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Building strong futures by hand

Manos Esforzadas creates opportunity through Buckner Dominicana

Ana Rosa Ruiz felt the hardships of being an unemployed single mother. No matter how hard she worked, nothing seemed to provide enough to cover the needs of her family. And though she did her best to move forward, there always seemed to be more challenges. 

But with the help of a Buckner program in the Dominican Republic called Manos Esforzadas, Ruiz discovered she had the strength and skills she needed to forge a more prosperous life for her family. 

Breaking generational povertyThe Buckner program started 10 years ago when staff at the Buckner Family Hope Center® in the Dominican Republic noticed mothers struggling to make ends meet while caring for their families.

“At that time, we were seeing many mothers who had to leave their homes to find work as house maids while their children came back from school to an empty house,” said Eunice Perez, executive director of Buckner Dominicana. “They had to do this because they needed the extra income, but they only made about $80 extra a month.”

But the Buckner team knew these women had the strength, talent and skills to support their families if given the opportunity. And so, Buckner Dominicana created Manos Esforzadas, which means "strong hands."

The program began with a few women who learned how to make sandals. Now, more than a dozen women participate in the program creating a variety of handcrafted artisan items such as wallets, tablecloths, bandanas and jewelry.

Working mothers receiving services at the Family Hope Center have now gained access to learning even more skills, empowering and equipping them to help keep their families out of poverty.

“We began this program with the goal of seeing people in our community make positive progress,” Perez said. “And we can say that the products each of these women make, have no competition in terms of quality.”

Women learning skills to provide for their familyFinancial stability helps remove stress for parents – helping the whole family unit thrive – and this program teaches marketable entrepreneurial skills working mothers can use beyond their time at Buckner.

Businesses in the Dominican Republic such as Supermercados Bravo and Farmacias Carol now sell the handmade items created by women at Manos Esforzadas. 

Being a part of Manos Esforzadas allowed Ana Rosa Ruiz to learn new skills that fit her talents. This opened more opportunities for her and allowed her a steady job and income. Now armed with self-confidence and determination also, Ruiz took another step toward independence and started her own business, a paleteria, where she sells popsicles, juices and drinks.

“This is a business,” Perez said when describing Manos Esforzadas. “But its mission is what allows these women to care for their families.”

Learn more about Manos Esforzadas, an impactful female artisan ministry.

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