Somos importantes- We are important. This is what one of the women said after I told them how impressed the people at the International Folk Art Market were with their products. But I’m ahead of myself.

Today I had a meeting with a group of women who produced items for the Folk Art Market and are interested in being part of a long-term production group. We began with a recap of the Folk Art Market. Here I explained the logistics, costs, and told them about the volunteers who joined me. I also explained how the 20,000 people who attended the event saw their artwork and how these 20,000 people now know there is a group of women in prison in Peru who create beautiful embroidery. The women laughed gleefully at this, exclaiming, “We are famous!”.

At the market, many people asked me to pass on a message to the women: “You all are so talented and an inspiration to us.” When I told the women this, one exclaimed, “Somos importantes!” (We are important!). What is incredible about this moment is that it demonstrates the connection between how when the women’s work is valued, their self-esteem and sense of importance in our world strengthens. This is crucial for a group of women who are marginalized and looked down upon by society.

I also explained to the women which products sold best and why. The women were really interested in this topic and said they were, in some respects, grateful for the products that didn’t sell because they learned what to focus on in the future. This is such a powerful example of the women’s willingness to learn and push themselves to do better (Ser Grande).

The next topic we discussed were the areas in which we had problems with the order. From pieces not being completed to small details being left unfinished (like loose threads), I pointed out all the areas we fell short. One area was in the quality of the embroidery. Some of the embroidery was incredible, other embroidery was unskilled. I brought a few examples and the group was outraged by what I showed them. They picked the pieces apart, pointing out all the reasons the embroidery wasn’t good enough, including a few points I had missed. What we they realized is that they are the experts in embroidery. They decided that they need to carefully review all the products (even those that are not their own) so that their work as a group is the very best.

The next part of the talk was about how they envision their production model. This process was really generative and I will write a blog post about it tomorrow, as it warrants its own post!

Finally, I distributed reading glasses that I received at the Folk Art Market’s Artisan Resource Fair. This was the fun part because the women were trying on glasses, reading the eye exams I brought, and laughing at how each other looked. It was rewarding to see them finally get glasses, as many of them complain about not being able to see well.

My silly cat earrings, a gift from the women

My silly cat earrings, a gift from the women

Before I left I was admiring one of the women’s earrings. They were from a store that belonged to another woman (yes, they have small booths that are shops in the prison). The earrings are really silly- the front is the animal head and the back the animal’s behind. The women insisted that I pick out a pair as a gift.  As the women gave them to me, one hugged me and said, “I love you so much.” Sweetness, silliness, and authenticity were all bundled into this single moment, which made such a treasure to experience.

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

One of the things that always moves me deeply while in South America is how much the women give, both to myself and each other. In Peru, on the last day of my trip, the women make me a meal. They pool their money together, divvy up the tasks, and take turns tending to the fire. They regale me with a mountainous meal, usually a pork dish, as they know it is my favorite.

In Bolivia, when we spend the day in the countryside, the women each bring food to contribute to the communal lunch. Some women bring more, while others brings less, yet each woman shares what she can in spirit of community. There is no tallying, no comparison, simply an acceptance of what each can give.

One of the most common comments people make when I discuss Ruraq Maki is, “Wow. It must be really hard to do that work.” And I always reply, “Not really.” Despite the challenges the women face, deeply etched into the landscapes of their lives, there is a thread, a golden spool deep inside each of them, that weaves joy through their lives. I often wondered how the women can have such a resolute happiness and, now, I see it is because they give. To their children and families, to each other, to their communities, and to the world, by preserving their indigenous culture.

I sat down prepared to write this GivingTuesday post in a way that focused on the accomplishments and successes of the organization, but instead I decided to focus on the women. On how, despite receiving so little, they are still able to give so much. On how giving does not drain them, it empowers them. And on how we might give back to them.

Today, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution so that Ruraq Maki can continue to give the women free education workshops and employment opportunities. Our goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the year to support our 2016 programs which will include a sewing class for the women in Bolivia and an more in-depth entrepreneurial course for the women in Peru.

You make our programs happen!

There are several ways to give:

  • Online: Donate today and PayPal will match 1% of your donation and there are no service fees for Ruraq Maki
  • Via Mail: Please send checks to: 41 Leese Street #2, San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Employer Matching: Double your giving with an employer match. Ruraq Maki is a 501(c)3 non profit and, in most cases, qualifies for matching programs.


Giving Tuesday Banner_RM



Weaving a Real Peace (WARP) is a network of weavers, academics, and those interested in preserving traditional textiles with a mission to “foster a global network of enthusiasts who value the importance of textiles to grassroots economies”. Many members are involved in small projects in artisan communities, and like Ruraq Maki, are working to preserve traditional textiles while also creating fair paying economic opportunities for artisans.

On May 30th, I attended and presented at WARP’s Annual Meeting and Conference on the importance of intentional product design and development in the field of fair trade. The talk focused on low cost yet effective ways small scale organizations can build a design strategy into their products. I discussed various tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way in my journey with Ruraq Maki.

