CFCA stories

Thorn curtains draw income for Honduran moms

April 2, 2013

Honduran mom
Braulia, a CFCA sponsored elderly woman,
models jewelry the mothers make with thorns
and seeds. The group makes and sells these
eco-friendly designs.

Making curtains from thorns and seeds is a handicraft passed down through many generations in Honduras. It's also a livelihood for Ana and other mothers of CFCA sponsored children.

With support from CFCA, mothers joined forces to expand their craft into a sustainable business.

"This is how we make a living, a way to make some extra income for our homes," Ana said, "because for us, it is hard to find jobs."

In a community where poverty, illiteracy and natural disasters are big obstacles to overcome, CFCA has not only helped families encourage their children to succeed, but offered opportunities to empower mothers.

Two of Ana's four children are involved with CFCA. Her daughter, Tania, is sponsored, and her son, Benigno, is part of the CFCA Scholarship Program.

Ana learned about CFCA's Hope for a Family program when a CFCA social worker came to talk to the mothers in her town.

"At that time, we already made curtains, but we were not organized as a group," Ana said.

The social worker encouraged Ana and the other women to work together to discover their talents and use them to improve the lives of their families.

After the mothers formed small solidarity groups, Ana and the other women learned they all knew how to make the thorn and seed curtains, which are used as room dividers. The mothers teamed up, finding they could not only make more curtains by working together, but they could also sell more curtains.

Working as an organized group, mothers have more flexible schedules, which enables them to spend more time caring for their families.

Thorn curtains a prickly business

Making the intricate curtains is no easy task.

First the women must find the thorns, called cachitos or bull horns, which can be very unpleasant because of the stinging ants that protect the plant.

Then they find the seeds, called Lágrimas de San Pedro, or St. Peter's Tears, which have to be brought from another community. The women paint the seeds and make a hole before they start stringing them with fishing wire or string.

Thorn and seed jewlery
Braulia, right, and Cristina, daughter of another sponsored aging
friend, sell their curtains and jewelry by a roadside in Honduras.

Ana's mother-in-law taught her the craft, and Ana taught her daughter, Tania.

"The curtains are a handicraft that comes from our ancestors," Ana said.

However, some say the idea was originally brought over by missionaries who taught the trade to the people of the area, Ana said.

The original design used dried corn and beans, but thorns and seeds eventually replaced the food products.

Besides curtains, the women make purses, belts, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, dresses and costumes.

Tania helps her mother make the items by creating small holes in the seeds and stringing them together. She prefers smaller projects, such as bracelets, which take less time to create.

Making crafts offers an opportunity for women to contribute to the community and their families, Ana said. The work has given the women confidence, and for single mothers, it's a lifeline.

The group's biggest challenge is finding buyers, Ana said. They usually take the dresses and costumes to souvenir shops, but they like to have more control over the price of their work, she added. They often sell their products along the road, enduring the ebb and flow of low-sales seasons and speeding traffic.

Income depends on the season, Ana said. But even when sales are slow, they always seem to make it through.

"Thank God," she said. "He never let us down. Thanks to him, sometimes we find clients who make large orders."

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