This video gives you a look into the lives of four of the rural business leaders that produce Wakami. Learn how Wakami has transformed their lives and how they’ve created opportunity for others in their community.

Alejandra Alquijay

Like many other women in Guatemala, Alejandra had to leave her community when she was 13 years old, to work in the city as a housekeeper. When she got married, Alejandra and her husband returned to the rural area, where they raised 4 kids, worked as farmers, but with a very low and temporary income. In the beginning, many people in her community opposed to her growing work, saying that it was a waste of time. But, with patience and a good attitude, Alejandra has proven quite the opposite. Now, even the husbands of her community are helping their wives with their tasks, and Alejandra’s business is growing faster than she thought it would!

Now, Alejandra has an opportunity. Because of her, women are able to work close to their families, income has increased, and Alejandra’s company has been so successful, that it’s becoming one of the top sellers of the Wakami network!

“I am a woman who has fought hard, a woman who has come forward and who really wants others to improve in their lives too. My dream is for the women and girls of my country to go out to work and to study to become better every day. I think that the people around me are beginning to have a better view about themselves, which makes me really happy.”

Fun Facts:
Favorite sport- “I enjoy playing basketball.”
Favorite foods- “I really love rice and beans!”

Name of enterprise: Artesanías Candelaria
Number of employees working: 28 participants, 25 in training
Location of enterprise: Finca Luisiana- Suchitepéquez

What makes her successful?
She has learned how to make a variety of Wakami products, has the capacity to meet the goals of production, and allows the constant group effort to keep the business growing

Felicito Pérez Días

Before Felicito started to work on his company, he lived a very different lifestyle. Although he lived with just the essentials growing up, he is very thankful that his family was able to give him the opportunity to attend school since the time he was a kid. When Felicito was almost finished with high school, he was given an amazing job opportunity with Wakami. He was selected to be the leader of this company and it changed his life completely. Last year he set difficult goals to achieve with the team and now all those have been surpassed. His parents gave him the opportunity to study from the time he was a kid but now he is working on completing his second year of college paying for it all on his own. Felicito is studying to become a professor in pedagogy and social sciences because he wants to help the kids in his community learn and help them grow. Before Felicito started working with Communities of the Earth, he didn’t even know Guatemala City and now he likes to visit there often. He has become successful in the community and wishes to bring this type of opportunity for everyone.

Feliito says, “I want to thank Communities of the Earth and Kiej de los Bosques because they have given us great support to get out of the difficult situation in which we live. My dream is to generate income for my people. I’m working to finish my college degree to become a teacher and I want to spread the importance of education with my country.”

Fun Facts:
Favorite drink- Orange Juice
Favorite music- Reggae

Name of enterprise: Sembrando Sonrisas
Number of employees working: Started with 16 in 2011 and today they have 66
Location of enterprise: Aldea Guareruche, Jocotan

What makes him successful?
He has an office, an income, children graduating from school, possibilities to study at universities, and an enterprise that generates jobs for people in the community.

Francisca Culpatlán

Francisca lives in Pochuta, Chimaltenango. She’s married and has 5 children. She never went to school, but the fact of not knowing how to read and write hasn’t stopped her from becoming a successful business woman. Before starting her business, Francisca used to work as a housekeeper and she had to travel, leaving her children alone during the day. The opportunity to work for Wakami came through a savings group in her community, formed by 15 women. Now Francisca is persistent; she is determined to make the business grow and fights daily to make her dreams come true. Francisca wants to continue to provide an education for her children and buy land to build a new house.

Fun Facts:
Favorite weekend activities- “I like to go to the village with my family. We’re also planning a trip to the beach so my children can have fun”.
Favorite music- “I like romantic music; I love to listen to almost every song of Ricardo Arjona and Ana Gabriel.”

Name of enterprise: Manualidades San Rafael
Number of employees working: Started with 15 people in 2011 and today they have 39.
Location of enterprise: 3ra Calle San Rafael II, Pochuta

What makes her successful?
She has income for her family, work in the community, education, and healthy relationships.

María García Carrillo de Breto
María García

Maria’s community has seen what war does to people. She lived in an area where the internal conflict killed many, and many more fled their villages in order to save their lives. They lived for 15 years, just running from one place to another to survive. When the peace treaty was signed in 1996, Maria’s community was given land by the government, about 5 hours away from their land. It is a beautiful land, but it is hard to make a living. People live off the land, especially by selling their coffee production. They would love to plant corn, but it does not grow well in their land. Communities of the Earth met Maria’s community through Catholic Relief Services, who wanted women to have a source of income in their villages. They financed the incubation of 3 rural businesses in the area, and Maria’s village is a very successful one. Maria is a very powerful leader, and her strong leadership, has made her a very successful businesswoman. She now has the support of her husband and her daughter, who recently graduated from high school. Their business keeps growing, and María already has made some dreams come to life, like building a new house/office facility and buying a new car!

