Dona, a lively, energetic woman, becomes solemn as she begins her story. Tears melt
into her weathered face as she talks about her five children and abusive husband.
With very little income, her family lived in a makeshift cardboard shack on the
streets in the Zona Roja. She was unable to work and was reliant on her alcoholic
husband to bring home food for her family. On numerous occasions, she found herself
lying awake at night, hungry because her husband never came home and fearful that
once he did come home, she would have to take her children and flee to avoid his
One morning, Dona awoke to find her daughter sick and needing immediate medical
attention. She had heard of a free clinic in the Zona Roja run by a non-profit called
UPAVIM or “United for a Better Life,” and immediately set out on foot in search
While waiting for her daughter at the clinic, Dona learned of a program at UPAVIM
that employed women to produce fair trade crafts for the local and export markets.
As the woman from UPAVIM rattled off all the services provided to the members of
the cooperative, including childcare and education for their children, hope slowly
started to flow through Dona’s tired and desperate heart. She knew that UPAVIM was
her only escape.