Laura Burns

Laura Burns (The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management - SATIIM): For her undergraduate studies, Laura attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she majored in International Studies and Environmental Studies. At the time of her fellowship, Laura was studying International Development at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Denver University, with a concentration in Environmental, Sustainable Development in Latin America and Humanitarian Assistance. Laura has volunteered for sustainable ecotourism in Costa Rica, and In Ecuador for Fundación Runa, a fair trade organic tea company. After her fellowship Laura wrote: "The best aspect of my fellowship was, by far, working with the women of Santa Teresa. I feel very fortunate that I was able to spend time with the women. I was reminded that what I enjoy most is really talking to people, listening to what they have to say, and sharing it with others. I was reminded that sometimes, it just takes a person willing to share that story, to make someone feel great."


08 Aug

I’ve discussed the Santa Teresa women’s group before, and while I’ve hinted at their attributes, I’ve never come right out and said it: these six women are amazing. While in the first meeting they were quiet and reserved, and I was convinced they did not like me, by the second meeting I learned the truth: these women were just as shy as I am. As we laughed about embroidery mishaps, reviewed photos and began their interviews for a movie I am making (check back for it soon!), these women not so slowly crept into my heart, each for unique reasons.

I marvel at the way that, at 19, Paulina is leading a group of six women, a few almost double her age.




(Click on any of the pictures to see more photos from my Fellowship!)

I appreciate the way Carmen can take all the razzing she received from the women for her embroidery skills, and laugh at herself.




I will forever be grateful for Lorrainia’s enthusiasm. Despite it being the first time she would embroider, Lorrainia was the second to volunteer for the project, and was the first to volunteer to have her interview done (something all the women were dreading, but were enjoying by the end).





Rosaria has a way of making you feel comfortable, of asking you questions, and is genuinely interested in learning more. And she has a laugh that could put a smile on the face of even the most melancholy person.




Thomasa is a quiet leader, helping the women with embroidery, asking the right questions, and urging her daughter to become involved.




And then there’s Juanita. Juanita has held an extra special place in my heart since that first meeting. Because Juanita? She came off as a little aloof, and definitely not too pleased to be doing embroidery. I instantly pegged her as a kindred spirit…I would be feeling the same trepidation if I was her, in fact, I already was. And that peg was right on, I later learned that Juanita managed to sew her hand multiple times during this project, something I totally would have done. 




All of these women, while presenting a stoic exterior, have souls that keep me buzzing with excitement hours after I meet with them. In the last couple of weeks, they have made me feel so young, and so old at the same time. Talking to a 23 year old with two daughters (five and three years old), or a 36 year old with seven children, peppered with questions from all the women about my lack of husband and children, I feel young. In a lot of ways, these women are old beyond their years. Old with experience. Old with knowledge. Old with families. But then, when talking to them about my studies and my travels, I also feel old. When discussing these topics, these women, many who have never traveled further than 1.5 hours from home, seem so young.

That, to me, is one of the values of the women’s group and the work I am doing this summer. This group is an opportunity for these women to increase their experiences, to gain new knowledge, to meet new people, and to share their story and talents. I hope that by sharing a bit of my story, and by giving them a forum to demonstrate their talents, I’ve expanded these women’s lives, even if it is in the smallest of ways. I know I’ve learned a lot from these women, expanding my catalog of experiences. And my heart, well, it just continues to grow.

When I left my second meeting, the women were thanking me in the most heartfelt manner. As I drove out of Santa Teresa, I struggled to see for what these women were thanking me. And then it hit me. Everyone has a story to tell, and these women were happy that someone was taking the time to help share theirs. Storytelling, even if it is as basic as your name and what you cook, can be an important thing. Because that shared story can help mark your place in life.

Posted By Laura Burns

Posted Aug 8th, 2012

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *