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A group of Latina immigrant women from Denver have found, without meaning to, that meeting every Friday morning to create jewelry at a local community center has a therapeutic effect on their lives, with proven beneficial results for their physical and emotional health.
"The jewelry classes are group therapy through conversations in which everyone participates. For this reason, the participants leave the class happy," Yurima Crowley, 45, originally from Venezuela and creator and coordinator of the project, explained to Efe.
"For women, Friday meetings are very important moments because they can be themselves, without family, without children and without spouses," she added.
And although" for now we cannot live on the income from the sale of the jewelry, having something in common is a learning process that becomes so much relief and therapy that women feel bad if one day they cannot come to one class".
The initiative, known as Entrepreneurial Hands, began as a practical task as part of Crowley's studies at the Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI, sponsored by Colorado State University), but then evolved into a formal education process to Adults.
In addition, Crowley opened her own company to sell jewelry created by women online and at public events (bazaars and art exhibitions), who are paid in advance and can, if they wish, attend the events themselves.
The Venezuelan explained that in her country she worked in importing jewelry from Spain and from India, which allowed her "to learn to see the change in women, especially in terms of their attitude towards themselves."
And although the jewelry import and sale project could no longer continue after her arrival in the United States (in 2015), graduating from FLTI gave her "the planning foundations" to launch Entrepreneurial Hands and put her in contact with Aurora Community Connection ( ACC), where the meetings are now held.
And while the therapeutic benefits are now clear, the initial goal, Crowley confesses, was very different.
"At first, I saw the participants only as creative hands, not as whole people. It was a business project. But life is not a business. I was trying to impact their pockets, not their lives. Now I have a greater sensitivity Crowley said.
"With them I learned to open my soul and my heart because I understood that, if a woman comes to classes, it is not because she has nothing to share, but because she is afraid, even afraid to ask. And I understood that because I am in that position too, "she said.
That change in her approach to encounters transformed the weekly activity from just "a distraction" to a process of transformation and self-discovery, documented not only through interviews and formal evaluations.
Also, due to the attitude of women towards their own creations: they themselves no longer accept the quality of the jewelry they made a year ago.
According to Crowley, "Women are amazed at how much they have progressed themselves and now feel more orderly and organized and less stressed."
In addition, they bring other participants, mostly their sisters, daughters or friends. And they have learned to use "healthy humor", to talk about their problems (depression and family life are the most common) and to feel respected and, therefore, demand that they be respected.
They also learned to develop friendships beyond family and church, to attend community and social events they previously did not attend, and to navigate social media, which they now use to promote and sell their creations.
And even as of this year Crowley is no longer the only instructor, but once a month a local professional instructor comes to the meetings, who, being English her native language, motivated Latina immigrants to learn that language to understand each other with your new instructor.
Furthermore, the women learned, with their jewelry creations, "to do something to make their dreams come true, not to just wish, not to sit around all day while their children are at school."
One of the participants, Noemi (she only gave that name), from Mexico, said that this is a place to "de-stress, relax, find help and fun" while "we have a tool that, if we want, we can use to generate our income. "
And Susana, a Mexican grandmother, said that here she learns to relate and to solve her own problems.
For her part, Dr. Robin (Robina) Waterman, founder and executive director of ACC, said: "When Yurima created the jewelry creation project I was excited and since then we have supported her in every way possible because it has been of tremendous benefit , from the beginning, for the women who participate in this project of social enterprises ".
The training has been "immense" because "women deeply experience their own worth and power, their ability to contribute and, most importantly, their ability to make a positive difference in their families and in their community."
"At ACC we never treat anyone as 'poor' or 'needy', but we communicate to them in every possible way that, even if they come here to ask for help, they have to participate in receiving it because they are valuable to others. We cannot be part of a society that diminishes the value of women and immigrants, "she indicated.
If the project continues to grow, the next step will be "to open a school and gallery so that those interested can create their own works of art that will be sold there and to give an opportunity to those who want to develop their potential as artists," said Crowley.
"These encounters are not an excuse to escape from reality, but a place to trust, care for each other, and be generous. Art connects us. Jewelry unites us. For us, Friday is the best day of the week ", she concluded.