Deep in the forests of Darién Province of Panama, indigenous women from the Emberá and Kuna communities are working with Chispas de Amor, a local fair trade products company, to produce handmade accessories that are being sold globally via the web at www.chispasdeamor.com
Chispas de Amor ("Sparks of Love") was founded in 2011 by Laura Arosemena and her husband, Luis E. Arias, with the slogan, “To share products that enrich and change lives.”
The company uses an inclusive business model developed by the Guatemalan NGO Comunidades de la Tierra, which focuses on developing close bonds with producer communities. “The women are thinking big,” said Ms. Arosemena. “They wish to bring wealth to their communities and support the dreams of their children, as well as improve their living conditions. When we ask them about their dreams, we can know what they really desire and connect them to a common goal that the community works on together.”
The partnership between the women and Chispas de Amor grew out of the Panama Sustainable Community Forestry in the Darién project’s initiative to identify sustainable alternative economic opportunities for rural Darién communities. Since 2010, the project has worked to reduce pressure on natural resources in the region by promoting sustainable forest management and creating economic opportunities.
Through activities and workshops like the “dream sessions” workshop pictured above, the women learn artisanal methods and enhance their productive skills, while learning about tools for personal and professional development. With their newly acquired tools and increased media attention, the women’s business continues to grow.