COLORING THE WORLD IN 2022: THE PULSERA PROJECT'S YEAR-END REVIEW
Welcome to The Pulsera Project's 2022 year-end review!
2022 was a turning point for The Pulsera Project – after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting almost every aspect of the project, the veil began to lift and a new post-Covid project began to take shape.
The last year was a pivotal one for the project, representing new and unprecedented investments in all components of the project – for the first time, we are employing over 200 artisans, we added over a dozen new videos and lessons to the educational program, and we forged partnerships with some incredible new organizations in the U.S. and Central America.
We want to humbly thank the thousands of teachers, students, and volunteers who helped to secure a future for the project when things looked darkest – the outpouring of support we received over the last few years truly was the essential key that kept The Pulsera Project ship sailing through the murky waters of Covid. We cannot stress enough how much that support meant to each of us and the volunteers who work for the project.
THE PROJECT MISSION
The Pulsera Project continues to focus on developing our three core components:
1.) Creating meaningful employment for Central Americans
2.) Educating U.S. students through pulsera sales
3.) Investing proceeds in Central American communities
OUR SOCIAL ENTERPRISE MODEL
The Pulsera Project's non-profit social enterprise model is unique because it enriches lives both in the U.S. and abroad by weaving pulsera sales into an educational program.
We sell pulseras to provide opportunities for Central Americans, but we do so while educating thousands of U.S. students about fair trade, Central American culture, and a range of social impact issues. We encourage students to open their hearts to care about others but we also encourage students to open their minds to the amazing diversity of ideas and perspectives in our world. This win-win model is the magic of The Pulsera Project.
Our project is based on solidarity and mutual benefit – U.S. students help create opportunity in Central America through pulsera sales while also learning about the artists and communities whom their sales benefit.
The Pulsera Project in the U.S.A.
As schools filled back up with students, the project went through some important changes. We hired dozens of new artisans, began new collaborations, and added more materials to the educational program than any year in the project’s history. We also made one of the most challenging decisions in the project’s history, raising the cost of pulseras to $7 and bolsitas to $15. This was the first price change since The Pulsera Project was founded in 2009.
As inflation continued to spike in the U.S, it hit Central American countries even harder, where a small increase in food or housing costs can mean making difficult decisions for one’s family. In line with our fair trade values, we raised the cost we pay artisans to keep up with this new reality.
Though we knew the decision was necessary to keep the project viable into the future, we also were sad to raise costs for students also affected by rising prices. Digital payments through Venmo have continued to be popular, reducing the amount of change schools have to make.
Luckily, schools embraced the change and the project continues to steadily grow, making it possible to expand to over 200 pulsera artisans for the first time in project history!
To reflect all the new changes in The Pulsera Project, we made over a dozen new videos about our mission and that of our partners.
We made short films about six of our new project partners, ranging from disability advocates to permaculture farms and youth empowerment collectives, including the first VR/360 video tour of project partner, the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (IMAP). We were also thrilled to debut a new Color the World video.
Our project has changed a lot in recent years, and our new films represent our increasing focus on helping build and strengthen communities, both in Central America and the U.S.
Our new "Color the World" Video
One of six new videos about our partner
organizations in Guatemala.
One of many new 360 videos we introduced into our library of educational resources.
Though we had previously worked with the National Spanish Exam to sponsor a slot on our 2022 teacher trip, we expanded that partnership through their parent organization, the American Association of the Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) – the largest professional Spanish teaching organization in the country.
We are so honored to be working with AATSP and their organizations in schools – the Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica and Sociedad Honoraria de Amistad. This year, the project will sponsor several awards for Spanish Honors Society chapters as we expand our commitment to educational excellence.
We also are excited to announce a collaboration with Vista Higher Learning, a world-class educational instruction company that has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years because of their incredible digital resources and content. We are thrilled to enter 2023 in partnerships with all of these organizations as we expand our educational reach.
The Pulsera Project’s mission would not be possible without the volunteer efforts of thousands of teachers and students across the U.S. each year, whose pulsera sales create meaningful employment for artisans in Central America and raise funds that generate impact and support programs in Guatemala and Nicaragua, all while learning about social impact, solidarity, fair trade, and global citizenship in the classroom.
Over the course of 2022, we were fortunate to work with 405 schools in the Spring of 2022, and 287 schools in the Fall, representing a total of 692 pulsera sales, each one a labor of love, brought to life by the enthusiasm and hard work of the classes, clubs, and school communities that dedicate their time to the project.
This was a significant and meaningful bounce back for us, after partnering with 369 schools in 2021 due to the lingering effects of COVID-19 on the project.
