Guest Blog: A Trip to Guatemala, a Post by Olivia Bleeker
Last week, TRC founder and opportunity advocate, Bethany Tran, spoke a bit about herself and the birth of The Root Collective. Birthing from a trip to La Limonada, Guatemala, The Root Collective's journey began in the central American country.
So, it comes as no surprise that stories from this beautiful culture are near and dear to our hearts. Olivia Bleeker - blogger, student, and world traveler - shares with us her recent trip to Guatemala and the impact it has left on her life.
(Spoiler: It's a big impact.)
I didn't know how much it would impact me. Or my life and my future decisions as a whole, for that matter. Spending this past summer in Guatemala was probably the defining point for me, in so many aspects of my life. My relationship with The Lord. My decision to pursue the major in college that I am. My choices of where to shop.
Let me take a step back. Hi! My name is Olivia Bleeker...I am a freshman at the University of Missouri studying Textile and Apparel Management and I blog over at A Drop in the Ocean. I was thrilled when Bethany asked me to share a little bit about my summer in Guatemala, because I immediately knew what I wanted to share with you guys, and I knew that The Root Collective has some incredible people who work for the company that live in Guatemala, so it was perfect :)
This summer, I lived in the indigenous village of Santa Catarina Barahona, Guatemala, which is about two hours outside of Guatemala City. Most mornings, I would ride the chicken bus (let's just talk about what an adventure in itself the chicken bus is) to Antigua, where my host family worked. I would help them sell their traditional Guatemalan handmade goods in the market during the mornings, head to Spanish school in the afternoons, and come back to market in time to help for a few more hours and then close up shop.
I learned so many things during this summer and I feel like I grew up so much. There were highs and lows, but it was definitely something I never will regret doing!
Just being in the environment that I was in, Guatemala helped me define so many things in my life and I'd love to share two of them with you.
Through this trip, I learned so many things, whether it was something about myself, the culture, the language (I think I get bonus points for learning two indigenous languages, haha!), or about faith.
First and foremost, it helped me define my relationship with the Lord. At one point of my trip, I was sick with two different types of viruses going on at once, and, let's just say it was not enjoyable at all. I was in so much pain, and I remember laying on my bed, not being able to move, and being so frustrated with my Spanish. I know enough conversational Spanish to hold my own in a different country, but I'm not well-versed in medical Spanish by any means, so I had no idea to communicate how miserable I was to anyone. No one. I felt so alone, but in that moment, the Lord just reminded me of the I Thessalonians 5:18, "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus".
I began thinking about Paul's circumstances as he wrote those words. It wasn't all fun and games for Paul as he wrote that...in fact, he was sitting in prison. Simply reflecting on this alone just gave me a completely new and refreshed point of view. I realized that the only One I could literally put all my trust in in that moment was the Lord. I didn't have my Mom, a doctor, or any encouraging friends by my side in that moment, so I put all of my hope in the Ultimate Comforter. There were so many other issues going on in the world that were so much bigger than my problems. Thankfully, He gently reminded me of the fact that while He was there to comfort me, that I could also rejoice in my situation as well.
Second of all, this experience utterly and completely altered my perspective on shopping. While spending many long days in the Antigua mercado, I realized something. In order to sell their products, most of the vendors would bargain. Bargain, bargain, bargain...that was the name of the game. But, when they thought they might lose a customer, they would sell their product for anything, simply to make a sale if the day was otherwise dead. The sales for the day completely dictated what our meal plan was. This made me realize the importance of a stable job, where you can come to a job each morning, knowing you are going to have money to take home that evening.
That's where The Root Collective comes in. I'm so excited with the way the company brings Guatemalans together to work to change their life story for the better. The Root Collective artisans know that they will be making an income from the products they create for the company. If I had to emphasize one point about why I love companies like this so much, it's that it creates such a great feeling for everyone involved in the process. Whether you are on the buying end and know that you have dependable individuals creating products for you, or you are on the production end like Otto or Anna or any of the other Guatemalan workers in the company, every aspect of the system is great and touches so many people's lives!
I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be able to share with you about my experience this past summer. And I hope if anything, you will be all the more inspired to shop ethically through this!
In Her Words: A Bio: My name is Olivia Bleeker and I am a student at the University of Missouri studying Textile & Apparel Management. Currently, I hope to work in the Fair Trade fashion industry once I graduate since it combines my two loves of fashion and social justice. In my spare time, you can find me sipping iced caramel macchiatos from Starbucks, perfecting my Spotify playlists, or stalking the Expedia.com website to see where I want to travel to next!