From: San Genaro, Chorrillos, Lima
Group Members: Hidivia Alejandro, Jobita Auccayllo, Prisila Vilches
When the women from Chorrillos in Lima established the group that would become Kuichi, their purpose was simply to mend clothes. The group was started by several women who gathered together to celebrate each other’s birthdays and holidays. One Mother’s Day, one of the mothers commented that the women present should form a sewing workshop to be able to economically support their families without leaving their children or their homes during the day. One of the members looked on the internet for ideas and came across Partners for Just Trade. At first, none of their products were accepted, but the Fair Trade project advised the women on how to improve the products’ quality. Their first product that was accepted was their folder. Now they form a part of Bridge of Hope, which helps them access more customers. They named their group Kuichi, which is the Quechua word for “rainbow.”
The members of Kuichi live on the top of one of several dusty and dry hills in Chorrillos in the Human Settlement – as they are called – New Caledonia. They have a beautiful view of the ocean, but it takes some huffing and puffing to hike up to their workshop. The Municipality of Chorrillos has not built stairs or sidewalks up to their elevation, so they have to walk in the streets. It was not until the end of 2012 that they had electricity in their houses and not until 2013 that they had a sewage system. The water pressure lacks at the top of the hill, so Jobita does not have running water, although Hidivia is working with the municipality to get that installed by 2018. Right now Jobita has to run a hose from a community spigot, and in hot summer months they say the water runs out quickly. They have to be conscious and respectful to make sure all the neighbors get some water.
When the group first started, they didn’t have any equipment. Together, they decided to each find a way to gather 30 Nuevos Soles (about $11.00) to contribute to the group fund. This required a lot of sacrifice on their part and still only allowed them to buy a few small things and some material to make sample products. They were all living in houses made of esteras – reeds woven together – and had to work while carrying their babies around their shoulders in a manta cloth.
The women in the group have grown to become sisters, since many of their real parents and siblings live so far away. It is more than simply a business to make money because all of the members care for one another. Hidivia says, “We consider ourselves a family.” They help each other through whatever problem arises. Jobita shares her experiences: “For me, one of the best parts about working in Fair Trade is the flexibility and that I can always put my children and family first. When my husband got very sick I had to take care of him. Kuichi still paid me even though I couldn’t work.”
Kuichi has now been working together for the past several years. Their vision for the next few years is to have a set workshop, have more products, and export more around the world. The reason they want to continue moving forward and growing is so they can give work to their neighbors who are also in great need both economically and socially. Jobita admits that she never left the house for anything before joining this group. “Thanks to Fair Trade I have learned to socialize with people and to sew. Before, I was closed in the house and wasn’t learning anything new, but now we’re learning about what’s going on around the world and what’s going on in our own community by working together.” They have become leaders in their communities, by joining a group working with the municipality to bring electricity, sewage, and water to their houses, and have found much success. They contribute it all to Fair Trade and to their beloved family of Kuichi.