La Ilusión Collection // The woman behind the name

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We love strong women and Ilusión Farias is just that. She is the director of Creamos, a non-profit located directly beside the Guatemala City Dump, which is the largest dump in Central America. {Read more here about the living conditions around Zone 3}

Creamos is a haven of peace in an area where the cycle of poverty never seems to let up. Averie works with the newly established sewing program and is teaching 10 women how to sew (who will one day sew all of our garments).

Creamos is the official partner of Casa Flor, because although we believe that sustainable change comes with steady employment, we also know that people need so much more than a job. Creamos gives a holistic approach to achieving a healthy sense of self and from the very moment we met Ilu, we knew that we along with our businesses were soul sisters. 

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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.

How has living in Guatemala and working with women in Creamos changed the way you see yourself and the strength of women?

Our women have seen and done everything you can imagine. They were dealt a bad hand of cards in life, yet day after day they wake up decide for themselves, "I want a better life and to be an example for my kids." They stop drinking, doing drugs, being involved in streets gangs….. and instead they signed up for Adult literacy and decided to change their lives. That is my definition of courage.

They want to learn everything the world has to offer, so they can show their kids that a better life is possible for them. They give me courage to do the right thing every day, even when it is difficult. Even in all the darkness they face every day, they haven’t lost faith or laughter. They have made me a better person and I am grateful to each of them for teaching me.

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How would you describe your personal style and how does it express a part of who you are?
I like very basic pieces with a twist. I tend to wear a lot of white, blue and black but have very colorful accessories and love to layer. I think that’s how a see myself a very solid base and then we throw in a little color. I love things that look basic but have cool twist. My style is really represents me and the type of friends I have- we all look very normal from the outside but if you pay close attention, we are all a little unique with pops of color here and there. 

We believe that small change and making an impact where you are is the most powerful form of service. Ultimately, what effect do you want to leave on people around you?
I believe the same thing. Wherever you are planted, that is where you need to make the world a better place, in whichever way you can. The effect I want to leave on people is that I've helped them experience having an opportunity. I want them to feel and believe if they put in the work it will be compensated fairly. More than anything, I want our women to feel loved and care for. They matter to us and to their family and communities. They have the power to change the future.

Photo Cred: Ray Vazquez

Casa Flor Designs