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 Caldonia. They have a beautiful view of the ocean, but it takes some huffing and puffing to hike up to their houses. The Municipality of Chorrillos still hasn’t built stairs up to their elevation, so they walk on precarious paths winding through piles of dirt and rocks that were dumped when they finally got a sewage system that reached their houses. It wasn’t until the end of 2012 that they had electricity in their houses and not until 2013 that they had a sewage system. They still don’t have running water, although they are working with the municipality to get that as well. Right now they have to run a hose from a community spigot, and in hot summer months they say the water goes 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 anything. They decided together to each find a way to gather 30 Nuevo Soles (about $11.00) to contribute to the group fund. This required a lot of sacrifice and still only allowed them to buy a few small things and some fabric 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 problems arise. 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 the 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.