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Rodolfo Alvarez: Building ‘Eden’ in Guatemala

by | Mar 19, 2021 | Changemaker Of The Week

When Rodolfo was fifteen, he began volunteering at a summer camp called Viamistad. For the first time in his life, he was surrounded by people with disabilities,  beginning to make many new friends and learning about their experiences.

One of these new friends was Jorge, who uses a wheelchair and communicates with modified sign language due to partial paralysis.  For years, Jorge was locked in his house while his family left for work.  He fell into a deep depression and later survived a suicide attempt.  After this trauma, his family finally agreed to allow him to leave the house each day to sell toys at the main plaza. Jorge was very proud of himself and his business, but still felt frustrated that he could not find a ‘real job.’

Rodolfo realized that the lack of job opportunities and the constant isolation were serious issues for all of his friends with disabilities. In 2019, with Jorge’s help, he decided to put in practice his knowledge in natural medicine and founded Edén, a social-enterprise, that facilitates opportunities for disabled entrepreneurs to create all-natural wellness products using the best essential oils and natural ingredients. The model is based on the specific abilities of each person, facilitating their success and self-confidence.

“We hope to help society at large to see people for their strengths rather than for their challenges.”

When Jorge and Rodolfo first began Edén, Jorge’s mom told Rodolfo that her son “couldn’t do anything to help” and that Rodolfo “didn’t need to include him.” Jorge was, unfortunately, used to this kind of minimization. But, through the first few months of Edén, Jorge was consistently working and supporting his family with income.

“Now, we have noticed that his mom and family talk more about his strengths, appreciate his contributions and engage with him in a new way. Through community support, accessible work, and representation, we are changing the stereotypes that hurt people with disabilities,” says Rodolfo.

So far, each of the eight entrepreneurs in the program earned an average of $5 per hour over the course of three months. This is more than 2x the Guatemalan minimum wage. With their new autonomy, the entrepreneurs give back to their communities and create social and economic growth for themselves.

For example, Sergio adopted a dog (something he always wanted) and was able to independently pay for its food and vaccinations, Iris treated her whole family to dessert and Darian helped pay for her sister’s medical expenses. The Edén entrepreneurs create, package and sell products that invite each customer to enjoy health and wellness, naturally. They receive all of the sales, reinvest in the business, and put their earnings towards their own dreams.

Edén is a social enterprise, but they are also a group of friends! Over the last year, they have met bi-monthly for an online hang-out, called Cafe Con Edén.  Believing that wellness comes through body, mind and community, they wanted to support each other through the isolating lock-down.

“We are so grateful to The Pollination Project for supporting us. Thanks to TPP we can address the difficulties of this pandemic and are encouraged to move forward because we know that our work with Edén is fundamental for the improvement of our lives, as well as our community and Guatemala as a country. Edén is growing with momentum and confidence, and I’m so excited to see where we go.”

To learn more about this project and to get in touch with Rodolfo Alvarez, please visit https://edn.mailchimpsites.com/

Written by Milena Fraccari