Relmu Witral: Rebuilding Lives & Livelihoods
Through Levantando Chile, NESsT is already providing support to Relmu Witral in Tirúa to help Lavkenche women rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Located in Tirúa, a coastal town located in southern Chile region that was destroyed by the earthquake, Relmu Witral works closely with local indigenous communities of Lafkenche women, training them in preserving their ancestral skills as textile weavers and providing them with support in producing and commercializing their handwoven products.
A member of NESsT’s portfolio, Relmu Witral will concentrate on ensuring the Lafkenche women restore their income quickly so they may continue to support their families and rebuild their lives. NESsT has been working with Relmu Witral since 2007 and Levantando Chile will provide financial support to Relmu Witral to restore their homes, places of work, and to get access to the materials and markets they need immediately as artisans and micro-entrepreneurs in order to resume their work and sources of income.
Click here read Relmu Witral’s portfolio profile.
Repair Relmu Witral Headquarters
Most immediately, Levantando Chile will provide support for immediate repair of the floor of the Relmu Witral headquarters. The Relmu Witral building has served as both a meeting hall and a store for its 150 members; its floor-to-ceiling shelves display hundreds of the woven products made by the women who belong to the cooperative, attracting tourists from around the world who wish to purchase quality traditional Mapuche products. This repair is urgent because the tsunami pushed sand beneath the building, causing supports to collapse. Portions of the floor have no support and aftershocks could cause the whole building to collapse.
Provide psychological help for earthquake trauma
Further support from Levantando Chile will be used to provide psychological help to the women to deal with the post-earthquake trauma. Many of the women and other Mapuche communities surrounding Tirúa are too afraid to come to the Relmu Witral headquarters because it is too close to the ocean and the aftershocks trigger panic. The women’s stress is compounded by the sudden loss of employment for many of their husbands. For details on the psychological support offered to the women of Relmu Witral, please click here.
Provide materials and equipment to restore family income
Many women sustained extensive losses of personal items as well as the materials and tools they need to restore their family income. Furthermore, most area industry has stopped due to the earthquake, making most women the sole-breadwinners in their family. Support from Levantando Chile will provide immediate financial support to repair places of work, storefronts and purchase tools and raw materials necessary to restart their small businesses as quickly as possible in order to generate critical income for the artisans and their families.
Open access to markets for artisanal products
To complicate matters, the earthquake and tsunami have obliterated the purchasing priorities and buying power of a majority of residents in and around the regions most affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake and tsunami also severely reduced tourism, a major source of customers for stores like Relmu Witral that sell traditional Chilean crafts. The Levantando Chile Fund will work closely with the directors of Relmu Witral to help the organization find new markets for its products outside of its region, both in other parts of Chile and around the world. This will include finding new points of sale in Santiago, strengthening relationships within the fair trade network through the World Fair Trade Organization and helping representatives from Relmu Witral travel to artisan fairs in other countries to display and sell their products. By helping Relmu Witral find new markets, the Levantando Chile Fund will help develop a more sustainable income stream as quickly as possible while also helping the group meet its vision of being seen and known.
NESsT’s staff will be continuing to work closely with the Board of Directors of Relmu Witral over the next few months to channel Levantando Chile Funds to artisans throughout the region. These funds will provide immediate financial support to repair places of work, storefronts and purchase tools and raw materials necessary to restart their small businesses as quickly as possible in order to generate critical income for the artisans and their families. The Levantando Chile Fund will also dedicate resources to developing new points of sale that practice the principles of Fair Trade outside of the regions most affected by the earthquake for the artisans of Relmu Witral.