by: Perry Groten
A new shop in downtown Sioux Falls is carefully following the developments involving Central American migrants seeking asylum along the U.S.- Mexico border. The business model of Sharing the Dream is to help many of those families so they can escape crushing poverty while remaining in their homeland. The store hopes Christmas customers will share in that dream.
Christmas gifts from Central America are big sellers in Middle America.
“People want to buy something; they want to buy a gift that has meaning,” store manager Karen Kraus said.
Sharing the Dream Fair Trade Marketplace sells hand-crafted items made by artisans in Guatemala.
“Everything from purses, jewelry, ponchos that are made out of bamboo like this scarf is. We sell place mats, coffee mugs. We have glassware, like you might see up on this shelf,” Kraus said.
The artisans in Guatemala are essentially business partners with this Sioux Falls non-profit. The money they make through sales of their products is a big economic boon in a country mired in poverty.
“They’re hard-working, good people who just want to have the best for their families like we all do,” store director Diane Nesselhuf said.
A woman named Isabel is one of the Sharing the Dream artisans creating works that will be sold in the U.S.
“And right now, what she is doing, she’s doing some samples of back-strap weaving that she thinks would be good that she’s worked with the group. So she will do some samples and then she’ll take it to the group and they will tweak it,” Nesselhuf said.
The extra profits from Sharing the Dream have gone to build schools and a clinic in Guatemala, as well as helping families raise livestock and providing tutors to teach school children.
“I’ve been to Guatemala and seen what Sharing the Dream does and feel fully committed to their mission,” store volunteer Mary DeJong said.
Many of the Guatemalans involved with Sharing the Dream have been victims of gang violence.
“We have one group that’s in the squatters’ settlement. 65 women, every one of them have lost someone to gangs. Children, husbands, nieces, nephews,” Nesselhuf said.
Sharing the Dream hopes by helping the people of Guatemala with incomes and educational opportunities, they’ll be able to escape the poverty and the violence while still remaining in their homeland.
“They want to stay in Guatemala. They don’t want to go to Mexico or Canada or the U.S. But they have no means of support, so when you can give them a means of support and stay there, they educate their chlldren,” Nesselhuf said.
These Guatemalans aren’t charity cases, but rather vital players in the future success of Sharing the Dream.
“We’re really helping them develop products that will sell in American markets. And then make sure the quality is there because we don’t want people to come and say, ‘Oh, I feel bad for them. I’m buying it.’ We want something that’s quality in here so people will come and shop again,” Kraus said.
And in the midst of the holiday shopping season, the best gift of all will be lifting these Guatemalans out of poverty and out of the shadows.
“One of the elders said with Sharing the Dream, they said they’re not invisible anymore. I think that’s really the amount for everybody. They’re not invisible anymore; they’re important,” Nesselhuf said.
Sharing the Dream is located in the Jones 421 Building on North Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls. It opened in May. Nesselhuf also runs a store in downtown Vermillion. You can check out the merchandise by clicking here