our business, so that we can all make a better future for our families." -Margarita Mets

Nathaly receiving her certificate
The women were also briefed in detail about the loan agreement they will have with Nest. AMCVA's president, Ramona, signed the loan agreement for the cooperative. They recieved their repayment schedule, and were excited to learn that not only are they to receive a 2,000 USD loan from Nest that will fund the costs for beginning production, but that they already have their first order. The Pujols Family Foundation has placed a large order for hand bags from the cooperative. This initial order will allow the women to immediately earn income from their new venture, while simultaneously beginning their loan repayment.

Signing the formal loan agreement

So much has changed in Batey Aleman this summer. The community has its first working production project, ideally centered in the center of the community: a prime location to motivate others to enter into small business ventures. The sewing studio, elevated above mainstreet on the second floor of its building, represents so much more to these women than just the products it will produce.

One of the final sample products

This studio represents a group of eleven women who have only known poverty and devastation, and yet are finding empowerment in learning a simple skill. The next few months are going to be challenging; they will learn to organize themselves to work efficiently together, to manage their time wisely and work together to reinvest in their business. The stream of steady income will keep them focused, the joy and relaxation they find in their craft with keep them motivated, and the support from each other will keep them secure.

Looking back at one of the first days in the classroom

We are so thrilled to have successfully completed the first phase in Nest's newest program. The next (and even more exciting) phase is beginning, and this is where we'll begin to see the biggest changes yet.

The studio in full swing

To the Asociacion de Mujeres de Costura de Villa Aleman:
Jose and I are so proud of you. Your hardwork and love for your families has been inspiring to us, and we have learned so much from your ingenuity and drive to succeed. We know that these next few months will be an entirely new experience for you all and we're confident in your ability to succeed and make this project bigger and better than we could ever envision. We look forward to watching the business grow, and can't wait to see the difference your work will make in the lives of your families, the futures of your children, and the development of the entire community.

Tuesday, August 17

Finishing School

We're finishing up this week.

The primary goal of the project is for all ten women to know how to sew a specific bag with a pattern provided by Nest. Over the last six weeks, they have learned the mechanics of sewing, how to work with a pattern and have memorized the details of making a specific product.

Today and tomorrow we are reviewing everything we've learned so far in the course. Tuesday and Wednesday are our "audit" days. We'll be running a quick test on preparing and cutting the fabric for assembly, sewing the bag together, and on machine maintenance and keeping the studio clean. We're doing this to be sure that everyone is comfortable and confident performing each task involved in the bag construction. If anyone is unsure, back to the classroom we go to cover that step again!

the stack of finished sample bags

Sunday, August 15

Ramona J

Ramona has been named head of the cooperative by popular vote. She lives directly in front of the studio, and keeps the key to the sewing studio. Ramona is a true entrepreneur. She and her husband had one shot at establishing a business a few years ago, only to see it devastated by the force of Hurricane George. (See a full blog about her story in a previous post.)

"A program like this has never been proposed here before. Nest will help us a lot because it is opening a path that has always been closed for us. God has given us a light and with Nest’s help we’ll be able to walk down that path of success to our goals in life, and can make our dream come true.

WOW, we will be able to start our own business!" -Ramona Jimenez


When fruits are in season, Marilin gathers avocado, mangos, and litchis in the community to sell for a little bit of income. Her husband earns income here and there working on construction projects, but that work is not steady. He was recently able to purchase a motorcycle, which he uses to provide taxi services for a bit more income for the family.

Marilin has been sewing by hand since she was a small child, and has always wanted to learn to sew on a machine but has never had the opportunity until now.

"Nest is going to help me improve the wellbeing of my kids and learn new skills." -Marilin Ramos


Geovanny lives with her two small children and her mother in a house on the main square of the community. Her husband has salaried employment working in construction. Steady jobs are nonexistent in the community, and so her husband works in another town and is only able to return home every eleven days.

Geovanny works a few days a week as a hairstylist, which allows her to bring in more income to supplement what her husband earns. Geovanny's goal for the future is to earn more income herself so that she can remodel and enlarge her house and provide a better future for her children.

Geovanny is on top of it. She is one of the quickest learners in the class and has done perfect work on her machine with little to no guidance. Geovanny is quiet, but she takes her work very, very seriously and is doing a wonderful job. We're looking forward to seeing her progress as a seamstress, she has the potential to be one of the most skilled members of the cooperative.


Margarita is one of the more charismatic women of the group. She is usually the first woman to speak up when the group is asked a question. Margarita is one of the best cooks I have ever encountered, and she makes delicious meals for us when we are working in the community. In fact, Margatita's cuisine is so popular, that her recipes have been published in a cookbook.

Margarita is also very proud of the high school diploma that hangs in a frame on her wall. She completely the degree last year. Margarita has five children: four sons and a daughter, who is pregnant with her first grandchild.

"My dream is to start my own business where I work next to people that I love. Within 5 or ten years I see myself having a chain of sewing businesses. Nest is helping a lot by just being here in the community and offering their help. They have taught us how to work as a business, how to sew and how to manage our money in a better way." -Margarita Metz

Ramona C

Ramona is one of the most devoted clients in the group. As our time here at the project is running out, she has been spending more and more time practicing her sewing skills. She appeared on Saturday to use the studio to get some more time in on the machine.

Ramona has three small children, and earns no income herself. She has a very difficult relationship with her husband, and one of her goals is to earn enough income to support herself and her children, so that she may have the option to move into a house of her own.