Meet a few gift makers.

RACHEL, SEAMSTRESS. KI-PEPEO

Rachel, a mother of two, trained as a seamstress about seven years ago. However, she was not able to find sustainable income and ended up taking other part time jobs as a day laborer in construction zones and on a coffee plantation. Throughout these years, Rachel remained very passionate about tailoring and hoped one day to be fulfill her dream of becoming a seamstress.

In 2017, Rachel was given the opportunity to work at Ki-pepeo. She claims that her life took a fast turn in a positive direction, finally pursuing what she wanted to do in life. Rachel began earning a salary that allowed her to fully take care of her two children as well as support her husband who was jobless at the time.

After working for six months with Ki-pepeo, Rachel was able to get her first bank loan at the age of 36. She took the loan and purchased a motorcycle for her husband. (In Rwanda, motorcycles are used as taxis by most people and it’s a good business.) A few months after starting his business with the motorbike, Rachel requested a small internal loan from Ki-pepeo so her family could relocate to a better housing facility (it was a rainy season and the house they were staying in wasn't suitable). Ki-pepeo made the loan available and Rachel paid it off within six months. Currently, Rachel’s husband’s motorcycle business brings income to the family and she is confident about what the future holds.

Rachel is considered by Ki-pepeo as one of their greatest assets – she’s very determined, hard-working and dedicated to what she does every day.

“There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.”

W.E.B. DUBOIS

HECTOR ESPAÑA, HEAD CARPENTER, ITZA WOOD

Hector is from San Andres, Petén, Guatemala, and loves working with the tropical hardwoods native to the area. He’s the head carpenter at the Itza Wood workshop and one of the most handy guys out there, self-teaching welding, mechanics, electrical skills and carpentry. At a young age he realized he had a special knack for woodworking and sought out ways to expand his skills and knowledge. He moved to the other side of the country to a town known for it's woodworkers and apprenticed at a shop for two years before returning to his jungle village. Hector returned because he knew he had a lot to give back to his community. He is most excited about teaching others woodworking and helping create more jobs for his community.

ISABELLA, SEAMSTRESS, KI-PEPEO

Isabella is 27 years old and comes from Musanze, Western Rwanda. The first-born of seven children, Isabella was not able to complete her secondary education. She needed to work in order to support her single mother to raise her six younger siblings. To make money and support her family, Isabella ended up in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where she became a house maid. To her, it was the best offer as she had – doing all the house work for a family and taking care of the 3 children while getting free accommodation and food. This meant her entire salary could be saved and she could send the money back to her mother so that her six siblings could attend school.

After six years of working as housemaid, Isabella asked her boss to sign her up for a tailoring school where she trained for six months before joining Ki-pepeo full time. Isabella says that her life has fully been transformed. Previously, she depended on other people to care for her shelter and food and had no idea what else she could do with just a primary school education.

Isabella now has enough income to live independently and continues to help support her mother and siblings. Her employment at Ki-pepeo has allowed her to get medical insurance for herself and her immediate family. For her mother, this is the first time in her life that she has been able to visit the doctor look after her health.

Photos via: Ki-Pepeo Story Photos via Lauri Jones Pastrone; Itza Wood Story Photo via Nicolo Pastrone

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