Cristobalina Colaj Mux tried to calm her nerves as her sister introduced her to several women. She looked carefully at the faces of these women, who together would soon form a cooperative with Mercado Global. For years, she had worked 12 hours for six days a week sewing traditional Mayan clothing and still struggled to support her seven children and her husband, who could not find work due to the loss of his arm in a terrible accident. Her sister assured her that the group would offer steady work weaving fabrics for products to be sold around the world as well as provide free education and skills trainings. It all sounded like a dream.

Cristobalina had never been part of a cooperative before; this would be her first. How would she manage the work, collaborate with the other women, and use her new income to improve the lives of her children she wondered. She felt both nervous and excited at the same time for her journey ahead.

Like Cristobalina, other women artisans are being empowered by Mercado Global’s programs in ways they never thought possible. We see the remarkable results time and time again. From investing income to send their daughters to school or applying lessons from our trainings to create a side business, our partner artisans are becoming agents of change in their own lives and in the lives of their families and community members.

We have found that managing and dealing with change is not always easy. In many cases, our artisans are experiencing many “firsts” their first cooperative, first leadership position, first savings account, first child to go to school, and the list often goes on.

Doing anything for the first time requires the support of close friends and teachers and self-confidence. And so we have built our most popular and well-received training program around these the fundamental concepts. We call it the Power to Change program.

In the program, women bond over exercises that encourage honest conversations about personal and community challenges, such as leadership and gender dynamics. They discuss barriers to making changes in their lives and those of their families and learn ways to take action to overcome those barriers. After participating in the exercises, the women feel more self-confident and independent, and the group becomes more cohesive and close-knit.

About the program, Cristobalina said, “It has taught me about leadership and self-confidence, and I feel more empowered after every training. It’s never too late to make a change.”

Three years after joining her first cooperative, Cristobalina is a remarkable example of an agent of change. She is a respected leader within her cooperative and community. All of her children are enrolled in school with two already graduated.

“Every day I wake up so thankful for Mercado Global, the work they provide to me, and the new chance they provided for my family. It’s something I will never take for granted,” said Cristobalina with a big smile.