In total, the Pulsera Project has now collaborated with 3,468 schools, and with the help of many multi-year school partnerships, 6,807 Pulsera Project school events have been hosted by students and teachers since 2009.
Scenes from pulsera sales around the country in 2022.
THE U.S. EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM
We also made our educational resources public for the first time, increasing the traffic to our materials by over 300%.
Meanwhile, we expanded our online conversations with classes – any school hosting pulsera sales can now set up virtual chats with social impact coordinator Jorge Morales or project co-founders Colin Crane and Chris Howell.
Some of the new activities added to our educational materials in 2022 by collaborator & Spanish teacher Hannah Joseph
TEACHER PARTNERSHIPS & CONFERENCES
As the project regained its footing post-pandemic, we were fortunate to be represented at state language conferences by amazing teachers in seven different states – Porsha Prudencio in Virginia, Yajaira Diaz in North Carolina, Jen Meyer in Pennsylvania, Mara Malafronte in Connecticut, Miriam Roth in Michigan, Colleen Vallin in Minnesota, and Kristen Kornweiss in New York.
We are grateful to each of these incredible educators who have not only advocated for a more colorful world in their own schools, but have gone out of their way to spread the word about the project’s positive message of social and educational justice.
Longtime friend of the project, Hannah Joseph, has also joined our team as an educational consultant. Not only has she designed some of our most popular activities, including the Escape Room and Digital Escape Room, but she has also created dozens of new activities to accompany the new video resources we’ve put out. Hannah’s passion for education is truly unmatched, and we’re so thankful for her sharing these incredible resources with thousands of teachers across the country.
Enormous gratitude to all of the teachers who devoted time to representing The Pulsera Project at state foreign language conferences throughout 2022.
TEACHER TRIP TO GUATEMALA
After a three year hiatus, we finally returned to Guatemala with teachers. It was a very special mix of Pulsera board members, staff and veteran teachers including Hannah Joseph, Colleen Vallin, and Erin McGovern, and new board member Cathy McCauley.
It was our pleasure to meet and share with new project partners, artisans, and organizations in the vibrant towns and countryside of Guatemala. In addition to filming a new Color the World film, we brainstormed new content and collectively helped write the next chapter of the project’s history. Here are just a few photos from our trip:
U.S. operations continues to be based in Charleston, SC, and is going on a full decade with its original three-person crew. We’re proud to have kept our team small throughout years of tremendous growth.
Together, Jillian, Colin, and Chris handle all the ins and outs of pulsera partnerships with schools, juggling everything from emails and educational content creation, to shipping pulsera boxes, accounting, meeting frequently with the team in Central America, social media, website design, counting through hundreds of thousands of pulseras each year, and envisioning plans for The Pulsera Project’s future.
This year especially, we were extremely grateful to watch our workload significantly increase in tandem with the returning wave of school partnerships, and we’re always thrilled to wake up to a full inbox of pulsera sale inquiries after the unpredictable past couple of years.
The Pulsera Project in Central America
CENTRAL AMERICAN OPERATIONS
2022 was a year of rebirth for Central American Operations as we resumed and improved all the things we couldn't do during the pandemic. It was a fun, whirlwind of a year for our team; full of adventure and many meaningful new relationships. After two years of virtual meetings and feeling estranged, the past 12 months was exactly what everyone needed.
It was also a year of big transition! Rather than reassembling a centralized staff, as we were pre-pandemic, we built the project around the strong leadership of artisan leaders and local community partners. Over the course of 2022, veteran artisans: Jael Madriz, Gaby Silva, Amanda Guadamuz, Alba Rosa Mercado, Betzayda Lopez and Yorleny Garcia got passports and headed to Guatemala to meet and train new artisan groups. For most of them, this was their first time out of the country, and for all, their first time in Guatemala. It was a special experience for new artisans to learn about the project through the eyes and hearts of fellow artisans and Central Americans rather than staff and founders.
Meanwhile, our Central American Operations team: Skarlette, Jorge and Evan created and guided our vision while handling the usual tasks – buying, packing, shipping pulseras, leading trips, researching and vetting new groups, structuring partnerships, overseeing programs and donations, etc. It was a big year, full of lots of meaningful work we are so fortunate to be a part of.
Nicaraguan Operations Team: Skarlette, Jorge, & Evan
Jorge with a group of pulsera artisans in Nicaragua
THE ARTISANS OF NICARAGUA & GUATEMALA
This past year was the biggest and fastest expansion in the project’s history. Pandemic school closures and lack of pulsera sales resulted in scaling down to just 12 artisans, but when school sales picked back up in Fall of 2021 we had the task to rebuild at an unprecedented pace. In 2022 we went from just 12 to an astonishing 205 artisans. Combined, they are currently producing 20K pulseras a month, more than even pre-pandemic levels.
