The second Club de Chicas class was huge! The older girls who missed the first day showed up, along with a few other new students, and a professor from one of the local schools. Here, the students keep the same teacher from K-6 and she will move up with them through each grade.

Profe Prima is interested in learning jewelry so she can teach it to her class as they get older. Jewelry, especially wire work, can help develop fine motor skills for kids because of the need to manipulate the pliers. It also teaches math fundamentals because often you measure your pieces and find the center of them.


With so many people, we barely had enough room on the table and some of the chicas sat on the ground. One of my favorite students from last year, Yessica, returned for the class which made only two returning students from last year. One of last year’s students was sent away because she was stealing clothing off the clothes line and reselling it. The other girls now have babies and have entered the life of motherhood.

Teen pregnancy is extremely common here. It is no unusual for girls as young as 14 and 15 to be pregnant, often by older men. The new school administrator has banned pregnancy in schools- which means if you are pregnant, you’re forced to drop out. Contraceptive, for men and women, is not available in the local hospital so girls must take an expensive trip to town if they want birth control. Culturally, birth control isn’t something people in rural countryside use so, combined with its unavailability, it’s virtually non-existent here.


Back to the class! The girls especially loved the regal pendants and had a blast making them. It was wonderful to watch them help each other and took the strain off of me teaching 9 beginner students at a time with very little space. It was worth it, though, to see how thrilled the girls were with their finished projects.


Profe Prima was also enthralled in her jewelry making. Originally she planned to leave a 4 to go home and cook dinner, but she stayed until the end of class. As she put, “I love this so much and I don’t want to stop. I like doing this better than cooking.”

So there we have it! Ruraq Maki taking over the world with one bracelet at a time!

The second project I worked on with the women were regal looking pendants. Again, the project required a keen sense of wire manipulation, this time with thin wire which kinks easily. The women quickly figured out how jerky the wire can be and adjusted their work gracefully- much more gracefully than my own!


That’s one thing that never ceases to impress me about the women. Their ability to learn and adjust is much more finely tuned than my own. It generally takes me 2-3 go arounds to really get something down. For the women, they have it by the end of the first project.

As weavers, they have learned to think like artists and that artist’s mentality enables them to learn other skills quickly and with a confident patience. I have yet to give them a project that they haven’t mastered.


During the class, one of the women started calling me Amandita. In Spanish, when used with a name, the “ita” or “ito” is a term of endearment. Culturally, the women here are not as affectionate as those in Peru. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it’s just that kissing and hugging is not part of the their cultural behavior. So, Amandita is the equivalent of a kiss or a hug. After 5 years, it’s wonderful to have finally forged that bond.

After the Club de Artesanas class, we had a short lunch break and then the chicas arrived for their jewelry making class! The Chicas range in age from 12-15 and every year there a few new chicas mixed in with the previous participants. This year, my first class was almost entirely new chicas.


I modified the class to teach the basic techniques and then the chicas threw themselves into the project. Fortunately, at that age, most of the chicas are fearless when it comes to learning something new and picked up the work quickly and independently.


It’s fun to watch how each of the chicas has a different work style. At this age so much of their personality begins to bloom and watching how they work gave me a sense of who they are. One of them was so careful that every time she cut her wire she checked with me to see if she was cutting it right. Another developed a whole system for her work: first she made all the loops, then she added all the beads, then she finished off the second loops, and lined everything up in a row. Another was so enthralled that she didn’t talk to anyone the whole time, but rather laser focused on her project.


One of the chicas, Veronica, made a beautiful necklace to go with her pendent. Her color combinations were interesting and the skill in her work top notch. The woman noticed her necklace and came over to admire it. As they passed it around, they asked, “Who made this?” and Veronica was so proud to say it was hers. It was wonderful to see how, as each woman commented on her necklace, her smile grew wider and wider.


This is why programs like the Club de Chicas are so essential. At an age when everything is coming into full bloom it’s important that self-confidence develops in young girls. In these crucial years, the self-worth that emerges in these girls can have a tremendous impact on their future. Not just their decisions, but what they believe is possible for themselves.

After three days of travel I finally arrived in Independencia and started my jewelry class with the women! The small, but mighty, group consists of 5 women who have been regulars in the Club since I started working here.

We began our 2 weeks class with a project that, while easy, does require wire manipulation and skill. When I showed the women the project they all looked at me like I was asking them to design a rocket! Clearly, they were convinced that this project was way over their heads. But, having the belief and knowledge of their skill level, I assured them they could master the project. And of course they did.

It was rewarding to see how much they have grown in the jewelry since my last trip. Every month Dona Maxima leads a jewelry day where they make past class projects and design their own pieces. It was clear that they have been keeping up with the jewelry because their profiency was far beyond what I remembered it being.

Last summer, I spent a lot of time reminding them what pliers to use for what (“No! The cutter is not for making loops”). This year, I didn’t have to remind a single woman. They effortlessly selected the right tools and beads for the project. For women who have barely a primary school education, the process of learning is more than acquiring a new skills. It’s showing them that learning is possible for them and that they are intelligent, capable women.

The women were so thrilled by the first project that, when they returned in the afternoon, they decided to make an entire matching set with the technique. We started with bracelets and in the afternoon they made earrings and pendants with a wire wrapped chain. The work came out beautifully and there was a lot of modeling toward the end of the afternoon.

The women are excited to see what’s next and I’m excited to see them continue to grow in their jewelry making skills.