The Pulsera Project employs nearly 200 artists with Fair Trade jobs and sells their artwork through schools in the U.S. Proceeds from those pulsera sales are then invested in programs that support the artists, their communities, and other organizations focused on enacting social change in Central America. Funds are especially invested in Fair Trade Employment, Artisan Benefits, Education, Youth & Women empowerment, and Social Enterprise.
Every pulsera purchase allows nearly 200 artists to continue working, with proceeds continuously reinvested into buying more pulseras. The Pulsera Project works with independent artists, families, market purveyors, cooperatives, and social enterprises all throughout Nicaragua and Guatemala; collectively these artists make a dazzling array of unique pulsera styles that make their way to the wrists of students in the U.S.
The jobs we provide are a positive and uplifting alternative to the exploitative & underpaid positions that many workers find in factories, farms, and "Zonas Francas" (what we consider sweatshops), so each purchase is a powerful investment in improving the quality of life for these artists. Artists set their own hours, and most are able to work from home, giving them a profound sense of freedom and the ability to spend precious time with their families and children.
As members of the Fair Trade Federation we pay fair trade prices that are usually double or triple the local market price, but the Project’s ultimate impact is not measured in prices paid, rather in human well-being attained. The Project serves as an extensive resource for artisans, many of whom are developing personal goals, life skills, and bright futures for their families. Our goal is to help people thrive in all areas of their lives. Since 2009 we've invested $1,600,000 in artisan jobs.
Artisan Benefits: Scholarships, Healthcare, Housing, and More
On top of the Fair Trade employment we provide, all pulsera artists also have access to a robust benefit programs that includes scholarships, healthcare, housing, legal services, personal development, an emergency fund, and more. The availability of these benefits has a life-changing impact on artists and their immediate families -- totaling about 660 people in all.
Since 2015, 100 people have taken advantage of Pulsera Project scholarship funding to study everything from psychology, to nursing, to English, to natural medicine, culinary arts, and welding. Some scholarships went to artists, and others to artists’ children or family members. In many cases tuition is not costly but students lack money for public transportation, books, and computers. So, project scholarships often cover more than tuition, especially for students in remote locations. Around $55,000 has been invested in this program, with more allocated for 2019.
When pulsera artists own their homes, their earnings are not consumed by rent, but instead retained for investment in family, education, and other well-being fundamentals. The Pulsera Project has invested $160,000 in its housing program since 2014, completing 79 unique projects from purchasing land, to constructing new houses, to improving existing properties and structures. Housing program benefits, like health and scholarship benefits, are not handouts, but employment benefits resulting from years of dedicated work.
Healthcare in Nicaragua is free for all people, but private clinics and hospitals often provide better care. Healthcare costs in Nicaragua are remarkably low, so sometimes it doesn’t cost much more to get the best care. Since 2015, The Pulsera Project has invested $35,000 in upgrading healthcare for dozens of artisans and their family members to ensure that everyone in the Pulsera family has access to excellent healthcare, including access to resources for mental healthcare and preventative care.
Above and beyond the three largest benefit categories above, we also make other services available to artists and their families:
* Starting in 2019 The Pulsera Project will fund personal development classes to cover everything from personal finance, emotional well-being, consumer education, critical thinking skills, global citizenry and more.
* Legal funds are made available to artists and their families to cover everything from consumer protection to domestic affairs. In total, $14,000 has been invested in this initative since 2018.
* We have an emergency fund available for artists and their families. For example, during this past year's social crisis in Nicaragua, The Pulsera Project used $5,500 from this fund to help artists stock up on food as shortages became rampant.
* Many artists have ideas for improving their communities, so we make funds available for artist-led community service programs. In the past these have covered everything from art classes, to litter cleanup, to a neighborhood youth soccer team. In total, over $20,000 has been invested in these projects as of 2019.
After funds have been paid to artists for their pulseras and benefits, proceeds remain to fund a wide range of social impact programs in both Nicaragua and Guatemala. Every organization that receives a grant from The Pulsera Project is extensively vetted by our Nicaraguan investment team to ensure effective, transparent, and high-impact use of the funds. This is often a months-long process of interviewing employees, looking over organization records, talking with past beneficiaries of that organization's work, and comparing each organization with our own set of core investment values. Our list of programs changes month-to-month as new grants are given and as old programs attain completion, but below you'll find a good overview of our recent and past impact investments.
Social Impact Investments
La Esperanza Granada is an educational nonprofit that runs tutoring programs and builds after-school learning centers in rural communities with little access to education. They provide high school graduates with college scholarships in exchange for them tutoring younger students -- creating a sustainable cycle where education is payed forward to the tune of 1,000 hours of service each year. This program serves as a role model for young children, giving them hope for what they may achieve in their own futures. Since 2011 we've provided La Esperanza Granada with $30,000 in grants for college scholarships, the "Ayudante" service program, construction of Granada's first technical school, funding for day-to-day operations, hiring teachers, school supplies, and more.
