Ulloa women are potters, their craft rooted in pre-Columbian and colonial traditions — a skill passed down from mother to daughter since the 16th century.
Centuries of economic deprivation also are part of the family lineage. In recent years, World Vision's Amigos Sin Fronteras (Friends without Borders) sponsorship program efforts have helped to change this.
When the conquistadores arrived in what is now Chile during the 16th century, they met fierce opposition in the Ulloa Valley zone from local Mapuche Indians, one of several Araucanian peoples in the area. After the Mapuche either fled or were killed, Spanish soldiers occupied the zone. When the need came for dishes, and in the absence of more advanced tools, their women, using Mapuche techniques, began making pottery for their own use, and later for sale.
Toward the end of the 20th century, large timber companies bought up the Ulloa Valley lands. Eventually the area's sole employers, they began offering just a few weeks of seasonal work once or twice a year, virtually decimating area residents' ability to support themselves.
When World Vision began its sponsorship program in this destitute region, increasing Ulloa economic opportunities was made a high priority. This included providing business training and support for their artistically gifted women.
Today, 19 potters — all mothers of sponsored children — have formed their own business venture that includes:
"The most important thing that World Vision has done for us," says Elly Ulloa, who began work as a potter when she was 13, "is to bring us together; this is the cause of our success. Before, each one of us used to work in [our] own house … all apart."
Chile's Fair Trade Department, which supports small business ventures, has further strengthened the enterprising women's endeavors by offering them marketing techniques to increase sales.
A packaging expert has trained the women about how to prevent the 30-percent losses in profit that they previously incurred due to breakages during transit to shops and venues across southern Chile, where their wares are sold.
When a piece of pottery is purchased, a 19-percent sales tax is deducted; 10 percent of the sales price itself is set aside to meet administration costs and business improvements. The remaining amount goes to the potter who crafted the piece.
>> Praise the Lord that the Ulloa family of potters was able to turn a God-given talent into a source of income that helped lift the women out of poverty. Pray that this trade will help sustain and grow this community for generations to come.
>> Sponsor a child in Chile. Your sponsorship will lend extra support and help provide the programs and tools necessary for a future of hope.
>> Help equip a girl or woman with job training. Unlock the door to a rewarding, sustainable career for her.
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