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Introducing Team Chimbote - A Talented Group of Differently-Abled Women

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The story behind our newest artisan partners, Team Chimbote.

Chimbote, Peru is written about in tour books as being a stinky town that's an 8-hour bus ride north of Lima. A coastal town known for their previous wealth in the fishing industry, the town now has one of the highest rates of unemployment (around 80%) and smells like dead fish.  It may not sound too lovely, but we have found so many reasons to love this city, like:  

  • The best ceviche in the world
  • You can get almost anywhere in the city for 1.30 Soles (about 40 cents)
  • Excellent late-night salsa + cumbia dancing (with $2 cocktails, of course!)
  • Churros with manjar blanco in the middle. Fried, sugary dough with essentially caramel sauce inside. YES.
  • You can buy a "family-size" ice cream at this one shop in the city-center... it's a massive plate with fruit, yogurt, cereal, and scoops of ice cream, with ice cream sandwiches and full ice cream cones on top. 

Okay, I realize that most of the goodness I've described in Chimbote is food, but what really keeps me going back to this city of 450,000 is the amazing people-- the incredible community they've built there. 

Chimbote, Peru is the home of Anita (our namesake), as well as our newest artisan group.  Anita spent 35 years as the social worker of the community, visiting homes, meeting with women, seeing what living conditions were like.  From her years of experience, she has a heart for helping the women, children, and people living with disabilities. 

She describes her first time meeting Maritza, now the head of the artisan group--

"I remember going to this home, and the ceiling was so low, I had to completely bend in half in get around... and that's saying something! [She points out how tiny she is, especially in comparison to my giant stature]. We had to go down these stairs, and they were falling apart and very uneven, and I remember being very scared that I was going to fall. At the bottom of the stairs, there was a mattress, where Maritza and her 4 children slept.  I wanted to show Father Jack [the Priest who she worked with, and a wonderful man], as I knew these conditions would be hard to describe, and we agreed that we must find this family another alternative."

Thanks to the leadership of Anita + Father Jack, and the charity from local nonprofit Friends of Chimbote, they were able to move Maritza into a quinta that was handicap-accessible, a necessity given that Maritza lives her life in a wheelchair.  In Chimbote, a quinta is essentially a community with one street-facing door, that opens up to about 10 different families' homes plus a communal area. This is a great innovation in the area, as it often means that one person can stay and watch the children, and the rest can go to work. In this situation, the quinta is entirely filled with families living with disabilities, so it means they're able to take care of one another and live in a safe environment.

Anita has always loved Maritza and been impressed by her drive and talent.  She's been making jewelry for years-- she has hundreds of her own designs, and a few years back, she started teaching other women living in the quinta how to make jewelry as well.  From the very beginning of Fair Anita, Anita has been encouraging us to work with this group.  In the first two years of our business, they were too early stage-- we didn't have the capacity to help them with designs, pricing, exportation, material sourcing... all of it. But now, with many groups up-and-running efficiently, it was time to dive in. 

This group exemplifies our mission like none other.  Yes, they have histories of sexual/domestic violence and are either living with a physical disability themselves or have a young child to care for with a disability.  Because of this and the unemployment rate of the city, they are unable to find work. But (and I can't stress this enough), they do not let these setbacks define them.  These women are resilient, persistent, hard-working, creative, fast learners, and so-very compassionate.

There are now 10 women who work with Maritza.  Maritza leads these women in creating jewelry, and they've been learning from her for years, hoping that at one point it would pay off and they'd be able to sell their products on a larger scale, outside of the few sales they make in the local markets.  They are all very talented jewelry-makers, and the designs they create sell well in their local markets. They've been excited to work with Fair Anita and see what design ideas we have for them, and they can easily pick up any example piece and create its duplicate. Best of all, this workshop is continually filled with a never-ending giggle :)

(Maritza is pictured in the lower right, Anita in the upper right)

There are lots of challenges that we are continually working on together, like how to export products from this remote town, but when you have 10 women who are SO determined to make a living selling their jewelry, we are ready to figure out any difficulties as a team. We're lucky to have Anita there (she lives 2 blocks away from the quinta), who oversees the process, ensures fair payment, and helps every step of the way.  She is a stickler about no child labor, which is phenomenal-- it can be a harder rule to enforce than you'd think when all the children in the quinta want to play with the beads, know how to make jewelry, and are having fun hanging out with the crowd!  With Anita and Maritza running the show, we have no doubt in the endless abilities of this group to create their own opportunities for sustainable income through partnership with Fair Anita. We're honored to be a part of their community!

Want to see what they make? Check out pieces from our Peru Collection.  While the sterling silver pieces are made by a different group in Lima, everything else is made by Maritza and her team!

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