The Guaymi or Ngabe people are indigenous to northern Panama and southern Costa Rica. At the time of the arrival of the Spanish explorers, the Guaymi were found in three distinct groups that were located in what is now known as western Panama. The Spanish conquest quickly drove two of these groups into the remote mountains of northern Panama. In the 1940s, a small group of Guaymi returned to Costa Rica.
The governments of both Costa Rica and Panama sent the Guaymi to remote reservations, where they live off of subsistence farming and are some of the poorest people in their respective countries. Additionally, the remote locations of their reservations, along with generations of discrimination and prejudice, makes finding employment difficult.
We have created a program that provides a market that showcases a mix of traditional and modern Guaymi handiwork, encourages continued education, and helps develop skills that will equip those in our program long after they leave.
Each of our artisans are paid an above-fair wage and earn a consistent monthly income, which allows them to provide for their families, send their children to school and/or attend school themselves, and save money for any future ventures.
Most of the community has a 6th grade education level, due to the poverty level. Our program prioritizes education - whether that is sending an artisan to school for the first time or giving them the opportunity to return to school and obtain their diploma - and offers financial assistance towards tuition and supplies.
As our artisans experience positive growth and live empowered lives, it is our hope to see their community and the surrounding area take steps towards reconciliation and put an end to the generations of discrimination that exists. By involving the local community in our mission through events and retail partnerships, relationships are formed and opportunities to connect continue to arise.
The ultimate goal of our program is to equip each artisan with the skills to thrive long after they leave. All of our artisans have access to mentors and leaders in the community to help guide them, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Life Skills Workshops
Several times a year, we host workshops on the reservation to teach our artisans practical life skills to enrich their lives and those of their families and communities. Past workshops have included gardening and healthy eating, personal hygiene, and financial savings.