Grupo Fenix is a nonprofit social enterprise that improves the quality of life for Nicaraguan families and rural communities through leadership development, renewable & solar energy projects, gender equity, education & employment, community-led permaculture projects, and more. Since 2011 we have donated nearly $50,000 to their programs, including environmentally-focused university scholarships, youth-led community service programs, high school scholarships, permaculture & sustainable agriculture training, and local job creation through the promotion of entrepreneurship.
UAM: Since 2016 we've provided $10,000 to La Universidad Americana Managua (UAM) toward teacher training and the development of a curriculum promoting Social Entrepreneurship as part of the school's business program. UAM prides itself on its mandatory capstone entrepreneurship course required of all undergraduates, and the Pulsera Project's addition of a social impact component to this program means that hundreds of graduates will walk away with the tools and mindset to effect long-term positive change in their communities.
Fundación con Corazon is a social enterprise that has been developing an educational program for youths in the community of La Laguna, in Granada Nicaragua. In 2019 The Pulsera Project approved a donation of $5,000 that will be used for a few things — to repair computers and tablets that kids & teens can use in their technology classes, to offer scholarships to some outstanding students in that community, and to help pay part of the salary for an English tutor. In past years much of their funds have been brought in through their sister organization “Hotel con Corazon,” but with tourism rates dropping significantly in the wake of Nicaragua’s social & political crisis, this donation will help them bridge the gap in securing funding for their ongoing programs.
Fundacion con Corazon
Nicaraguan Social / Political Crisis
Cruz Roja: The "Cruz Roja" Nicaraguense is an independent organization accredited by the Red Cross. Throughout the course of the Nicaraguan social crisis that unfolded this past year, the CRN was always on the front lines assisting injured and affected civilians regardless of the dangers inherent in their work. We provided the CRN with $16,000 in funding for repairing their ambulance fleet, restocking ambulances with full emergency medical supply kits, and providing general operational funding as well as gas and food for emergency response volunteers.
Women & Youth Empowerment
Asomujerdi is an indigenous community organization that advocates for the rights of women, girls, and adolescents to have their voices heard in Racatacaj, a village in Sololá, Guatemala. In service of this goal, they've created a women-led community radio program that serves as a space to discuss the specific problems and challenges of the female indigenous community. The girls are trained in writing and recording their own productions that are then broadcast on the radio. The Pulsera Project has committed $5,000 for the improvement of the radio facilities, operating costs, and for one of its members to be professionally trained in Guatemala City.
AsoGen is a women-led nonprofit organization based in Chimaltenango, Guatemala that provides comprehensive services to female survivors of domestic violence, including legal advice & representation, counseling, and access to shelters. ASOGEN also promotes women's leadership, reproductive health & education, and civic participation as part of the integral empowerment of women. In 2019, The Pulsera Project donated $11,000 to Asogen for the completion of a permanent safe house for battered/at risk women fleeing domestic violence.
GOJoven supports the development of young leaders who are expanding adolescent reproductive health education, services, policies, and programs at the national, regional, and community levels. The Pulsera Project has donated $3,000 to fund these missions and to boost the voices and social work of these youths as they educate and impact their communities. In addition to these resources, the Pulsera Project’s donation will help GoJoven teach young people about early pregnancy prevention, which can be one of the largest factors in perpetuating the generational cycle of poverty.
THRIIVE helps grow small business and creates jobs through a professional training program and a pay-it-forward lending model where businesses pay back the majority of their loan with donations and services to their community. The majority of entrepreneurs are so inspired by the impact of their donations that they continue giving. In this way, business growth becomes interwoven with social responsibility, turning small business into a sustainable force for good. The Pulsera Project has invested $30,000 to launch a revolving impact investment fund that provides low-interest loans to businesses in Nicaragua including Conjeruma, a small honey cooperative in rural Nicaragua.
La Base is the Nicaraguan branch of The Working World USA. They promote and fund worker-owned cooperatives through low interest loans and business training, putting finance in the hands of working people without making them put down collateral or take on the burden of debt that may threaten their wellbeing. Since 2015 the Pulsera Project has contributed $15,000 toward this mission, money that has made its way to a small organic coffee cooperative, an organic fruit preserves cooperative, and more.
Sueño de La Campana is a nonprofit social enterprise that promotes local job creation, entrepreneurship, rural tourism, and community wellbeing, as well as values education and tutoring through an afterschool program. In 2018 we donated $15,000 to SdlC to further these efforts in their communities.
