From devastation to triumph…the Yabal NGO was originally founded in October of 2005 to offer support to two communities in the highlands of Guatemala that were severely affected by Hurricane Stan.
In October of 2005, Hurricane Stan pummeled the pacific lowland coast of Guatemala causing devastating winds, flooding and landslides. The catastrophe left over 1,500 Guatemalans dead and the region in ruins. Without the option to remain in their destroyed areas, many indigenous communities, including Pacutama and Chuicutama, were forced to flee to higher ground.
Through pouring rain and horrific conditions, members of these communities walked high into the mountain highlands of Guatemala, ascending almost 3,000 meters (9,842 feet). With little choice, they relocated to an area near Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan nicknamed ``Little Alaska``, one of the coldest and highest areas of Guatemala.
In response to the crisis caused by Hurricane Stan, Yabal was formed to help affected communities, specifically those forced to relocate to Little Alaska. This help came first in the form of material aid (medicines, temporary housing, blankets, food and water), and later, as funding for permanent home construction, micro-credits, youth programs, schooling and sewing workshops.
The communities had to leave behind their material possessions and the fertile farmlands that had offered food and livelihood. Previously, the communities had survived on coffee, banana, and subsistence farming in their coastal homes. However, in their new home, growing crops was much more difficult due to the arid soil and lack of water. These communities were forced to find new income sources to survive.
Out of this economic need, Yabal started the fair trade women's weaving project and collaborated with the women in the communities to create the Yabal accessories brand, a sustainable fashion enterprise to sell their handmade textiles both locally and abroad- with the goal to reinvest profits into social programs in their communities.