It’s no quick process to find and nurture relationships with 200 artisans. Weavers abound in Guatemala, but few already make pulseras, and we aim to work with groups that already have a social impact component. To find these groups we summon recommendations, chat with community leaders, scour the web, and tour local handicraft markets.
After forming a thorough database, we vet groups though virtual meetings and select the most promising to visit with in person. If the group’s values and leadership mesh well with ours, we place sample orders and accompany them in honing their skills.
The final and most rewarding steps are getting to know the individual artisans on a personal level, teaching them about the project, explaining the journey of their pulseras, and connecting them with U.S. educators and students through teacher trips, videos, and the artisan website.
It’s challenging to quantify 205 artisans. One way is seeing 205 artisans as 205 households or 21 local communities, co-ops and organizations that we partner with. That’s how we’ve come to see and understand it – as a broad interconnectedness that we mutually contribute to and benefit from.
As an example, when we say “invested in”, we are not just referring to money paid, but also time spent getting to know artisans, long conversations on how to improve our partnerships and reflecting on what can be learned from our experiences.
Another way of thinking about this is in economic terms. By that metric, pulsera sales translated into $230,987 spent in artisans wages and another $18,948 in training and development in order to buy 113,500 pulseras. That’s vital income that went to supporting artisans and their family members, which total over a thousand people. An equally important figure is that by raising the sales price to $7 per pulsera in 2022, we can meet the changing economic situations as inflation hits Central America as well, maintaining our commitments to paying above Fair Trade market wages.
Just a few of our amazing new artisan partner groups in Guatemala -- Adisa, Asomujerdi, Asogen, and Artexco.
Pulsera Sales & Proceeds
U.S. PULSERA SALES IN 2022
U.S. and Central American staff devote much of their time to U.S. student education, artisan well-being, and our partnerships with other organizations, but as a social enterprise we know that our mission depends on pulsera sales.
In 2022 teachers and student volunteers raised $787,092 through pulsera sales in 692 schools, some selling for the 13th time, while we welcomed 211 schools that hosted pulsera events for the first time. We appreciate each student, teacher, and volunteer who helped along the way.
PULSERA SALE PROCEEDS: A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
From the money raised by schools, The Pulsera Project seeks to invest equally in our three components – artisan employment, impact investment, and the U.S. service-learning educational program.
This year we made substantial investments in each, especially in the often arduous but necessary task of fostering new relationships and making new connections. In 2022 the project invested $431,319 towards our Employment and Impact programs in Central America and has set aside another $100,000 for grants for 2023.
Of the $100,043 spent toward Impact Investments, some included support for long time project allies as well as many new emerging partnerships. For a full list of the inspiring organizations we supported in 2022, please see the end of this page.
Two of our new partner organizations in Guatemala, Waricha and Raiz Che
PROJECT ADMINISTRATION & BOARD OF DIRECTORS
In 2022, as in previous years, salaries were paid to Team Pulsera to operate the educational and artisan programs, but volunteer board members also dedicated substantial time to support the thousands of teachers and students who also volunteer their time and effort to the project.
A huge part of the board’s work in 2022 was continuing to navigate The Pulsera Project’s financial situation in the face of COVID-19, and working in tandem with the U.S. and Central American Staff to come up with an action plan that could keep the project viable into the future. Last year, we had to say goodbye to board member Joe Terranova, whose contributions and insights benefited the project well before he joined the board in 2016 – we thank him for his many years of volunteering for the project! Despite this loss, we were thrilled in 2022 to welcome a new board member into the mix!
Cathy McCauley, who has been a longtime supporter of the project and a frequent collaborator on our educational materials, joined the board of directors in an official capacity in the second half of the year. We’re super grateful for Cathy’s continued contribution to the project, and for her unique perspective as a teacher for several decades.
Board members meet monthly to handle general project administration, organize meetings and activities, discuss and provide guidance for financial decisions, and evaluate and recommend social impact investments in their work with staff and the Investment Committee.
Greetings to our newest Board of Directors member, Cathy McCauley! Happy to have her on board!
ADELANTE IN 2023
As we look towards 2023, we are first filled with profound humility and gratitude to every teacher, student, and volunteer that contributed to the project over the last year. We all dealt with unprecedented uncertainty over the last few years, but even through the darkest days it was the bonds that connected us that kept us going.
