"You are a mother and a sister."

It’s our first day in Lima and we're in the district of Chorrillos, where twenty-year old Rosa lives with her parents and two year old son, Gustavo. She has just shown us around her home. It is not what I'm used to in my world, and while it startles me at first when I see that there is no running water, no bathroom, she takes pride in her space the same way I do when showing people around mine.

“This is our bedroom. This is where we eat dinner… "

Rosa is new to the program. She found out about Krochet Kids through her sister, Jacque who is feisty like Rosa and lives a few houses up the hill. Jacque was one of the early participants of Krochet Kids.

There are two cats with two different litters in her home. Babies are everywhere. Animals roaming the streets, in and out of doors that do not close. The women here know very little about birth control, and as for the animals, well... "there are no vets here, and even if there were, no one would neuter. Our men think it's cruel to take away an animal's manhood..."

The tiny kittens meow under a Christmas tree that still stands and we marvel at the tiny paws.
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We hop the bus and make our way down the hill, towards the market, where Rosa will shop for ingredients for today's meal.
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Patricia is our translator for the day. She's also a mentor at Krochet Kids.  (All of the KK mentors are Peruvian.) She is poised and strong, the kind of woman you would want as a general -- to lead you to battle, to fight the good fight. I am struck by her presence in the same way I was struck by Rosa's when first kissing her cheek. (Kissing cheeks is the Peruvian handshake.) 
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Rosa with her mentor, Patricia

Birth control education is a huge priority for Patricia. 

"These women don't learn about sex or birth control so that has been one of my big things here--educating the women about contraception...  I love children but I don't want any of my own. Most of the women here think I'm crazy because that is what we do here. We get married and have babies. I'm always trying to explain to them that it's okay for different women to want different things."
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For a culture so influenced by the machismo, these are women who take very little shit. They are tough and beautifully proud. They are sisters, all. Determined, supportive, a team.

Lima is a desert, which surprised me. I assumed it would be green. Lima, lime... green... I pictured Machu Pichu and the surrounding foliage--but Lima is not that. Lima is sand and dust... with hues of brown and yellow, the occasional bougainvillea... but it is also filled with color. Homes are not white and brown but green and pink, blue, orange... green.

Rosa's home is lavender on the outside and a deep blue within--proof that richness lives where creativity reigns and color creates its own quiet revolution. Rainbows built on sand and dust.
This is my first experience on a trip like this. I have a hard time leaving my family and I feel, in some ways, that the differences I make in the world start at home--in my household--and through the topics I write about and organizations I support locally. But after the ONE trip in DC last year, my eyes were opened to the importance of raising global citizens, in setting an example for my children when it comes to crossing over lines and borders, ideas and institutions. 
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What is happening outside our lines? And for those of us who have the platform and financial means to do so, how do we support our sisters across the world? How do we use our platforms to elevate the voices and stories and causes of others--GOOD causes -- the kind that empower communities to empower themselves? 

Several people have asked whether a KK is a missionary organization, and I wanted to respond to that because, although the founders of Krochet Kids are indeed Christians, they are not here to impose their beliefs on others. They are Christians in the true sense of the word -- people who have chosen to devote their lives to empowering those less privileged. The non-Peruvian workforce, as well as the KK interns, live in the same neighborhood as the participants, bringing people together to elevate each other and their communities so that they can move on, go back to school, start their own businesses and ultimately flourish on their own terms. 
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We have arrived at Aida's house, another Krochet Kids participant. Aida and her children live on the roof of her mother’s house. Rooftop living isn’t uncommon for the city since it never rains here. They have a kitchen and a bedroom which they all share, but unlike Rosa, access to running water and a downstairs bathroom. Aida started working for Krochet Kids recently after finding herself unable to work the local market because of her infant daughter.

"How can we help?" we ask.

“No need. You sit…” they say in Spanish, as we take a seat and wait for lunch to be served. It has been almost three hours and Rosa and Aida are hard at work in Aida’s kitchen, cooking us a traditional Peruvian dish of rice and corn and potatoes with this amazing cheese sauce I am totally forgetting the name of.

Aida is a 31 year old mother of four with a one year old daughter who has just learned to walk. Aida’s older daughter, Ingrid, explains to us that she walked early and everyone is so proud of her.

“She started walking at eleven months, ” she tells us in Spanish. 

I do my best to speak what Spanish I can remember, which, well... it's been a while.

"Lo Siento. Mi Espanol es muy mal..." 

I can understand, though. Somewhat. And I can ask questions because that is what they teach you in high school Spanish class. They teach you how to ask all the questions.
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When lunch is served, we all sit down together. There are six of us including Sarah Goodfellow (talk about an apropos name)--who is married to KK's Peru Director, Blake--and Patricia.

"No carne?" they ask me, as I clean my plate, save for the chicken.

"Lo Siento. Soy Vegetarian."

They laugh. Silly gringa.

Patricia speaks better English than I do and translates for all of us during lunch, which is otherworldly delicious and one by one we go around the table, exchanging stories.
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Rosa tells us the story of her pregnancy – how she was 18 when she got pregnant, how her boyfriend left town as soon as he found out and how she spent her entire pregnancy trying to track him down, only to find him months after her son was born.

"I sued him for child support," she explained.

He began paying immediately and now visits his son once a week. Rosa dropped out of school when her son was born and has been working with Krochet Kids for the last eight months, and come spring, will go back and finish high school before enrolling in college, where she plans to study law. 

