Invited by Coca Cola as a guest to attend their #5by20 Art of Entrepreneurship event in Atlanta in June, I received travel and accommodations and samples of 5by20 products. All opinions are mine.
A sight tourists rarely see, the world’s 3rd largest landfill looms behind the airport in Mexico City. A blight unto itself, the Chimalhuacán Landfill holds another name: home. 9,000 men, women, and children live and work on top of it. They eat from the trash. They earn their meager living there ($1.05 for every 18 hours they work there, sorting the items in it). They are born, they live, and they die in this landfill, most never leaving, even once, to glimpse the outside world. The inhabitants of the Chimalhuacán Landfill have no birth certificates. To the world, they are unknown.
I heard about the people of the Chimalhuacán Landfill during my recent visit to Atlanta where bloggers from around the country gathered for Coca Cola’s The Art of Entrepreneurship event. We learned about 5by20, Coca Cola’s initiative to empower 5 million women around the world by the year 2020. Entrepreneurship is a tenet of the program. Currently, women in several countries (Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, Philippines, Guatemala, UK and Kenya) learn artistic, marketing, and business skills to transform sustainable materials from their areas into beautiful and functional items for sale. The artisans, their families, and even their communities benefit directly from the proceeds generated from their work.
Judy Achar knows the Chimalhuacán Landfill well. She spoke at the 5by20 event, describing how her foundation, Mitz (which means, “for you”), works to break the cycle of poverty there. The Mitz Foundation teaches women Nahuatl weaving techniques to convert trash into consumer goods. Beautiful, high-quality purses, iPad covers, backpacks, and more are created from industrial waste. Instead of fundraising and handing out donated money to impoverished people, Judy and The Mitz Foundation provide the women with skills to continue providing for their families, giving them the ability to lift themselves out of poverty and, in many cases, away from the landfill.
In addition to helping improve the lives of these families, Mitz also uses some of the proceeds from the sale of these goods to create scholarships for local kids as well as to support schools in the community.
Statistics around Mitz’s impact in Mexico illustrate the success of the program:
- 5 communities in Mexico participate in the project
- 240 new jobs exist from this program
- 19.3 tons of waste material recycled and turned into usable products
- 167,000 products sold
- $340,000 paid to artisans
- $147,000 donated to a local school (Palo Solo – one of the few privately owned schools for impoverished children in Mexico)
- 3,678 scholarships created
5by20 aims to empower 5 million women who work across Coca-Cola’s supply chain by 2020, and since the initiative launched in 2010, 865,000 women have been empowered in 52 countries.”
To meet Judy Achar is to fall head over heels in love with her passion to help others help themselves. Her bubbly personality, matched with her sharp sense for business, leaves you no other choice. But she didn’t want to just tell us about the project. She wanted us to touch it, to feel it, to understand it on a personal level.
Judy taught us how to weave the second half of a bookmark made from Coke labels and a sheet of plastic. The technique we tried is far from easy. In fact, I needed lots of help from my friend and fellow blogger, Michelle, to complete mine and it didn’t look nearly as symmetrical or perfectly positioned as the section I’d been given. The weaving takes exceptional patience and skill acquired only by lots of practice.
One artisan, Sandy Yasmin Colohua Gomez, shared via video how she became frustrated trying to learn to weave and gave up on it repeatedly, only to return later for more instruction after remembering how her grandmother told her never to give up on anything. Today Sandy is financially stable, proud of her accomplishments as a business owner, and looking forward to an even brighter future. Says Sandy, “I’m happy because my dreams are coming true!”
Here’s a sample of one style of purse designed by Judy and The Mitz Foundation and created by the 5by20 artisans in Mexico:
The beautiful and useful products of Sandy’s finely honed skills, and those of the other women artisans involved with 5by20, are now available for purchase online and at The World of Coke store in Atlanta.
Visit the 5by20 website if you’d like to purchase 5by20 goods and need them shipped to North America or South America. Or, if you’re in Europe or Africa, you can visit the European 5by20 website to purchase and ship 5by20 products.
100% of the proceeds go back to the artisans.
Thanks to Coca Cola for inviting me to the Art of Entrepreneurship event. I loved learning about the empowering 5by20 program, meeting other bloggers from around the country, and getting to spend time with a couple of fantastic San Antonio bloggers, Melanie Mendez Gonzalez of Que Means What and Michelle Rodriguez of Family Love in My City.
I look forward to following the 5by20 website for more inspiring stories of women taking charge of their own destinies as entrepreneurs.