Fun Facts:
What she misses the most about being a kid: “I miss to playing and cooking “boshboles” a typical Guatemalan food.”
Her favorite holiday: I like mother’s day because my kids give me gifts.

Name of Enterprise: Artesanias Ixil
Number of artisans: Started with 15 in 2006 and now have 25
Location of enterprise: Finca Union Victoria, Pochuta, Suchitepequez

What makes her successful?
Because we work close to our family, we delegate activities and are accountable for each other. Also, people from the community want to work with us because of our leadership, and we are always open to learn from each other as well as putting it into practice right away.

Matilde Garcia

Matilde went through many rough times in her life and one day decided to go to the local clinic to find herself a psychologist. There she realized her own value. “One day, I looked at myself in the mirror and I did not like what I saw. I was not taking care of myself, was very thin and crying . . . I wiped away my tears and decided to change my situation, understanding that the change could only come from me.” In 2005, Hurricane Stan affected Matilde’s community and she started a support group to make sure affected families would get assistance. Through this effort, she met the First Lady of Guatemala, Wendy the Berge and together they started a group to help women empower themselves, and learn key life skills to improve the health of their families. She also informed them that there was an opportunity to link with a business that was interested in producing fashion accessories in rural villages to create sources of income. “I was so afraid” – Matilde was telling us – “because I could not leave the house without telling my husband. I had no one to leave my children with when I needed to travel to the city to start learning how to produce.” But, one woman said she would take care of them while I started the business. Matilde’s business has grown a lot. Matilde reflects on her rougher days saying: “I am so happy I did not decide to stay home. If it was not for the Wakami business, we would have had no food. We would have starved. Wakami means total change for women, because by making the bracelets they earn money to improve their homes, but also to gain self esteem and respect. Everything is gained through this process.” Matilde’s dream now is to become an agent of change for other women, just like the woman who helped change her life when she was struggling.

Name of Enterprise: Mujeres Concepción.
Number of artisans: Started with 35 participants in 2012, reached 54 participants in 2013 & today we have 19 participants
Location of enterprise: San Lorenzo el tejar, Sacatepéquez

What makes her successful?
We work hard for what we love and this increases the number of participants per year.

Sandra Solares

In May 2006, Kiej de los Bosques came to Sandra Solares’ village through a program led by the first lady of the nation, who proposed to her, to start a women’s group to work together so her dreams would come to life. At that time, it was very hard to imagine a different future, especially because Kiej was still a very young company, and was still trying to figure out how to generate income to rural women. They were able to start a group with 4 women. At the same time, Sandra was able to get a job in the Ministry of Education, which allowed her to return to her community to work, and spend more time with her daughters. The first products they made for Kiej de los Bosques were rings, bracelets, bags and other products. For two years, only 4 women would work in this group, since sales for Kiej (under the Wakami brand) were small. While the Kiej business model was improving and becoming more solid, Sandra kept studying and in 2010, she got the University title of a Communication and Language Teacher. In her family, Sandra’s dad died. This meant, that now she not only had to take care of her daughters, but also had to take her of her mother and a special needs brother. Additionally, a tropical storm that hit the country caused serious damage to her house. When Kiej de los bosques created the Earth bracelet, was when things really started to get better. They had to incorporate 8 more women to her group that had already grown to 23. It was then that they started to grow and see success. With the growth of Wakami products, Sandra had become a source of income now not just for women in her community, but also for women in neighboring communities, who travelled more than 15 km to pick up the raw material, get the adequate training and then produce the products. “It is not only the happiness in making my own dreams come to life. It’s also about making the dreams of other women and young girls come to life. They will use their income to pay for their studies and also to improve the quality of life for their families. It is incredible to see their faces of satisfaction when I give them their checks and teach them how to use their money well” says Sandra with respect to the Wakami Villages program she is implementing.

Name of Enterprise: Mujeres Primavera
Number of artisans: Started with 8 in 2006 and today they have 33
Location: Km 36.5, caretera a Mataquescuintlan, Lote 11 sector 2 Monte Redondo San Jose Pinula

What makes her successful?
“Because I haven’t quit and have the perseverance to keep on pushing

Antonia Cos Morales
Antonia Cos

When Antonia was twelve she had a goal: she wanted to study; but the truth is that she could not study because she didn’t have enough money to pay for school. “When I realized that, I made the decision to have a job to pay for my school.” When she was fourteen she went to work as a housekeeper, but she had to take care of kids and that was making her very tired. When she was working there, she had the opportunity to participate in a “girls club.” (A club, where a trained team gives tips and talks to the ladies of the rural areas of Guatemala). Antonia says she loved that club: “that’s where my future started because I started to learn, that’s my happiness.” Later on, that club was given an opportunity to work with Wakami. She loved the idea and always participated in every activity she could. She started working in the Wakami business that was in the incubation process. Antonia was faced with the challenge of leading the business when the former leader could not continue. “Now 15 young women work with me and we are a great team. I have to say that when we met Kiej de los Bosques, Wakami, and Communities of the Earth, the work process and the dreams began. “Right now I am preparing to study; I will start my first year of high school next year. I want to be a Spanish translator to Quiché; I am now learning to speak the original Quiché because the one we actually speak is sort of mixed with Spanish. I am very grateful to Communities of the Earth because of their support. I really love my new job and I am happy to fulfill my dreams.”

