In 2012 I learned, thanks to YouTube, to make homemade soaps and candles. At first I saw it as a hobby, something that brought me peace, and that somehow increased my self-esteem, because my hands were literally creating something useful, cute and exactly how I wanted. I experienced colors, smells, designs, sizes and shapes, and slowly, I was creating a personal “style”. This “style” was what led me to ask myself “would I buy this?” and my answer was “of course!” And the reality is that I like homemade stuff done at from creative and super cool people, and I also thought “I can be one of those creative and super cool people to buy homemade stuff from” and from there, I’ve been using these hands to continue creating, as long as I can.
Over time I learned to do other things, like body lotions and jewelry with African fabrics. All this is what supported me occasionally to complete my month, with little gifts or trifles made by me to spare some bucks, and it’s gives me the tranquility knowing I’m supporting in some way to the local economy because all my materials are bought in local stores in my town, some are fair trade and / or items made here, in Puerto Rico.
On many occasions, I used the sale of soaps and candles to raise some money before leaving journey to an event related to HIV work I do. Yes, WORK, because investing between three (3) to about eight (8) hours per day, between reading and writing emails, reporting, consultation processes, reply to messages on Facebook and WhatsApp from all over the world, workshops painting, creating campaigns, assist to in person and virtual meetings, pins, making presentations for use by another country, support when someone is depress or don’t have someone to talk, going to give a talk in a community, translate documents, mobilization young people, managing media, buy gift speculums to my friends, make connections between youth, trainings, identifying treatment sites in other countries and many other things, it is work. So I find it difficult to answer when people ask me if I was able to find a job yet, because I have a job, but is not always remunerated. And often there are always people for whom none of this is enough, because as an activist, people expect things from you as if you were perfect and did not have a life with other things to do.
We know that for local, national and / or international funding, an all legal process and specific conditions are required, as having at least 501, among others. For this and more, plus that international cooperation has slowly been leaving from Latin America (until at some point there will be almost nothing), is that many of the networks of, by and for young people living with HIV, don’t receive a penny for the work we do, a work that at the end of the day, is for the benefit of us and our peers. For this reason, from the very first moment that I was chosen to participate in the VI Meeting of the Argentina Positive Youth Network (RAJAP in spanish) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I started looking for funding and I was almost certain, that the main way to get enough money to pay my flight ticket, was with serious self-management. But no the “sending letters to give me money” self-management, I needed to go out to sell stuff. Thanks to the soaps, I could pay the internet I use to do the required work, and I must say very honestly that until days ago three (3) thought it would not be possible to raise enough money to pay my fare, since is never the same $ 60.00 on internet than $ 1200.00 to fly to Buenos Aires. With the support of a late paycheck, I am pleased to report that THANKS TO MANY SUPER CUTE AND SOLIDARITY PEOPLE, I’VE COMPLETED THE MONEY NEEDED AND BOUGHT MY TICKET!
This experience has been extraordinary, full of learning and above all reminds me that passion and will are motors that move a world of possibilities that only those who have the courage, bravery and are released, can see. I feel very grateful and too excited, because for me, this is proof that there are many people who believe and supports the work done, and that despite the current economic situation, there are those who bet on the local and community work, activist and feminist, and especially when one is made based on the other.
I missed a lot of sleep, there were many nights making orders, lots of spills and disasters at home, donations of materials, extreme headache by mixing scents, body aches, allergies, sinusitis and stress. Many times I wanted to run my house, in others, I walked 45 minutes to spare the $ 3.00 on public transportation. Lots of energy, dedication, messages and little details that make things more beautiful.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and I need to thank Syndi, Abi, Katya, Ruthy, Ivette Rodriguez, Ivette Gonzalez, Cynthia, Maria Fidalgo, MaryMer, Wanda, Britzeida, Denisse, Mayra, Angel, William, Sarahi, Iveliz Michel, Kriss, Norma, my health care providers, the group from the Council and many others who I might missed here.
This is possible thanks to you, this has been one of the opportunities in which I felt more support and appreciation. I send you a hug, and continue seeking new models for creative financing.