Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who has continued to enthusiastically support The Pulsera Project during such a difficult and unsettling year -- we appreciate you so much and truly could not still exist without you.
As we worked to navigate the dramatic repercussions of COVID-19 on both the Central American and U.S. sides of the Pulsera Project, we have done everything we can to ensure the survival of the three interwoven parts of the project: artisan employment, the U.S. educational service program, and impact investments in Central America.
Nonetheless, some difficult changes were unavoidable in the wake of the new global reality, some of which have rendered certain information on our website and educational materials temporarily inaccurate. We’ve created this page to candidly share these changes while we put off overhauling our website until we can gauge what is permanent and what is just a natural consequence of COVID-19.
In March 2020 The Pulsera Project lost nearly 100% of its income when schools adapted to remote learning in the face of COVID-19. Since then, we have received an outpouring of support and a steady increase of school participation, but so far we are only at about 10% of what the project brought in pre COVID-19.
Unlike many traditional nonprofits that can expect a stream of donations and grants, nearly all of our funds are raised through pulsera sales in U.S. schools. To that end, what follows is a list of changes we've made to accommodate our current financial situation.
-Our total 2020 budget was reduced by an average of 50% in 2020 to make up for an income loss of over $700,000 from schools being out of session.
-Two full-time staff and all three part-time staff were furloughed to keep the project financially stable.
-Remaining Nicaraguan Staff volunteered a 20% pay cut.
-Three out of four U.S. staff were furloughed from September - December 2020 and the project was managed almost entirely by volunteers for the 2020 fall semester.
-As of 2021, full-time staff have returned to begin rebuilding the project.
2.) Artisan Program
-Due to both the lack of pulsera sales in 2020 and the financially precarious situation that the last year put us in, we simply could not continue to purchase products from the nearly 200 artisans we’ve worked with for the past decade.
-Instead of gradually laying off artisans, all 166 pulseras artists employed at the beginning of 2020 were given six months to remain on full employment and then that number eventually reduced to just 12 artisans leaders in November 2020.
-With an uptick in schools returning to the project, we will begin employing new artisans in May 2021.
-Though we had to substantially reduce the number of artists we’re employing, the project started transitioning to a new system of artist employment that puts leadership, education, and community involvement at the core of their position in the project. Our vision for the future will increase our social and community impact throughout Central America. As such, remaining pulsera artists are currently receiving stipends to participate in leadership workshops while taking a break from weaving.
3.) Social Impact Investments
-All social impact commitments with partner organizations, including scholarships, were honored through the end of 2020, but are currently on hold in 2021.
-In total we were still able to invest $332,304 in programs and organizations in Central America in 2020 to fund pulsera purchases, artisan benefits, Central American operations, and investments in social enterprises in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Some of those funds invested in 2020 had been carried over from what was raised in 2019.
-In 2020 we were still able to fund scholarships for 72 Pulsera Project artisans.
Nevertheless, thanks in no small part to the overwhelming enthusiasm from our teacher and student volunteers, we look to the future with optimism, and already see interest returning to normal levels as schools return to in-person learning. As classrooms and schoolyards once again fill up with students, we’re hoping to continue coloring the world in new and exciting ways:
In anticipation of those better times, we will begin to slowly ramp up pulsera production this May, and during the fall of 2021, we will be rolling-out a work-study program that will give dozens of Nicaragua youth a means to pay their way through college, making pulseras part-time and sharing in an experiential learning program.
Meanwhile, Social Impact Investments will likely resume at the end of 2021, and hopefully reach previous levels a year or two down the road.
And lastly, Operations will be the final component to fully recover, in order to make way for our other priorities and to be cautious not to get ahead of ourselves. All in all, we’re optimistic, grateful for everyone's support, and hopeful for the future of the project as a whole.