Learn more about our partners at Awamaki
Awamaki is a non-profit that helps women start and run their own businesses. They invest in their skills and leadership, and connect them to global markets for their small businesses. Trutogs is honored to partner with Awamaki and to help support their mission to empower the indigenous women of Peru.
Awamaki creates lasting impact in the remote mountains of Peru by helping rural Andean women’s associations launch successful small businesses creating authentic, high-quality products and experiences. Awamaki invests in women’s skills, connects them to market access and supports their leadership so they can increase their income and transform their communities. Awamaki is comprised of a Peruvian asociación civil and a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working closely together to empower women’s associations, connect them to markets and enable them to lead their communities out of poverty. Though a non-profit, Awamaki uses market strategies to accomplish its charitable goals of increasing women’s income and business leadership.
Awamaki was formed in early 2009 to support a cooperative of 10 women weavers from Patacancha, a rural Quechua community in the Andes of Peru. Awamaki’s founders, Kennedy Leavens, from the U.S., and Miguel Galdo, from Peru, had worked together at Awamaki’s predecessor organization with the weaving cooperative for two years. When the predecessor organization floundered and finally collapsed, Miguel and Kennedy formed Awamaki to continue their work with the weavers. The organization grew rapidly to include programs in health and education, as well as other artisan cooperatives and a sustainable tourism program. In 2011, Awamaki spun its health program off into an independent sister organization, and made the strategic decision to focus on income improvement and market access through fair trade artisan cooperatives and sustainable tourism.
Kennedy Leavens, Founder and Executive Director of Awamaki
I founded Awamaki in the belief that income in the hands of women is the best way to lift communities out of poverty. Women know what their children and their communities need and they make those investments when they have the means to do so. Awamaki gives women in remote places access to the modern economy so that they can invest in their children, homes and communities as they see fit.
I have always been passionate about women's empowerment. I connected this passion with Latin America at a young age, when I went on a school trip to Ollantaytambo, Peru - where Awamaki is now based - in 2001. That trip inspired my interest in Latin America and international development, and set my path to Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. There, I studied Latin America and economic development. After graduating, I moved to Ollantaytambo to work as a volunteer for a local Peruvian weaving non-profit. After two years, my colleagues and I from that project founded Awamaki.
Awamaki started in early 2009 with 2 staff members and a handful of volunteers, working with 10 women weavers. We grew quickly, attracting talented volunteers who wanted to make a difference. It was an exciting few years, in which we pursued many different ideas, from health initiatives to English classes to even starting a bakery. As we matured, I felt I needed more skills to help our growing project thrive.
I left Peru to pursue a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington, where I specialized in non-profit management. As we matured and as I learned more about organizational strategy, we increasingly focused on our core programmatic strength, which was, and still is, connecting Andean women artisans to economic opportunities. We spun our health initiative off into a separate non-profit, and phased out our other work. We increased our focus on connecting our artisans to markets through our store and wholesale business, and through our tourism program. As our sales and the number of artisan partner cooperatives grew, we aimed to deepen our impact. Beyond helping women earn income, we wanted to give them the ability to provide for their families without being dependent on us or any one organization.
We began to work with the artisans to teach them not only how to make products for us to sell, but also the skills they need to build successful, women-led artisan businesses. We now work with them on skills from client cultivation to quality control to banking, and we help them connect directly to clients other than us so that they can build their businesses.
Our vision is that as Awamaki's sales grow, and as our current cooperatives grow their business to include orders for other clients, we can bring in new artisan cooperatives to help fill demand for our products, thus expanding our impact across the region. Deepening our connections here in the U.S. has been essential to our work selling the artisan products and bringing visitors to our work in Peru.
Though I spent most of eight years living in Ollantaytambo, I now live in my hometown of Seattle, with my husband and our son. Here, I like to camp, hike, bike, ski and cook with my family, as well as promote Awamaki's work and help guide our strategy. In the meantime, I visit Peru as often as I can, and my husband and I dream about moving back there some day.
Thank you for your support, Kennedy Leavens
Sourced from Awamaki.com