Today, we are pleased to share an interview from Lara DeVries—the founder of one of Unearth the World’s partners—Light and Leadership Initiative. Lara’s story is as inspiring as the organization she runs. After visiting and volunteering in Lima, Peru in 2007, she decided to work with the people of Huaycan—an underserved community on the outskirts of Lima. She founded the Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI) in 2009 and has been working to bring free after-school and weekend education programs to children, teens and women in Huaycan ever since. With over 65 classes offered weekly and over 12,000 classes offered since 2009, LLI has impacted hundreds of families.

LLI has recently launched an extension of their Women’s Empowerment Program called Huaywasi. Huaywasi is an artisan line that allows local women the opportunity to receive fair wages and an education while utilizing their skills to create beautiful artisan goods. Read the interview with Lara below to learn more about this exciting new project!!

  1. Can you briefly describe Huaywasi and its mission? 

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    Daria Classic Zipper Tote

Huaywasi is a fair trade artisan project which LLI started through its women’s empowerment program. Our goal is simple: provide fair wages for high quality, handmade products, while providing free education to not only our female artisans, but to any woman in Huaycán. Profits from Huaywasi products are directly invested back into the artisan and education programs. Thanks to Huaywasi customers, over 80 women have already participated in free educational workshops this year with LLI and hundreds have done so in the past years.

  1. Why is it important to shop ethically during the holidays? 

We as consumers have a lot more power than we realize, and during the holidays, we receive an exceptional opportunity to make a statement on what we choose to buy for our loved ones. Fast fashion, an unfortunate long-lasting trend in the fashion industry to churn out cheap clothes thanks to extremely cheap labor, is devastating our planet and world economies. Now more than ever, we need to buy products that support the person who made it, knowing he or she received a fair wage, was provided with safe working conditions, and that the production process caused little or no negative effect on the environment.

  1. How does Huaywasi ensure that its products are ethically made?

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    Nélida’s Trenza Scarf

When we work at fairs in Chicago or elsewhere, most people are pretty surprised to hear that I know all of our artisans personally. In fact, several of our Board Members do as well. We value a close relationship with Huaywasi artisans, working together with them to ensure they’re calculating their wages and materials fairly for a living wage, that we’re meeting their needs as partners in the project, and that they receive the educational support they’re looking for. In a recent survey, 100% of Huaywasi artisans claimed they felt they were being paid a fair price for their products, and that Huaywasi helps to improve the quality of life for them and their families. This project is a win-win for everyone involved.

  1. What makes Huaywasi different from other fair trade brands? 

Huaywasi is more than just a fair trade project—we are a community. Four out of our seven artisans have kids who participate in our children’s programs. We know their families and the importance of supporting not just the artisans, but everyone in their families The artisans support each other, form new friendships, help out when needed and look for each other at the educational workshops.

  1. What are your goals for the future with Huaywasi?

In 2017, we’ll be working with a supplier in Lima for our knitwear to provide 100% Alpaca products, most made from natural Alpaca or if not, dyed utilizing materials that do not cause harm to the environment. We’re excited about this new development for us in the coming year.

6. What are some of your favorite wintertime Huaywasi products? 

There are so many to choose from! I love Nélida’s Trenza Scarf. It’s made from an Alpaca blend yarn and is perfect for frigid cold midwestern winters… and my Daria Classic Zipper Tote is pretty much my go-to bag all year round, but we have some pretty great winter colors in now!

To learn more about Huaywasi, visit their website at: https://www.huaywasi.com

To get involved with this Peruvian education project, click here!

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