Today’s blog is brought to you by guest blogger Bernadette Konkel, a local freelance copywriter, copyeditor and SVDP volunteer.
What really says that summer has arrived? Some people mark the season’s beginning with Memorial Day or the end of the school year. Sure, the sweltering heat is an obvious clue that summer’s here, but in recent years another event has signaled summer’s arrival: the end of popular winter shows, and the premieres of soapy summer reality series. With baited breath, summertime TV watchers tune in to see who received The Bachelorette’s coveted rose, who shamed their way out of Hell’s Kitchen, and who went over-the-top on Real Housewives. Perhaps the mothers of Ganamos see their impending graduation as their own beginning of summer, and the start of their future as businesswomen. Two more weeks of hard work stand between the women and their graduation. The eighth week of their journey has been a big wake-up call for the groups, but it’s also been a time of great focus, lessons learned, and pride in what they do.
The week started with a very productive English class. Reggie helmed the class again, but this week he had an extra boost from Guadalupe, a new volunteer, and many others who came to help. In fact, most of the class received one-on-one tutoring and instruction that night. Reggie loved having the volunteers. Eventually though, he wants the women to transition into independent learning. His goal is to have the ladies learn English by themselves eventually and “own” the language. At their current rate of progress, it shouldn’t be a problem. “I can see progress each and every week,” Reggie says enthusiastically, “especially with the ladies who attend class regularly.”
Jennifer also saw that progress reflected in the mothers’ answer to their weekly reflective question: After taking English lessons for six weeks now, do you feel more confident in your English language skills? The general consensus among the women was that they learned a lot in class, but that they were eager to learn more. “I have only been taking English classes for a short time, says Margarita, “but I’ve learned something and I feel confident about it.” Elsa, however, is more critical of her skills. “I still do not feel safe to say that I speak English, because we still need to learn the rules of how to separate syllables and the vowels and how they change their sound.”
The English class ended with the volunteers stressing goals for Tuesday. The ladies had to write three objectives for tomorrow night and what they need to bring. “We’re trying to get the ladies focused on what needs to be done in the two weeks before the end of the competition,” Jennifer says. “The ladies need to get their products together, and their business plans, and their biographies, and it’s a lot.”
On Tuesday, Flor and Linda primarily led the class. They talked about product sheets the moms need to fill out to let SVDP know the official cost per product, the time it takes to make each one, and the people who will be in charge of making each product. Blase gave the women an outline of the requirements for entering and winning the competition and the prize money for their new businesses. A well-crafted business plan is one of the requirements for the competition, and tonight the mothers started to fill out the newest version of the business plan that Mike designed for them.
According to Flor, “the women have a better sense of what they need to do and how they need to think about the time and monetary investment needed to create their crafts.” One of the moms, Maritza, whole-heartedly expressed her gratitude and excitement over having more direction for her new enterprise. “Yes . . . my projects that I’m creating are very good; I’m making bracelets . . . I’m very happy because I had no idea as to how to make them but now that I have learned it is easier . . . Thank you very much!”
Though Tuesdays are usually dedicated to art, Linda focused on the math the mothers would need for their artistic endeavors to succeed. “Some of the mothers do not have much of an educational background,” she confessed, “ and many were having difficulty with the math involved tonight.” One group didn’t know how to do the math at all, so Linda had to show them examples of the exact calculations they needed. “The women know how to multiply and divide, but they don’t know how to apply these skills to their businesses,” Linda said. For example, Virginia told Linda that she “makes things, and sells things, but doesn’t know how much she really makes from it, so she wants to learn the math.” Linda in turn offered this piece of simple wisdom to all the women: “If you get the math right, the math will tell you that you’re making money.”
The mothers may have their individual strengths and weaknesses to conquer, but lately they have been conquering them together and operating as unified groups. “The groups were pretty much functioning as units today . . . writing all their names on all their products,” Linda stated. “I think they are beginning to think more like a company . . . It’s taken them a while to change that mentality.”
All of the volunteers, including Linda, discussed the concept of quality and its importance in the marketplace tonight. She advised the moms to make the products as best as they can. If Ganamos becomes a brand, they will want people to associate their crafts with quality craftsmanship instead of shoddy work. Linda stressed to the women that negative word-of-mouth spreads much faster than positive gossip. Blase and Linda also want the women to realize that quality isn’t just about workmanship; it’s about the product being special. Blase wants people to “look at their products as unique and marvel at the skill and time it must have taken to produce them. “ With all the great discussion and lessons learned that night, he was proud of the women, but had a very rough time getting them to go home. “Our moms did not want to leave the class . . . not at 5:30, not at 5:45, and not even at 6 PM . . . They wanted to get every last bit of learning they could this evening.”
The emphasis on group unity, product quality, and motivation for the competition continued into Wednesday’s class. Led by Mike, the class started with the question of the day – Do you think working as a group to win the prize is more motivational that working as an individual? “Yes it is better to work as a group, to encourage us in the group,” Guillermina responded. For Juana, having group support was motivational, but neither her group nor the competition prize was her top motivation. “The prize motivates, but I would also like to know everything about my own business.”
According to Mike, his class was definitely satisfactory. “I think the groups are starting to realize that all we’ve been doing over the past seven weeks . . . is coming together, he said. “They are now seeing the usefulness of each part of the business plan and they are starting to get excited about what they are doing because they are realizing what could happen in the future if they all work together as a cooperative, collaborative bunch of people.”
Other volunteers observed the groups’ growth and enthusiasm on Wednesday. Jennifer also noted the Red Group’s hard work and sat with them for part of the night. “They have most of their stuff together, she said. “They discussed having a checking account and putting forth the three dollars per person per month they will need to keep the account open.” Encouraged by their initiative, Jennifer took some of the Red Group’s items, including their rings, bracelets, and earrings made from pop can tabs, and showed them to a boutique owner that might take them on consignment. Guadalupe helped each group by typing out biographies and writing notes and feedback on the margins of their sheets so they could be more specific in their writing. While Guadalupe was typing away, Roseann, the lead volunteer for the children, had her hands full. Popcorn and cotton candy were available for the Ganamos children tonight, courtesy of an event in the dining hall. As a result, the kids were fueled and full of energy!
After Wednesday’s class, Mike told the ladies that they would have a special mandatory session this Friday so they can get ahead next week. None of them seemed to mind. Whether they needed computer help, writing assistance, or more direction, the women showed up for Friday’s class. Time is truly of the essence for them; the photography session for the women and their products will be on Tuesday, and their graduation is just two weeks away.
Come back to helpingthepoor.org next week for the latest news on our Ganamos mothers as they close in on the program’s end. Will their recent successes keep them on a smooth path to graduation? Or will setbacks plague our favorite moms? Don’t forget the Ganamos Playlist on the SVDP YouTube channel and our updates on the SVDP Twitter feed!
To volunteer for the next session of Ganamos, please contact SVDP Program Director Blase Bova at email@example.com. You can also contribute to scholarships for the women’s businesses through a secure online form at https://secure5.extremezone.com/stvdpssl/donate.asp. Write the word “Ganamos” in the comments so your gift will go entirely to the women’s collective.
Thanks for reading!