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Guatemalan Goods: Local retailers sell handmade crafts to support women in Central America

Meet Stephanie Jolluck, founder of Coleccion Luna

I'm sitting at the world's busiest airport and spot a stunning and splendidly colorful bag behind me. I have a similar bag that I bought right in Virginia-Highland, but I know that these bags usually only come from Guatemala.

Could the lady sitting behind me be the friend who brought this arts culture to Atlanta? I turn around, what a small world, it is Stephanie Jolluck, founder of Coleccion Luna.

It all started 15 years ago when Atlanta native Stephanie Jolluck traveled on a volunteer trip to Guatemala.

She fell in love with the people, their culture and their passion for creating beautiful crafts out of world-renowned textiles.

Instead of simply buying a lifetime supply of gifts for her family and friends, Stephanie decided to create a sustainable social enterprise structured around opportunity through these goods.

Why Guatemala?

Seventy percent of children under five are chronically malnourished in Guatemala. That’s one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, only Afghanistan and Yemen fare worse.

Guatemala is ranked 13th among the nations with the greatest level of income inequality, according to the United Nations Development Program. A semi-feudal society, two-percent of the population owns about 70 percent of productive land.

And though Guatemala’s average per capita income is $2,700, half of its 14 million residents live on less than $2 a day.

More than 70 percent of  the indiginous Mayans live in poverty and violence and injustice against women is rampant .. but Stephanie felt her heart pulled there. That's all it takes for a social enterprise to be born.

Passion, desire, energy and love.

How it works

Today, Stephanie's company Coleccion Luna is in partnership with 30 women in the Highland Region. The women work out of their homes and are able to attend to their children and household responsibilities. Most indigenous Mayan in this region live on less than $2 a day. These women make four times that.

Stephanie travels around six times a year to work directly with her artisan team in Guatemala. The women begin with Mayan clothing based on a 2,000 year old textile tradition. Stephanie shares to shapes and styles with the women and they deliver the gorgeous product.

Together, they have created a true team effort, relying on cross-cultural communication to combine the old traditions with the modern market.

I want one

Coleccion Luna crafts everything from coin purses to weekend get-away bags, laptop cases, pillows, table runners, yoga bags and even guitar straps – and are soon launching a jewelry line. The goods range in price from $6 to $150 so make a great gift for any occasion.

I discovered Coleccion Luna at in Virginia-Highland and bought a second bag (as a gift this time) at the Virginia-Highland Summerfest last year.

You can also find Stephanie's beautiful collection at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Mingei World Arts, , Stillwater Yoga Studio, Vista Yoga and online at the Coleccion Luna website.

Get involved

Stephanie uses Coleccion Luna as a vehicle to not only empower her artisans and their communities, but also as a platform to support local and global non-profits. A few of her favorites are Atlanta for Acumen, CARE, Safe Passage and 50 Cents Period.

You can make a difference as well. Stephanie leads occasional yoga retreats to Guatemala where you get to relax, rejuvenate and serve to local community. Every time you buy a bag, you are helping empower indigenous women in Guatemala and sharing the beauty of the Mayan culture.

Connect with Virginia-Highland Patch on Facebook and on Twitter at @VaHiPatch.

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