Phd Productions, makers of the Pocket Disc, has a mission that includes supporting Mayan communities outside of our business relationships with the artisans. In this past year Phd Productions had the privilege to get involved with and in small ways support outstanding organizations who are addressing the basic needs of indigenous populations in Guatemala and Chiapas in southern Mexico.
In late 2010 Phd Productions teamed up with the organization Mayan Families to provide the funding for 20 water filtration systems for one of the producer communities we work with. Aside from the obvious health benefits of clean water, a major benefit of making filtered water available is that in the absence of potable well water, families are buying bottled, purified water, a significant expense. Additionally, for many women, not needing to walk to buy water and carry it home is a big time saver. Our goal is to be able to provide similar water filtration systems for all producer communities we work with.
Photo by Jon Look
Also last year, Chris Larsen, co-founder of Phd Productions family, his wife Rachel and daughters Hannah (11) and Ellie (8) volunteered in a Mayan community named Nichnamtic. The Larsen family was able to install two stoves and a new roof, as well as lend a hand with the construction of a brand new middle school. This opportunity to live with and help the Mayas of Nichnamtic was made possible by the Escalera Foundation, an organization that builds schools in Southern Mexico. As part of Escalera’s larger effort to improve conditions in the village of Nichnamtic, Phd Productions provided funding for stoves as well as roofing materials for a particular family in need. The stoves reduce the women’s burden of finding firewood because they are designed to have a much longer burn time and require smaller pieces of wood.
This in turn reduces deforestation and pollution. The stoves can reduce indoor air pollution by as much as 95 percent, which is important, considering the children in Nichnamtic and other indigenous Mayan villages seem to have a chronic cough from open fires in the home. Inches of tar hang from the ceilings in homes with open fires, and because of open fires, many indigenous Mayan women have the lungs of heavy smokers at age 40.
Earlier in 2012 Phd Productions visited the village of San Pablo in Guatemala to check on the working conditions and speak directly – without intermediary – with those artisans who speak Spanish. (Many Mayan artisans only speak the local indigenous dialect.) The village of San Pablo has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in Guatemala, which as a country has the second highest rate of malnutrition in the western hemisphere, after Haiti. When asked what they are able to do with the money they earn making handcrafts, they typically list basic food supplies, and – perhaps more significantly – school books, supplies, and clothes for school. Studies by aid organizations regularly show that money earned by women is more likely to be spent in ways that support the family and therefore has a greater community impact.