But we'll stop gushing over her and let Ilu introduce herself:
Where are you from and how did you end up in Guatemala?
I am originally from Nicaragua. When I was 21, I was graduating college and there was a change a political situation which caused some uncertainty in my country. My mom said I should take a year off go learn another language and then return to Nicaragua.
In the Fall of 2007, I moved to China to study Mandarin and I fell in love with the country. I wanted to stay longer in China and quickly Grad school became the answer. The plan was to take a free year of Mandarin and then I would start my program, unfortunately the program wasn’t what they promised (it was supposed to be a master in trade in English) but turned out it was all in Chinese... so that wasn't going to work.
I decided to take one more semester of Chinese until I figured out what I was going to do, which led to my masters program in Berlin, Germany. The program was in International and Developing Economics, it turned out the focus was mostly in development which opened my eyes to development work. At that point it all clicked... I come from a really poor country and I realized I need to work for change.
After graduating I moved back to Nicaragua and worked in a program funded by the World Bank but there was disconnect for me. I was giving opportunities to people without knowing them. One day I saw a position open for a social entrepreneur program in Guatemala. It felt like this is was where I needed to go and do, so within two weeks I had applied, got the job and moved to Guatemala. I thought it would just be a year gig....but 5 years later- here I am.
Does your name have any special significance to you and/or your family?
My name is all my mother! She always wanted to have a daughter and she said growing up that having a girl would be the “Ilusión” (dream/hope) of her life. My grandmother told her that wasn’t a real name, but my mom didn’t care and said that Ilusión was what she was going to name her daughter. 32 years later and I cant imagine being called anything else.
It is a reminder for me to be bold and do whatever my heart desires, even if seems a little out there.
Tell us about your connection to Creamos and about your job. What are the parts that feel the most fulfilling? Where are your biggest points of frustration?
Creamos has been my life for the last 5 years. We work to provide income, emotional and/or educational opportunities for the women who live around the Garbage Dump in Guatemala City. I love my job and working with these women. Seeing them grow as people has been one of the biggest privileges in my life. Seeing them reach their goals has been humbling to see. There a million moments that make it all so worth it. When I see them graduate from high school or when you ask some, “How do you see yourself?” and without hesitation answer, "I AM WARRIOR".
Frustrations are very classic for anyone who works in this type of environment. I wish I could do more, problems are bigger than us and out of our reach. Sometimes I wish life would give our women a break.
But as frustrated I get, without fail, the women pick themselves up and continue to fight.... so therefore so do I.
Creamos has a holistic approach to bettering the lives of women who live near the dump in Guatemala city. Can you explain this more? Why do you think creative jobs and teaching skills are beneficial?
When we were setting up Creamos as an NGO we knew that money wasn’t enough. So we set 2 pillars: income generating opportunities and social programs. This way they are more likely to succeed, they have better tools to make decisions for themselves and their children. We dream that our women would be pillars in changing their community.
The Social programs that we provide focus on Financial Literacy and self-esteem. In our income generating opportunities we teach the women skills like jewelry making and sewing in hopes that these skills can go further than our little organization. If better jobs opportunity come around, they can confidently say that they have working experience.
These women are fully capable and having a job that is challenging, teaches them that they can do anything.