"That has been my dream since I was a little girl," she tells us. "To become a lawyer."
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It is day two and we are touring the Krochet Kids intl. Headquarters, just a short bus ride away from Rosa and Aida’s homes up on the hill. It is no accident that HQ are so close to the women it employs. 
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"We wanted HQ to be as accessible as possible to its participants," Blake tells us.
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Blake moved here four years ago with Sarah, who is kindness personified, and their four children, giving up all stateside conveniences and living humbly with their staff, interns and mentors. Over the years, they have grown their staff as well as their product line and expanded their headquarters. They're the kind of people who make me proud to be a person.
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Sarah and Blake Goodfellow

The Krochet Kids premises have grown considerably over the last four years. What was once one small building is now four, including a warehouse, a separate daycare facility, and multiple sewing rooms boasting crochet machines and tables for cutting. The women take turns overseeing operations so that everyone gets a chance to lead, and once a week a mandatory seminar takes place in the upstairs meeting hall--where women are trained in finance and business--because KK sees itself as a launch pad.

"We train our participants to go out on their own. To start their own businesses. To run their own lives. Our goal is for them to be self-sufficient after three years. They are all independent contractors so they get to choose whether or not they want to come into work each day..."

But everyone is here. On time. Hard at work. 
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We are shown around the various levels. Rosa is here and she skips over to say hi. There's music blasting in many of the rooms as we make our way around the various levels. (I get a chance to meet Leanor and thank her for my orange hat.)

The mentors are here, too -- all with the same fierce-mama-vibe as Patricia. They are employed by Krochet Kids and help each woman one-on-one, working as aids with women in abusive situations, guides for teen moms, and friends to all. They are professional mamas to their sisters and it's beautiful.
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The children in the daycare are coloring when we walk in. Some are dancing and a little girl is doing a puzzle on the floor.
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The daycare worker shows us some of her handmade toys and puzzles, made from boxes and magazines, egg cartons and beads… the children are warm and like to hug and everyone is happy, here.
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Like, REALLY happy. When the kids are old enough to go to school, they will do that, but for now it's art and music, learning to count, and more art. 
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(attempting) translation of my tattoo

This has been my favorite part of the day. The kids remind me how much I miss my own, remind me how important is is for a mother to feel like her children are well cared for while she is working.
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It is almost lunch time now, and the children will soon be reunited with their mothers, who join them every day during their lunch breaks...


It's day three with the KK team, and the women are gathered in a circle, clutching homemade gifts.
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This week's mandatory meeting is about love. Valentines Day was Saturday and the women were assigned "secret valentines" to deliver  hand made gifts to, along with affirmations and words of amor. (The only rule was that all gifts must be handmade.)

One women stands and starts to speak, passing her gift to its recipient along with praise...who in turn passes hers along, and so on around the circle...

"You are an incredible mother.... a great friend and confidant..."  

"You make me laugh and I love your optimism..."

"Thank you for being a great friend. You are so beautiful."
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...And I am reminded, once again, how similar we all are. How important rooms full of women are for the world. Circles of people are powerful--when everyone is able to see each other, something happens. We are as exposed as we are included. Even when it feels uncomfortable, we cannot help but look around. 
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I recently gathered with my mother's women's group. That was the last time I found myself in a space, similar to this, where everyone was asked to share. To stand up and speak, three words or three-hundred, or whatever decided to come out. And I wonder why this isn't a part of every woman's work week... of every person's work week... the coming together, the inhale, the exhale. It feels exactly right.

The handmade gifts are amazing, of course. There are vests and dresses, shirts and jewelry, artisan pieces made with cardboard. 

"You are like a sister to me," the women say to each other over and over. "You are a mother and a sister."
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This is an organization built on the concept of comeraderie, community and sisterhood. Krochet Kids’ intent is to build a bridge between unemployment and self sufficiency, equipping women in vulnerable communities with the resources to go out on their own. Many are saving to open their own businesses, purchase their own homes, go back to school. Some are survivors of domestic abuse; many are single mothers. Others are married with husbands who drift in and out of the picture. There are women with the mouths of many extended family members to feed, lesbians with live-in partners who, after being ostracized in surrounding communities, have found community, here, with co-workers and mentors. Mothers and sisters, all. 
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I am honored to be a part of any/all projects that empower girls/women (and men/boys) to empower themselves. Because I grew up with all of the things. I had built-in mentors and access to sex education. I had the option to go to college, but also the option to choose not to, to find my education on my own.. I had all the options. The tools. Many of us were fortunate enough to have been given all the tools. And for those who were not, we can share with them our hammers and nails, so that they may build a better world for each other, for their children, for themselves. 

The goal of this trip, beyond spreading awareness for this incredible brand, is to sponsor 50 women for the year at $35 a month. By sponsoring a woman you provide her with top-level training from the Peruvian staff and partners. 100% of your donation goes directly to the program. Click here to donate. (Thank you!) 

You can also go shopping, which I will be posting a little bit more about next week with some of my favorite items, currently on sale. ED: I am writing this post in my Arizona headband (handmade by Julia Villegas) which I adore.


If you have any questions about Krochet Kids, I would be happy to answer them in the comments below. You can also read posts about our trip over at Dooce, Whoorl and Rage Against the Minivan. Thank you all in advance for your support.
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With Sarah from whoorl.com, Heather from dooce.com, Kristen from Rage Against the Minivan and the Goodfellows, our gracious hosts. 

...And to Krochet Kids, thank you for inviting me into your world, for introducing me to the wonder of the Peruvian people and culture, and for creating a business model that empowers, elevates and educates its employees. I am proud to wear Krochet Kids and am humbled by your service and community.