Fun Facts:
Her first activity when she wakes up in the morning: “Actually when I wake up I have a Bible close to my bed and the first thing I do is read. My goal is to read a chapter every morning. After I read I like to take a shower.”

Favorite drink: orange juice; “I like almost every natural juice.”

Her message to the World:
“Give life a chance, opportunities come once in a lifetime and we can’t let them go; we must seize chances. My message goes to all the young people of the World because we, the young people, are the future of our countries and we need to make this world a better place: let’s do something.”

Name of Enterprise: Junam
Number of artisans: Started with 15 in 2013 and persist until today
Location: San Andrés Xecul, Totonicapán

What makes her successful?
Because we had the opportunity to learn how to make several Wakami products.

Isabel Cux Chaj

As a young girl, Isabel worked in a clothing factory for seven years. With the stereotype that women don’t need an education, Isabel’s father wouldn’t let her study. She continued to go to work, and secretly studied on the side without her dads permission, while paying for school herself. She wanted to be able to show what women are capable of doing. Her mom never learned to read or write, but she was happy to help her. Her dream was to be an inspiration for her family and those in her community. The goal of setting a good example for them pushed her to work harder every single day. In 2006 Isabel found herself with a severe heart disease. With help from her father , giving her food, shelter, and clothing she was able to survive it. She was very grateful for her fathers help, despite the fact that he was still upset with her for continuing to study. After graduating from high school, Isabel started to look for a job in “Xela”, a big city in Guatemala. Because she was wearing her indigenous clothing, she found it hard to get a job. One day she met a lady who suggested she work with Communities of the Earth. Isabel and her sister started the next day. Believing that working for Communities of the earth was a waste of time, their father was very unhappy with them. Improving their working skills as well as their income proved their father wrong. Isabel loves her new job, and is currently studying to be a business teacher.

Fun Facts:
Her favorite color: “black, because it’s a very strong color.”
Favorite drink: “carrot juice”.
Her favorite holiday: Christmas, I love to spend time with my family.

Name of Enterprise: Innovación
Number of artisans: Started with 17 participants in 2013 and today we have 13.
Location: Paraje Chonasan, Aldea Palomo, San Andrés Totonicapán

What makes her successful?
Because we continue to strive and never give up on our dreams.

Lilian Aracely Pérez Bautista

Before I joined the Wakami group, I worked as a secretary in a Korean factory. My life has changed because I’ve learned many things, and my financial life has greatly improved. I first met Kiej de los Bosques, through the major of our village because he was worried that women had very little economic opportunities. One day, he told us that he had arranged a meeting with Kiej, and that we should all come. It was about 20 of us, and the main message during the first visit was;we are a group of women that is really interested in having a source of income. We knew how to knit, how to make jams and jellies and a few other things. Kiej said we could work with them, but would need to learn how to make jewelry and that’s how I started the business. We were one of the first Wakami businesses formed. Kiej, at that time, shared its dream: to have a value chain of fashion accesories that could reach the world, creating sources of income for rural women in Guatemala. At the beginning, that is all it was, a dream. But now, when I look back, its been 7 years. We have bigger orders now. I have over 35 women in my company, and I am proud of the work. I keep dreaming, as my business grows.

Fun Facts:
Her favorite food: “I really love to eat my mother’s food. I also like Chao Min and to eat McDonalds, I do it every time I get a chance. My favorite food is roasted chicken.”
Her hobbies: “I love to sing and dance. I am in a worship band at church and I like to listen to Christian music. I enjoy going to a coffee shop to get Internet because I love to get online and go on Facebook.”

Name of Enterprise: Mujeres Productivas
Number of artisans: Started with 10 participants in 2006 and this year we have 25.
Location: Magdalena Milpas Altas, Sacatepéquez

What makes her successful?
We are successful because we have worked together, we support each other, and teamwork makes us feel as if the company is not just mine but also the people’s who work for it.

María Castro González
Maria Castro

Before joining Communities of the Earth, Maria had no income due to lack of jobs in her hometown. The women in Maria’s village now find working with Communities of the Earth very pleasing compared to working out in the hot fields. With seeing a greater income, they are now willing to put more effort into the company each day.

