MAKI INTERNATIONAL SEEMED TO JUST EVOLVE ON ITS OWN.
I never planned on starting a business. In spring 2008, I volunteered with a group called Cross Cultural Solutions, a volunteer placement organization that helps participants find fulfilling, short-term opportunities all over the world. I'm comfortable speaking Spanish, so I chose to spend a month in Peru. My placement turned out to be in a women's prison, high in the Andes, in Ayacucho.
There were about 160 women incarcerated and most were serving sentences for drug trafficking. Most of the prisoners came from impoverished homes and were sought out by drug cartels for transporting cocaine. Their sentences ranged anywhere from one to 20 years. The conditions in prison were substandard. Cells were horribly overcrowded. Days were spent in the outdoor quad where most women sat making handicrafts or tending to their young children. (children stay with their mothers until the age of three.)
On my first day, I sat with a group of ladies and listened as each told their story and I was immediately touched by their words. Most of the prisoners seemed like me, but because of the cards life had handed them, ended up making bad choices for good reasons. I asked what I could do to help, and they explained they needed to earn money. After a week of brainstorming and experimenting, it became obvious that their beautiful knitting was the answer.
It's been a long process, involving trips to Lima to find baby alpaca, leaning on friends and family for design ideas and feedback, learning more than I ever cared to know about U.S. import regulations, struggling with marketing ideas, etc. All this and I have never knitted or crocheted in my life.
With the help of Marisol Chancos Mendoza who works for Cross Cultural Solutions, we have developed a small company that we hope will offer women in Ayacucho employment and will give them hope.
MAKI means 'hands' in Quechua, representing the knitting the women have done by their hands for you and the helping hand you are giving them in return. And we do so appreciate your help and interest. Thank you so much.