November 23, 2019
The lives of the artisans we work with here at Bought Beautifully can be hard to comprehend or even imagine. Most contain past chapters marked by overwhelming sadness, pain, confusion and desperation...but thanks to the work that our partnering organizations are doing - fueled in large part by the power of YOUR purchase - their next chapters are full of hope, healing, redemption and opportunity. Mariela is one special artisan whose life is being impacted for the better and we want to share her story with you.
Mariela was born into multi-generational prostitution. Her mom prostituted on the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, as did her aunt. When she was 14 years old Mariela's mother died on the street. Instead of approaching her mother's family for help, Mariela began to prostitute to feed her 4 younger siblings. She was too young to work in the legal brothels, so she would hang around the grungy hourly motels in the marketplace to wait for customers.
Sutisana, one of our partnering organizations, works in the Red Light District of El Alto in La Paz, Bolivia. Their mission is to free those trapped in prostitution, giving them a newfound sense of purpose and dignity through honorable work while offering them holistic and loving care and healing through professional counseling and a local community that loves them.
Mariela’s aunt had been working at SutiSana for three years and heard about Mariela’s situation and urged her to approach Sutisana for help. She did, her younger siblings were enrolled in SutiSana’s children's program and began receiving holistic assistance, but Mariela was restless. In spite of her age, she jumped at a shady opportunity to work in a sewing factory in Brazil. Even though it was clearly a situation of labor trafficking of a minor, she hoped she could outsmart the system and use the opportunity to support her family.
Instead, she returned 3 years later with nothing to show except two children of her own.
Mariela started working at Sutisana and though she is still working through many issues of her past, she now has stability, structure, and support on her journey to healing. Mariela is loved by her co-workers and community, and thought of as everyone's little sister. She laughs, jokes, dances, and is regaining a bit of her younger years that were tragically stolen from her. She has a mischievous twinkle in her eye, keeping her friends on their toes and always works hard with incredible sewing skills making purses and bags for which she is paid fair wages.
In addition to paying Mariela fair wages for her work, Sutisana is working to provide abundant, hope-filled lives for their employees. In addition to work, Mariela has the opportunity to attend weekly counseling sessions with a professional psychologist and has access to an in-house social worker for consultation and any emergencies. She receives sewing and ongoing professional training including computer classes, can attend medical workshops, and can save for the future with access to Sutisana’s savings program. But most importantly, she has a community that knows her, loves her, and accepts her.
Mariela’s children won’t have to suffer like she did living her far too short of a childhood on the streets. They won’t have to witness or experience all that Mariela did. Instead, they can attend Sutisana’s Montessori-based children’s program, which seeks to foster creativity and activity-based learning while also focusing on abuse prevention and breaking the cycle of prostitution and poverty. Did we mention they can eat lunch with their mom everyday?
With Sutisana’s help, Mariela is writing new chapters in her life that are distinctly different than her past. She has dreams and hopes for a brighter future, like finishing high school and maybe even starting her own restaurant. While there are many things we can do on the spectrum of fighting for freedom, sometimes it is as easy as shopping for yourself or for others.
When you shop beautifully you enrich lives, restore hope, empower people, and live out love. Thank you for partnering with us to live and give a lifestyle that advocates freedom and love for people like Mariela around the world.
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