ACOPAMSLR/VIVAZ Indigo and Sewing Co-op

How apt a name for this business - Vivaz, meaning vivacious, energetic, spirited, determined women - and that is what the nine women in the SEW cooperative of ACOMPAMSLR/VIVAZ are! They have secured three government contracts for making school uniforms.

Four of the women attended a six month university course at Jose Matias Delgado University in design and indigo dyeing, which has enhanced the beauty of their indigo scarves, shawls and blouses. Students from Marquette University have provided them with training in business planning and office management. The women have expanded their workspace and added an office: "We are proud of our workplace; we updated the windows and the roof and have received contracts from the Ministry of Education three years in a row."

Equally important to the women has been the excitement of learning more about themselves in the self esteem and women's rights workshops provided by the SEW staff. With this increased confidence in themselves, the women celebrate being wage earners, many for the first time in their lives.

What difference does that make? Margarita immediately installed electricity in her home with her earnings. Mercedes tells us, "I am able to contribute to pay for my two children to study at the university." Ruth is saving to buy a house; Karyn can "pay for my two children's needs and no longer depend on my mother for support." For Mercedes, the difference is that the women "work together as a family. If someone needs help, we give it to her."

Organize, recruit, start, take risks, find opportunities, recruit more women, diversify: this is ACOPAMSLR's story, deftly guided by Delmy Linares. Delmy's savvy got trainers to the business's isolated location, brokered transportation needed for marketing, and developed cohesion and reciprocity as the business diversified. ACOPAMSLR and VIVAZ have "graduated" -- that is, the businesses are now self-sustaining and no longer need SEW staff accompaniment. They continue to be part of the larger CIS network of communities.

SEW provided opportunity. The women provided dreams and dedication. A dynamite combination.