Maria Martha Rios

When they first moved to Villa Soleada with their family, Martha and her husband Moises were unemployed and they couldn’t afford tuition to put their kids in school. Three years later, three of Martha’s kids are full time high school students, a fourth is employed, and the oldest is a successful doctor in northern Honduras. Moises works part time as a welder and has clients within the community. Maria Martha is an Esfuerzo de Amor (EDA) artisan whose signature work is her coconut earrings. Together they are an important part of their community and a big part of their family’s financial and academic success.

Moises describes how he got the idea for making coconut earrings, “I was in the market one day and I saw a design I had never seen before.” When he got home he told Martha about the earrings he saw and how they were made out of brittle seashells. Martha suggested they use a unique material: coconut. Combining Martha’s creative touch and fashion sense, with Moises’ handcrafted ingenuity, they invented a product that was unique, maintained a simple yet attractive style, and was of a high quality.

In January of 2013, EDA and Martha agreed to a one-year contract. Moises had to use borrowed materials to make the first earrings. His boss allowed Moises to borrow a drill for a week during which time he and Martha made over 40 earrings and many bracelets. After the January purchase, Moises bought his own drill using money he saved up from work along with money that Martha earned from EDA. After subsequent sales, Moises was able to buy two more drills with specific abilities. The new drills gave Moises a wider range of ability to carve new designs and increase his productivity.

The new assets give Moises the opportunity to work on his own within the community. In El Progreso, it is not uncommon to hire someone for only a few months out of the year. Strict labor laws and low demand push businesses to do so. Thus, Moises will find himself with no formal work for several months out of the year. Now, Moises has the means to offer his services to the broader community. Equipped with his drill and handyman intellect, Moises makes the most out of the slow months.

Martha didn’t spend all her money on Moises’ tools. The rest of her funds went towards academic costs for her three children who are in high school. She was able to pay three months worth of school for each child. The rest of the money she saved for unexpected expenses, usually for school materials and clothes.

Martha not only sells earrings but started selling food out of her home as well. She makes 150 tortillas every morning, of which she will sell enough to invest in more tortillas. There is enough money left over to pay for her youngest son’s soccer academy. Martha’s son caught the eye of a professional scout in Honduras. The scout was so impressed that the team he worked for invited him to train with the youth academy five days a week for a year. The academy, however, costs a monthly fee, which Martha and Moises could not afford. Martha used money left over from EdeA purchases to start a tortilla making business and, so far, she has been able to cover all her sons costs.

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