MDIF: The Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) promotes free press and investigative journalism in countries with a track record of corruption and attacks on the free press. In most cases these entities are black-listed and unable to get loans from local institutions, so they reach out to MDIF, whose financial investments include affordable loans, equity investments, loan guarantees and technical assistance grants. The Pulsera Project invested $30,000 in this initiative in 2017 and those funds continue to have an impact as they are reinvested each year.
Frater is a disability advocacy organization that works on training, welfare, public awareness, and promoting the rights of people with disabilities in Masaya, Nicaragua. They are working on the assembly and construction of a large workshop for the repair & maintenance of mobility tools for people with disabilities, such as crutches, wheelchairs, electronic lifts and more that improve access for those with disabilities in Nicaragua. In 2019 The Pulsera Project approved a grant of $13,000 for the construction of the workshop, and for spare parts, tools, training and publicity.
Estufas Doña Dora is a social enterprise aiming to mitigate the negative effects of open air wood-burning kitchens, which are extremely common in Central America and can lead to long-term chronic health issues. We provided them with a $10,000 grant for installing clean cook stoves in public schools, a business model that helped promote to the wider community the broad health, economic and environmental benefits of clean, non-wood-burning stoves.
Thriive / Conjeruma
La Base Recipients
Estufas Doña Dora
Boris Vega: Bufet Popular Boris Vega is a nonprofit, populist law firm founded on the principals of Liberation Theology. Their work focuses on worker's rights, land reform, and social justice. This past year The Pulsera Project donated $10,000 to Boris Vega to subsidize legal fees for exploited populations who lack access to legal services and can't afford the justice they deserve.
U.S. Educational Program
As much as The Pulsera Project exists to benefit artists and communities in Central America, we also exist to provide a world-class educational service program to thousands of students and teachers each year in schools across the U.S. Through videos, lesson plans, interviews, and cultural activities, The Pulsera Project has become a rich resource for those looking to explore the worlds of Fair Trade, Global Citizenship, and International Service in their classrooms and hallways. It is a special point of pride for artists knowing that their work benefits not only themselves, but also countless students and school communities across the United States.
Members of The Pulsera Project’s Educational Board and Advisory Committee help us broaden students’ horizons according to our educational philosophy. Since 2009, over 87,000 students have been directly involved in leading pulsera sales in over 3,000 schools in all 50 states. An estimated 750,000 students have viewed Pulsera Project educational films, and we’ve traveled to Central America with 27 teachers who were able to see firsthand how their efforts have created meaningful change for artists and communities in Central America. Funds have been invested in the production of short educational films, Spanish lesson creation, teacher fellowships & scholarships, our small 3-person U.S. staff, pulsera sale materials, and our educational animation series, created by a small team of Nicaraguans at Origami Studios in Managua.
Si A La Vida
Si A La Vida is a youth shelter, support network, and afterschool program for kids and teens who had been living on the streets or in dysfunctional families. They have centers on the island of Ometepe and inner city Managua. From 2010-2014 The Pulsera Project provided about $20,000 in grants to Si A La Vida to cover general operations, hiring of shelter staff, shelter construction, and more. An additional $25,000 was invested to purchase pulseras from the older teens at the shelter.
La Isla Network is an organization dedicated to ending chronic kidney disease of undetermined causes (CKDu) among workers and their communities worldwide, including a small community in Nicaragua nicknamed "Isle of the Widows" for the tragic fact that nearly 60% of men in the community had contracted the fatal disease. Several years ago The Pulsera Project donated $3,000 to their programs, but more recently we took an even bigger step. One of the suspected causes of CKDu is the brutal working conditions in the sugarcane fields of Nicaragua, which had been the single available job in this community. In 2015 The Pulsera Project hired a few members of "La Isla" to make pulseras, an experiment which has turned into a full-fledged cooperative of 30 men and women that we employ full time. This new work alternative is a true life-saver for people whose previous work was essentially a death sentence.
PHPG or "People Helping People Globally" is a microfinance organization that provides interest-free loans to individuals wanting to start or expand small businesses. Lack of access to start-up money is a huge roadblock for people with great ideas that don't have the resources to fund them. In 2013 we gave $10,000 to PHPG to expand their footprint in Nicaraguan communities and to disburse to small business owners.
Los Quinchos is a youth shelter where the seeds of The Pulsera Project were planted all the way back in 2009. It was here that we visited on our first trip to Nicaragua, and it was the handwoven pulseras made by the youths at this shelter where the idea of The Pulsera Project was born. From 2009-2011, we donated around $30,000 to sustain all sorts of operations at Los Quinchos, from staff, the construction of a library, sports equipment, mattresses, art supplies, schooling fees, and more.
La Isla Network