An interview with Montaňas de Esperanza's board member, Carmen Santos, on her work with young women at a local textiles trade school. by Kevin Grubb
Carmen Santos has been teaching textiles for nine years at the Colegio Unidad sin Fronteras (Unity without Borders) technical school in Pimampiro, Ecuador. With her only child off to college, 48-year-old Carmen says she finds her work like raising her own children. She teaches mostly young women and girls in the sewing arts at this school with 150 students. After nine years teaching practical sewing courses at the school, Carmen appreciates how the school is now thriving, which was not always the case.
Six years ago, the Vibrant Village Foundation’s partner, Montaňas de Esperanza, worked with Unidad sin Fronteras to create a micro-enterprise for the school. Since then, the school has received donations of fabric, sewing machines and other sewing supplies to produce goods to be sold at markets in the U.S. Students are complementing their sewing skills with more marketable skills in both their creations and basics in business. Collaboration between the Vibrant Village Foundation and Unidad sin Fronteras has brought new life to the school, which has almost doubled from an 80-student enrollment to nearly 150 students this term. The school is looking to expand in the coming years, adding on another wing for new classrooms and teachers’ offices.
“The students at this school continue to surprise and impress me with their innate talent and desire to produce quality craftsmanship,” Ms. Sue Brown, the Program Director, says. Carmen is proud of the new concepts they are teaching their students. “We have learned not to waste, to use all the scraps for a variety of arts and crafts projects. And in the process, we are developing students’ intellect, understanding and useful skills such motor skills,” Carmen says. "The students benefit greatly from having two teachers giving them one on one instruction…and having the freedom of creative expression in a less structured environment. Many times it is the teachers who are learning from the students which is key.”
In the future, Carmen hopes the school will develop a full-time small-business enterprise for the students, who can produce clothing, crafts and others necessary items for the public in Pimampiro and throughout Ecuador. “To build a small business enterprise for students,” Carmen says, “this is my dream.”