Honduras Threads’ mission is to strengthen the fabric of lives through work, pride and faith. We start and support embroidery cooperatives in rural Honduran villages to enable the women to earn money in their own communities to help themselves and their families by making beautiful products in a safe environment.
In 2002, we started the first co-op in Santa Cruz Arriba as a part of a multi-faceted mission trip from the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas to provide the women with a way to earn money in their own village. We chose the embroidery and appliqué work because we were told all the women learned to embroider as little girls. We also chose a product that would have to be exported because the community needed to bring in new capital. What we learned when we began working with the women was that, although they learned embroidery as young girls, they hadn’t embroidered since. They knew only one stitch, and they didn’t do that one well. But the women stuck with it, persevered and were determined to learn to do quality work.
Honduras Threads became a separate nonprofit in 2005 to continue marketing the embroidery and to meet the demand for more co-ops in other locations where women needed work in their own communities. As we got to know the women in the first co-op, we learned three of the women were walking from Rincon de Delores three hours each way everyday because they needed the work so badly. Three women were walking an hour and a half each way from Santa Cruz Abajo, and four others an hour and half from El Pedregal. They all asked us to start co-ops in their own communities and said more women would be able to work if they didn’t have to make the long walks.
Now there are more than 60 women working in five co-ops in rural communities near the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Honduras Threads provided initial training in embroidery technique and recordkeeping. Now the co-ops train their new members.
We provide the designs, donated appliqué fabrics, quality control, logistics, sales and marketing and access to supplies not available in Honduras. In reality, Honduras Threads is a form of microfinance that provides extensive training and ongoing assistance. Our goal is to help the cooperatives move as close to sustainability as possible, realizing that it is also a mission and will need an ongoing presence in the United States. Since 2002, we have sold over 7,000 items and returned $342,582 to the co-ops in Honduras. The impact is building!
We began taking small mission teams from Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church to work with the cooperatives on expanded business skills. The first year we taught the women to calculate the percentages of fiber content in the fabrics they use in each piece to fulfill U.S. Customs labeling requirements.
We introduced them to computers. Starting with the basics of how to turn them on, how to charge them, practice with the keyboard and mouse, then an introduction to Word and Excel.
We jumped into cost accounting! We developed an Excel template to record the cost accounting on each product they make. The women could see for the first time the costs of all their materials, their time, shipping, etc. They began to understand how pricing works. They also learned how to develop spreadsheets for some of the records they had been keeping by hand. In the sewing area, we worked on a new pillow design.
We worked together on recording the costs of a new collection of products, and they saw photos and the U.S. prices on comparable products. For the first time, they could see the total picture and set the prices themselves. They also got on the Internet and saw their work on the Honduras Threads website and visited other websites and blogs about them. In the sewing area, we addressed better finishing techniques.