Attending the conference was a truly inspirational! There are so many people working to support artisans, preserve cultural traditions, and maintain environmental integrity in a multitude of ways. Some of the highlights of the day included: 

  • Rebecca Burgess from Fibershed spent a year wearing clothing and accessories entirely sourced from within 150 miles of the Bay Area. Her presentation included beautiful photos of the makers of her clothing, from farmers to fashion designs, all of which utilized local fibers, dyes, and labor.
  • Rocio Mena Gutierrez worked with Mayan weavers in Guatemala in a natural dyes project. Through the project, this small group of weavers strengthened their dyeing skills to achieve consistent natural dye baths and created yarn kits to sell to weavers in the U.S. The project was so successful that the women made more money from selling the kits in a few months than they earn in a year!
  • Maren Beck and Josh Hirschstein from Above the Frey  work with traditional hill tribe weavers from Laos and Vietnam. The presentation included a fascinating history of Laos along with the challenges many traditional artisans are facing.
  • Deborah Chandler and Teresa Condon discussing their new book Traditional Weavers of Guatemala, a stunning book that shares the life stories of traditional Maya weavers and includes portraits of artisans working in the ancient traditions. Chandler discussed several photos from the book and shared the stories behind the photos and artisans. Truly a treasure!

The conference concluded with a dinner and silent and live auction which helps support WARP’s operating costs throughout the year. It was wonderful to meet such a dedicated group of people and Ruraq Maki is thrilled to be a member of WARP. We look forward to attending again next year.

Thank you to everyone who helped make Ruraq Maki’s 4th annual auction fundraiser such a resounding success! Your participation helped us exceed our goal of raising $3,000. This will enable us to provide a week-long business development class in the prison, alongside an advanced jewelry-making class in Bolivia.

This incredible event would not have been possible without the support of eBay, our online auction platform, Bluesky, our auction management system, and the fabulous auction donors. Highlighting our auction catalogue on eBay made for animated bidding towards the end of the auction and we had a ten-fold increase in participation of our fundraiser.

Even if you didn’t win an item, your bidding helped increase the overall price of an item and encouraged others to bid. We are so grateful for everyone who participated in the event by bidding and sharing the event with others.

Missed the bidding action? You can still make an online donation or participate in our Second Chance Auction, where we list all unsold items for a lower starting bid. The Second Chance Auction will be live shortly.

Ruraq Maki also thanks the generous organizations and individuals who have contributed to the auction. We wholeheartedly recommend these community-minded businesses as choices for your patronage. 

  • Adventure Cat Sailing Charters
  • Alex and Ani
  • Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria
  • Annemarie Skincare
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • Arizmendi Bakery (9th Avenue)
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Atlantis Casino
  • Bay City Bike
  • Berkeley Symphony Orchestra
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • CA Shakespeare Festival
  • Clif Family Winery
  • Cole Hardware
  • The Dailey Method
  • Davids Tea
  • Disney
  • Easy Breezy Frozen Yogurt
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
  • Four Barrel Coffee
  • Gilroy Gardens
  • Go Car Tours
  • Goat Hill Pizza
  • Ghirardelli
  • Harbin Hot Springs
  • Incredible Adventures
  • Jessup Cellars
  • Julie Wang
  • Lovejoy’s Tea Room
  • Marilyn Jaeger Skincare
  • The Marsh
  • Moshi-Moshi
  • Moshin Vineyards
  • Mozzarella di Bufala
  • Micah Riot
  • Munchery
  • Noble Breed
  • ODC
  • Pacific Park
  • Pauline’s Pizza
  • Pier 39
  • Planet Granite
  • Pocket Opera
  • Poor House Bistro
  • Rishi Tea
  • Sacramento Zoo
  • San Francisco Ballet
  • SF Jazz Center
  • SF Opera Association
  • Shancez Street Studio
  • Soulcycle
  • Sports Basement
  • Sugar Bowl Resort
  • Terra Mia Ceramic
  • Wild Heart Beauty Salon


Ruraq Maki will be celebrating our 4th Annual Auction and Fundraiser for women living in extreme poverty in need of work and skills training. Join us Friday, June 5th to Monday, June 15th for 10 days of bidding on over $6,000 worth of packages from San Francisco, Bay Area, and national businesses. Great getaway packages, massage and spa services, gift certificates to Bay Area restaurants, theaters, and stores, wine tasting packages, and more!

Looking toward a brighter future, our vision is to create a world where women are economically and socially independent. We believe that by providing quality income and skills training, we can help lead women to a better life. By bidding in the auction, you support our educational programs, which provide free workshops to over 100 women in Peru and Bolivia, setting them on the path towards financial independence. Your bid is an investment in women’s lives, an investment that keeps growing. With your help we can make a difference in the lives of low income women, setting them on the path to financial independence.

Get your first look at the auction catalogue. Categories include:
Art and Theatre
Food and Wine
Health, Beauty and Fitness
Home and Fashion
Travel and Entertainment

Online bidding will be via Ebay and you can pay online via PayPal and credit card, or pay via cash or check in person. All items can be shipped within the U.S. for a flat fee or picked up locally.

Online Bidding on eBay
Begins on Jun 5, 2015 at 8:00 PM
Ends on Jun 15, 2015 at 8:00 PM