Last week, we held our first ever Alta Gracia public networking event and opened-up to a full house. Over 50 Alta Gracia supporters, partner organizations, and student activists (and some curious souls) braved a torrential downpour that started a half hour before the event kicked off to meet up at the Mt. Vernon Busboys and Poets in D.C.
After the obligatory mingling, we got started with the main event: Skyping in two of the Alta Gracia factory workers, Mariza Vargas and Pablo Talentino. Mariza and Pablo told their story -- how the Alta Gracia factory has not only changed their lives, but also those of their families and the people in Villa Altagracia.
Photos from the event:
My favorite quote from Mariza and Pablo:
“Because of the Alta Gracia factory and the salary they pay us I have been able to go back to university to study and I’m able to invest in a education for my son,” Pablo said.
“I used to have to leave my children at home because there was no work in Altagracia, many of the families had to do the same,” Mariza recalled, “we weren’t able to send our children to school or feed them. That has all changed now that the Alta Gracia factory has opened.”
You can watch highlights from their talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6EXGCt8NA8
Several in the audience remarked how incredible it was for them to hear the trials and successes from the factory workers themselves. “I was so impressed by the turnout tonight and I hope that we all continue the dialogue, and we ask the tough questions,” said Jacqui DeCarlo with the Catholic Relief Services.
Activists have been working for years around the world to raise the working and living standards of workers in the apparel industry. So we also wanted to hear from the organizations on the front lines who could put Alta Gracia in perspective.
Teresa Cheng from United Students Against Sweatshops briefed the crowd on the student activism that has helped inspire so much student support for Alta Gracia, and shared USAS’ efforts to support Alta Gracia on college campuses.
Scott Nova rounded out the speakers’ set. As Executive Director of the Workers' Rights Consortium for 10 years, Scott knows more about where the history of apparel manufacturing than anybody. “Alta Gracia is the only factory in the world that represents the difference between not enough nutrition or a roof over your head, to being able to feed your family, provide good housing, and educating your children...” WRC is the independent organization that routinely visits the Alta Gracia plant to insure we’re living up to our own standards. “I’m happy to say that the factory has met that standard with flying colors.”
What I liked was that people really added their own knowledge and expertise to the conversation. It was a real discussion, rather than a Q&A. One of the most excited attendees had served in the Peace Corps in Altagracia, “I have a lot of close friends who have mentioned this to me and a lot of their friends and relatives being involved in Alta Gracia so it’s a pleasure for me to be here, to see the people speak who were originally my community members.”
“Because of student activism and partnerships with workers rights organizations, real change has taken place,” said Carissa Smith from Creighton University, who visited the Alta Gracia factory last year.
Our Alta Gracia team sported Alta Gracia branded tees (seen in left photo) at the event. You can snag your own in DC at the Busboys and Poets store on 5th and K.
Overall, it was a fun night for everyone and wonderful for us to be out in the community talking with friends and educating new supporters. Thanks to everyone who was able to join us! If you are interested in holding an Alta Gracia event in your area send us an email at [email protected].
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