We’ve always known that the heart of the Pulsera Project isn’t the bracelets, the videos, or even the sales, but the amazing network of artists, students, teachers, activists, and volunteers that has brought people together across borders, cultural divides, and thousands of miles. This was proven especially true in 2022, as we hoped to stitch the project back together in a new and improved form.
Our dreams for the future remain large despite the setbacks – we hope to develop closer relationships with our over 200 artists in the coming year, research expanding into Mexico and Costa Rica, continue our teacher trips, collaborate more, always working towards the brighter and more just world that we all strive to be a part of. The last few years rocked the project to its foundations, and despite the losses, it also gave us the opportunity to examine those foundations and ensure they are strong, stable, and ready to weather whatever the future holds.
We’re so grateful to the thousands who have helped start building back, and eager to work with new partners and allies in the years ahead. To quote Patrik Mucia from IMAP, “we have planted the seeds and are starting to see the first fruits of those seeds, so why not plant more? Why not grow more?” We cannot wait to keep growing, learning, and planting new seeds together as we move into the future.
Lots of love,
The Pulsera Project Team
Jorge Francisco Morales
U.S. Board of Directors
The Pulsera Project By the Numbers in 2022
Artisans Employed: ~205
Artisans and household members: ~1,032
School Collaborations: 692
Pulseras Purchased: 113,473
Pulseras Sold: 137,533
Bags/Purses sold: 4,819
Total 2022 Sales: $787,092 (includes pulsera sales from 2021 where funds were received in 2022)
Total Donations Received: $1,515
Money spent on fundraising: $0
Total invested in artisan benefits, grants and collaborations: $100,043
Money set aside for impact investments in 2023: $100,00
Total invested/spent in Nicaragua/Guatemala: $431,319
Artisan Income and Training: $251,155
Year, Number of Participating Schools, and Sales
As a non-profit organization, The Pulsera Project's annual tax return is public information. You can see tax returns at www.guidestar.org.
Full List of Orgniazations Supported by The Pulsera Project in 2022:
Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura (IMAP) - Teaches and promotes sustainable agricultural practices based on ancestral knowledge and the empowerment of communities. This year we supported a group of young students, the school garden program and contributed to the operating expenses and improvement of the organization's infrastructure.
Waricha - A group of enthusiastic young people who learn and share about gender, migration and health. Together we developed a scholarship program for university studies, supported their administrative expenses and the development of a training program.
Cojolya - One of the most impressive and experienced fair trade organizations we have come across. They improve the quality of life of artisans through the commercialization of artisan products of extraordinary quality. We are delighted to contribute part of their operating expenses and a fund for their educational and health program for artisans and their families.
Asociación de Personas con Discapacidad de Santiago de Atitlán (ADISA) - An admirable organization dedicated to inclusion and integration of people with disabilities through capacity building, creation of job opportunities and increasing social awareness. This year we contributed to the improvement of their equipment and general operating expenses.
Asociación Sololateca de Mujeres para el Desarrollo Integral (ASOMUJERDI) - A group of super inspiring young women who work tirelessly for the empowerment of indigenous women through the right to communication and access to education. We are pleased to support the improvement of community radio conditions, the launch of a scholarship program and part of the organization's administrative expenses.
Aj Quen - An extraordinary organization that for many years has promoted and practiced fair trade in Guatemala. We supported their operations and established working capital for three groups of artisans in different parts of the country.
Asociación Generando Equidad, Liderazgo y Oportunidades (ASOGEN) - A women's organization with a long history in defending the rights of survivors of gender-based violence. We formed and supported a group of young women university students and helped with general operating expenses.
Raiz Che - An emerging initiative led by young people who organized themselves to offer economic empowerment opportunities to women in rural Guatemala. We supported them with funds for the acquisition of equipment for their operations and sponsored team building activities for their group.
Artexco - A cooperative that does an extraordinary job supporting groups and fellow cooperatives achieving Fair Trade standards. We supported the improvement of the cooperative's infrastructure and artisan support. Institute for Central America Studies (ICAS) - Supports the management of 4 after-school educational centers that are recognized for creating young leaders, especially young women, who conduct themselves with admirable confidence and self-esteem. Our support funds scholarships and general operations.
Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) - Provides affordable debt and equity financing, technical assistance, and advisory services to help promote free press and safeguard editorial independence. We provided a long-term loan that serves independent news businesses in emerging democracies.
Artisan Benefits - This year we granted emergency assistance, cash bonuses to artisan leaders, and organized team-building excursions between artisan groups as a way of getting to know one another and learning more about the values and priorities of the project.