My life has been full of struggles with many difficult moments but with an enormous desire to succeed. I have a 12-year-old girl who totally depends on my work and me. She is currently studying. When I was 5 years old my mother died. I never met my father. My maternal grandmother took care of me but she beat me all the time and treated me horrible. When I was 14 years old I decided to leave that house to escape the ill treatment that I received. I was young and innocent and got pregnant at age 16. From that moment I began again a horrible story with this man who hurt me so much with physical, psychological, and many other forms of abuse. I experienced this for many years and I never had any family or any helping hand.
In the middle of that chaos I began to make handmade accessories to be able to provide food and housing to my daughter since her father never supported her. The only thing he did was to mistreat us.
Currently I work in a small artisan fair where I sell what I do and this way I can give my daughter what I can.
My business began as the search for a livelihood for my daughter and me since I am a single mother and somehow I have to give my daughter what she needs. We do not have a life full of money but thanks to my work we have a life without anyone to mistreat us or want to harm us.
Betty was born in the middle of the jungle in a very small town in the Tolima state in Colombia. When she was 9 years old, her mom booted her out of the house because she could not support her financially since she had another 9 children to support.
Betty lived on the streets until age 14 when she decided to go back to her mom’s home. Her mom took her back but put her to work in a local restaurant where she did not get paid. She begged the restaurant owner several times to give her some money at least to buy shoes since hers were full of holes everywhere but the owner never did.
While working on the restaurant she met the owner’s son – a policeman – whom she fell in love with. They moved in and they had 2 kids. At age 27 Betty’s husband was killed and she found herself again out on the streets now with two kids.
Her brother was the only person who helped her by buying a street stand where she could sell pineapples. At that time she had to get up at 2 am in order to get the stand ready and be selling first thing in the morning. This was the way she supported her kids until they were a bit older. Then Betty remarried and had a boy. Her daughter dropped out of school when she was a teen and decided to learn to make jewelry in order to get her mom out of that tough job.
Betty’s daughter started teaching Betty the art of jewelry making and that is how Betty started her business. The purpose was for Betty to stop working selling pineapples and becoming more stable. Nowadays it is still hard, especially because Betty is almost illiterate, but at least she has her hands and her daughter to work on her own business.
I am Gina Paola Rodríguez Vanegas born June 23, 1986 in the city of Bogota growing up next to my parents and sister in a happy family. I completed my elementary school studies in the Castilla de Oro School from first to fifth grades then I moved to Sileria Espinosa de Rendon School where I graduated from high school.
There I met my partner who already was dedicated to craftsmanship. We had two children -a boy and a girl- who also depend on my work. We started a relationship and I started to get into the world of craftsmanship learning many new things that never imagine that today they were going to be as the tools to get my daily sustenance. I have always worked on the streets and traveled to various cities in Colombia and other countries like Ecuador and Venezuela to sell on their streets. This traveling has allowed me to meet many people and making many more techniques of art which allows me today to know various kinds of handicrafts such as macramé, metals, leather, seeds, etc. Seeds like melon seeds and butternut seeds come from waste and I transform them in works of art as I let them dry, perforate and dyed to make necklaces woven in thread with a technic called crochet.
I have been doing this since I was 18 years old. That means I have been doing this for 12 years. I have made several courses in business also in jewelry making. I was in a course in jewelry crafts in Colombia in which I learned all the basics and various techniques. Since then I have been dedicated full time to making jewelry and wiring. I have created a place in my home where I work which I call my workshop.
In my workshop I create all my work of art that I then go and sell it on the streets and get my daily sustenance. Little by little I have bought tools to make a better work with better finishes and with more creativity. With the help of some entities such as the Global Corporation Of Women where I participated in a contest with other women entrepreneurs, I got a kilo of silver which I used to make my products. Products that I had always made in bronze or steel or alpaca since they are much cheaper material than silver.
That help was for me and for my work a great advance. I want that to keep happening in my future!!