Playful Hacky Sack The Product Crocheted Hacky Sacks: Hacky sacks – also called bean bags – are crocheted in a wonderful array of vibrant Mayan colours and designs. While originally filled with dried beans, today's hacky sacks are commonly filled with "plastic beans" which are able to withstand more kicking. The game of hacky sack can be played on your own or in a group. Standing in a circle, the goal is to keep the bean bag off of the ground without using your hands. The sport most likely had its origins in indigenous cultures. Today, however, hacky sack is popular in many countries all over the world! Backstrap Weaving: Many artisans create beautiful fabrics from silk, cotton, wool and other materials on a simple backstrap loom – a weaving technique originating in pre-Columbian times. The skill is usually passed down from mother to daughter and is an extremely labour-intensive method of making cloth. Even before the lengthy process begins, there are hours of work involved in simply setting up the loom! The end result, however, is a beautiful, sturdy and intricately woven textile featuring glorious shades and colours masterfully combined into a variety of designs. To use a backstrap loom, artisans attach one end to a tree or post in order to maintain the tension, while the other strap sits around the weaver's waist to hold the loom in place. In this way, the weaver gains a greater sense of mobility, allowing her to work indoors or out while chatting with friends or caring for her children. Some artisan groups have invested in treadle or foot looms – introduced by the Spanish in a wide variety of sizes, complexities, and prices – since the process is much faster than backstrap weaving. Whatever the loom, weavers are able to create surprisingly diverse, visually rich textiles. Extremely durable handloomed fabrics are even made to survive a beating on the rocks when being laundered! Due to their beauty, uniqueness, and the amazing skill it requires to create them, it is no wonder handloom fabrics are still in such high demand around the world. The Artisan Group: Creaciones Chonita Don't drop the ball! Crocheted in a variety of geometric designs, each hacky sack is unique. They even look as good on the shelf waiting to be used as they do in full action. Travel the world with each visit to Ten Thousand Villages. Learn how Fair Trade really makes a difference. Our goal is to provide vital, fair income to artisans by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America. Ten Thousand Villages sells product from more than 30 countries, providing work for nearly 60,000 people around the world. Creaciones Chonita was started in 1981 by Chonita Sojuel Mendosa, an indigenous woman who lost her husband in the violence of civil war and needed to find a way to support herself and her children. Located in a town on the coast of Lake Atitlan, today the family-run business employs about 100 widows and young women from 15 workshops to make beaded jewellery and crocheted hacky sacks. Fifteen women work in Chonita’s house while the others work from their own homes. Through the years, she has taught essential beading skills while paying fair wages for labour. The group has become known for the consistent quality of their products. Creaciones Chonita uses its business profits to support a variety of community aid projects. Monthly food baskets and basic living supplies are provided to 55 needy widows. It also supports 15 children with scholarships, runs a local school out of rented rooms and covers medical expenses. Soon, it hopes to build an elementary school for 225 indigenous children on land that it owns. When completed, the government will supply teachers as well as a yearly pencil and notebook for each child. Having a school and qualified teachers is especially important in rural areas as the illiteracy rate is 72 percent. A proposal for a senior citizens’ centre is also in the works. The Country: Guatemala Once the stronghold of the Mayan Empire, Guatemala is a land shaped by ancient civilizations, not to mention earthquakes and volcanoes. An incredibly beautiful place, the country offers Central America in concentrated form. Since gaining independence in 1821, politics in Guatemala have been coloured by continued rivalry between the forces of the left and right. This opposition eventually led to a brutal 36-year civil war in the second half of the 1900s. While there are no official figures, current estimates suggest that around 200 000 civilians were killed, 40 000 “disappeared” and over one million were forcibly displaced during the conflict. Indigenous populations, and Mayans in particular, suffered immensely in what is considered to be one of the worst genocides in modern Latin America. In 1996, Peace Accords were signed between the Guatemalan government and leftist guerrillas. Ten years later, the country is still struggling to create a more inclusive society and to strengthen public institutions. Unfortunately, the distribution of income in Guatemala remains highly unequal with perhaps 56 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Social indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality rates are weak compared to other middle-income countries, and malnutrition rates among children are particularly worrisome. Although there are a number of tuition-free public schools, the cost of uniforms, supplies and transportation makes them less accessible to poorer families. With a labour force exceeding 3.9 million, Guatemala has the largest workforce in Central America. At present, the agricultural sector employs nearly half of these people; however, tourism and the export of textiles are becoming increasingly important for the Guatemalan economy. The challenge will be to spread the benefits of this growth across all social sectors.
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