Turning Trash into Beauty

Creamos means “Let’s create” and “We believe” in Spanish

One of the many benefits of being financially independent is being able to choose what to do with your time. Billy and I love living with the locals all over the globe, and opportunities for volunteer projects are obvious and diverse.

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While living at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, we heard about a particularly successful endeavor and wanted to share it with our readers.

Emily Coffin is the coordinator of Creamos, a labor of love in Guatemala City.


A mother studies with her child close by

Out of the dump

Twenty-five women, who used to make a living scavenging in the municipal garbage dump, have been able to start their lives over again and escape the poverty of their past. They do this by turning trash into treasure. Recycled materials such as chip bags, pop tops and old magazines are donated by local schools and businesses or collected by the women themselves. These assorted pieces of tossed scrap are turned into wearable art, and finished off with shop-bought beads and clasps, then sold at events, in participating stores and Creamos’ own shop, which is staffed by members of the project.

Working at the garbage dump took mothers away from their families from sunrise to sunset and endangered their lives by breathing the toxic fumes rising from the piles of garbage. Today through Creamos, these women make up to 3 times the amount they would have made by working in the city garbage dump, they have flexible working hours and it’s safe. The extra income greatly supplements their lives.


Guatemalan women working at Creamos

The mothers, who all live close to the project, study for two hours a day and then create their jewelry at home. This schedule provides flexibility in caring for their children.

Not only that, but the women also receive free day care for their children, access to a medical clinic, two meals a day and classes on nutrition and financial planning.

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Changing their financial lives

There are fraudulent lending schemes in Guatemala and due to illiteracy, many people fall prey to signing deceitful contracts, placing them in severe debt. This ruins their chances to save money and plan for their future. Creamos set up an internal saving plan, which allows members to deposit any amount from their paycheck and draw upon it when needed.

“It’s been really exciting to see. One woman was even able to save up enough money to pay off her debts and open up a real bank account,” says Coffin.

This small crafts workshop has quickly become an independent business, which recently started exporting goods to the U.S.


Trash to treasure

In order for the women to participate in Creamos, there are requirements. The jewelry business is an application of both the math they are taught and the literacy they are learning in the classroom. Every jewelry creator must calculate the price of their bangle, earring and necklace based on established formulas. The members receive training in entrepreneurship, sales and personal finance. They also broaden their abilities to work together by conducting peer reviews of their work and they manage quality control of the products they sell.

“Almost all of these women are survivors of domestic violence and aren’t used to voicing their opinions, so it’s great to see them feeling confident enough to say what they think,” states Coffin.

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If it ever crossed your mind that you could be bored in retirement, the idea of volunteering or mentoring would easily erase any concerns you might have. Your talents and expertise are welcome in hundreds of locations worldwide.

Teach. Learn. Give.

Inspired? Take a look at our Volunteer Page to find locations and organizations where you can give of your expertise.

Emily Coffin is the coordinator of Creamos. Meet the mothers at Creamos by clicking here

Take a look at some Creamos jewelry here

About Retire Early Lifestyle

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired three decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. As recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel, they have been interviewed about retirement issues by The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, The Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter, nationally syndicated radio talk shows and countless newspapers and TV shows nationally and worldwide. They wrote the popular books The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement (Your Simple Path to FIRE) and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.
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