Fun Facts:
Her favorite color: “I love pink.”
If she could choose to stay a certain age forever, it would be: “ 25 years old because you look SO good (laughing).”
Her favorite place in the World: “Guatemalan mountains and fields.”

Name of Enterprise: Flor Cunenence
Number of artisans: Started with 22 participants in 2009 and today we have 24.
Location: Barrio San Francisco, Cunen, Quiche.

What makes her successful?
We’re successful because we took the initiative, to be producers while assuming the roles of the leader. This has all been a huge help to finding more opportunities.

María Felipe Ortiz
Maria Felipe

Before joining Communities of the Earth, Maria and her family only had a small piece of land. Her family found themselves in hard times when people tried to take their farm away and their dad had to fight for it. They now have a steady income working with Communities of the Earth.

Fun Facts:
She admires: “Zully, from the office, because when I was in trouble and almost quit, it was Zully who was pushing me forward; she was just like a second mother. She told me that problems are always close but I should keep my head up and solve them. I admire her a lot and I would like to be like her to give encouragement to others because people who help others are the ones that are worth keeping close.”
Her lifetime experience: “I went to USA to get a business diploma. I never thought I could even go to that country and I had the chance to win that scholarship and I had the best time of my life. I went to Phoenix Arizona and I was thankful to God.”

Name of Enterprise: Artesanías Nuevo Amanecer (Reu)
Number of artisans: Started with 48 participants in 2006 and now has 14.
Location: Comunidad Agraria multicultural Nuevo Monte Cristo, Retalhuleu

What makes her successful?
We are successful because we value the work through craftsmanship.

4 thoughts on “Meet the People Behind Wakami

  1. I am so inspired!

    I purchased on of your bracelets in a store in Florida USA and wanted to know about the company.
    The product caught my eye as I am an artist, but I know its more than something pretty now, and that makes me feel inspired.

    Your art has God’s energy running through it, and I am so gratetfull to have learned about it, and to be wearing it!
    -June Sturdy

  2. I work at a Fair Trade store in San Luis Obispo, California, U.S.A . We carry your Wakami bracelets. I especially love the bracelets that have a meaning like the Dream Bracelet, Earth Bracelet, Continents, and the All One bracelet. I love the story or message each of these bracelets show. When I approach a customer who is looking at your bracelets and point out the story behind, it I often can make a sale. They suddenly discover that it is not just a pretty piece of jewelry; it is a meaningful reminder of some important ideas for humanity. It also makes me happy because I know that that customer will then share the story of your bracelet with many others as well, so that “message” woven by a woman in a small village in Guatemala touches lives around the world.

    I would like to suggest some other ideas for themed bracelets for development:

    1) Elements Bracelet: earth, fire, water, and air (You could use the current earth and water bracelets in a new combination. Everyone immediately recognizes the water in you Earth bracelet set because of the shimmery blue beads. I thought something with whispy little white or blue threads sticking out for air)

    2) the Peaceful World, or Perfect World Bracelet including stands representing the characteristics needed for a “perfect” world or “peaceful world” like PEACE, JUSTICE, EQUAL RIGHTS, COMPASSION, RESPECT, COOPERATION, SECURITY, OPPORTUNITY… (You or the women who create these bracelets could come up with their own ideas of what is needed to create a peaceful world too.)
    (Now, Here’s a fun challenge: Have the various women or each small village business collective come up with their own designs for each concept of the Perfect World/Peaceful World bracelet and then have a committee select the best of the designs submitted for each concept to eventually be joined into the Peace Bracelet.)

    3) a HOPE Bracelet. What immediately comes to mind is the number of people I know who are battling cancer of various types (or any other serious challenges) who need hope. A bracelet that “evolves” as you move around its circumference representing the journey through the STRUGGLE (the “darkness of diagnosis and treatment or hard reality of their own particular challenge), the SUPPORT of friends and family, medical personal, faith, or community helping them MOVE FORWARD, and the belief and HOPE for a brighter outcome. This bracelet could be given to someone battling addiction, depression, divorce, overcoming a natural disaster, a death in the family, accident, severe illness… so many people need hope!
    I think a special pink addition for breast cancer might sell well and have even more marketing opportunities than your regular bracelets with the multitude of breast cancer events there are. Perhaps start with a dark grey/brown mauve pink but ending in light pink with sparkles.

    I am submitting these ideas free of ownership. I love that your bracelets are not simply beautiful, they MEAN something. They speak through their shape and color, simplicity and complexity… I know I could invest in a Peace Bracelet or a Hope Bracelet and believe others would too. I want Wakami to provide opportunities for many more women in Guatemala and other developing countries and many more consumers to carry your message to the world.
    I wish well.
    Sincerely, Lee Clark

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