The boys of Sí a la Vida are internationally renowned for their beautiful friendship bracelets (pulseras) and other intricate handicrafts. What began as an occasional recreational lesson 15 years ago has evolved to become a major activity, and over the years succeeding generations of boys have developed increasingly elaborate and colorful designs.
Although finger-woven friendship bracelets made of yarn have continued as their principal product, the boys now also make striking pulseras of colorful nylon and of earth-toned waxed string, incorporating wooden beads and natural materials such as seeds and shells, and as well are producing necklaces and earrings.
Aside from being a great boost to their self-esteem and artistic talents, the friendship bracelets are the kids’ primary source of pocket money – many purchase their own clothes and shoes, a few have bought cell phones, several send money home to their mothers, and the majority regularly treat their girlfriends to food and small gifts. As well, international sales of these intricate handicrafts provide funds for their educational expenses, recreational and sports equipment, computers and special field trips.
The process works like this:
Each kid acts as an independent businessperson, voluntarily making and selling his own pulseras. The project buys the yarn wholesale in the markets of Managua – top-quality material from Guatemala -- and the kids buy the yarn from the project at the same price. They are free to sell their pulseras where they want -- at school, to locals and tourists in town, to delegations of visitors -- and the project buys from them as well, at fair local prices.
The pulseras purchased by the project are then sorted, labeled and checked for quality, and are sent to friends of Sí a la Vida in the U.S., Canada, England, Belgium, Japan, Germany, Australia, Spain, New Zealand and elsewhere, where they are sold at a fair market price in those countries, principally through schools and at fundraising events, resulting in a profit for Sí a la Vida.
The boys’ output has soared during the past several years, and in spite of the best efforts of our wonderful and wide-flung army of volunteer sellers, quite a backlog of pulseras has accumulated. Jonathan Roise, co-founder of Si a la Vida, has established a new partnership with the Pulsera Project (www.pulseraproject.com), a wonderful new non-profit group based in Pennsylvania dedicated to help organizations such as ourselves market the children’s handicrafts. This will help greatly to reduce our existing inventory and produce more funds.
All sales proceeds return to the project. These are deposited in a special bank account, from which we pay the kids up front for their work. The rest of the funds do not go into the regular operating budget but rather go to support enrichment activities that directly benefit the kids:
- All educational expenses for present and past residents: school supplies, backpacks, uniforms and shoes, graduation expenses.
- Special field trips, such as last year’s five-day excursion down the historic Rio San Juan.
- Bicycles for boys successfully completing a school year with Sí a la Vida for the first time.
- Equipping and maintaining our computer lab.
- Purchase of recreational equipment, televisions, and the like.
- Pulsera money even helped purchase our land on Ometepe Island in 1998.
The boys as a group typically produce around 6000 pulseras a year, gaining among themselves more than $4000.
If you would like to buy pulseras, sell them for the project (like volunteer Rick Alstetter pictured here) or would like more information, please contact our pulsera coordinator:
Tel. (206) 842-5409