One of my fondest childhood memories is when my Peruvian relatives came to visit, bringing stuffed llamas, ethnic dolls, and soft-as-silk llama rugs as gifts. Even though I knew nothing about where they came from, my fascination with all things Peru was born!
Fast forward to 1982. As a recent college graduate all I wanted to do was go to Peru, so off I went, alone, with only my backpack and a one-way ticket. I spent several months traveling to exotic places; hiking in the Andes, getting deathly ill in the jungle, visiting Macchu Picchu, and venturing off to Ecuador with it’s stunning beaches and mountains. All along the way I met the warmest, kindest people in the world, my Spanish getting better by the day so I could communicate with them in their language (although for many indigenous people Spanish was also their second language).
What struck me then was that these people had “nothing” by U.S. standards, yet they were the most welcoming people I’d ever met, inviting me into their homes, offering me food and friendship. And then there were the artisans! From the stunning array of hand woven articles in Cuzco to the mindboggling, colorful Otavalo market in Ecuador, I was awestruck by the talent of these “poor, uneducated” people.
Thus my interest in fair trade business was sprouted, although I had never heard of fair trade at the time. My dream was to have an import-export business, selling beautiful, handmade products from Latin America, while helping artisans earn a living and improving their quality of life. Sure sounds like fair trade! I dabbled in it for a while, selling jewelry to friends that I had made out of hand painted beads from Peru, but my path led me elsewhere, as I entered graduate school in social work a couple of years later.
Fast forward again to 2013. After 28 years as a social worker/psychotherapist, my dream to have a fair trade business was still gnawing at me, a calling that I could no longer ignore. While I love my career as a social worker, which over the years has included working with female victims of domestic violence, refugees from all over the world, hospice patients, and wonderful clients from all walks of life, I knew that I wanted to expand my work.
Knowing that there were millions of people living in extreme poverty all over the world, that young girls were victims of human trafficking, that there were people living in refugee camps, displaced from their homes forever, haunted me. And I knew that many of these people had incredible talents that I, as a privileged North American, could help translate into income for them.
Serendipitously I met Amber Chand, the founder of the Women’s Peace Collection, and in the fall of 2013 I started the Latin American Collection on the WPC website. I was in my element, and Amber and I hit it off instantly. One thing led to another and as Amber was moving on to other passions of hers, I was stepping into my dream.
Alas, I am the new owner of this wonderful, inspiring business and am happy beyond belief about bringing my customers the most exquisite, hand made products I can find and doing my small part in enhancing the quality of the lives of talented artisans throughout the world.