I recently returned from visiting with our friends at Northern Creations, the woman’s cooperative that makes all of our knit hand bags and accessories. I had such an unique experience while visiting with them and I am excited to share it with you! I really want the AP community to know who they are supporting when buying our knit products so here’s your introduction.
First, follow me on this journey to Piura, Peru. Piura is in the northern section of Peru only 11 hours away from the border with Ecuador. In order to get to Piura from Lima you have to survive a 13-18 hour bus ride that passes the Sechura Desert (one of the world’s few tropical deserts). The Sechura Desert is amazing! It ranges up to 72 miles and expands from the coastal NW of Peru to the Atacama Desert in Chile.
Piura is quite interesting because it is both desert and tropical. To the south it is divided by the Sechura and on the northern region it is savanna-like subtropical dry forest.
Northern Creations lives in region called La Florida in the outskirts of Piura. The roads are not paved and are filled with sand. The sun shines strong, averaging 90+ degree temperature and it is best described as arid/desert.
I only visited for about 2 weeks and despite being there for such a short period of time, I learned a great deal from these amazing ladies! I have to admit though, re-adjusting was difficult and I learned how much more difficult it is to run a business in less privileged regions. For example, whenever the ladies have to ship out their products to us, they have to get on a 13+ hour bus to Lima and then ship it to the US. The distance is truly tiring!!!
Since the government has not yet established potable water in this region, the bathrooms consist of “natural toilets” in the backyard best described as a deep hole in the ground that everyone used. Ok friends, I have a confession to make: one of the most difficult things for me was the use of the toilets there.
I’m sorry but I really l-0-v-e shiny, clean ceramic toilet bowls!!! I know going in nature is not a big deal but stagnant non-treated waste is conducive to a slew of diseases and at this point my hypochondria started to kick in. It also made me wonder if the communities experienced more disease as a result of having non-treated waste nearby?
Most of the homes in this area are unfinished with 3 walls, a semi-permanent roof and dirt floors. This was a gift in disguise. One really great thing about semi-permanent roofing is that you can literally hear the wild-life from your room when you sleep (something this nature lover really enjoyed). The really not so great thing about semi-permanent ceilings is that the rain can become destructive AND……if you have small children, many of them can become fearful of the noises and have trouble sleeping at night. This was the case in the home I stayed where the little girl couldn’t sleep at night for fear of the near-by animals. We would all have to sit by her bedside just so she could fall asleep.
One of the most disturbing observations I made was that many of the children within the community had distinct ailments, at a young age. The mothers would tell me that when they were pregnant, they didn’t have adequate nutrition so they didn’t produce enough milk to feed their children but are grateful the children survived.
I heard similar scenarios from distinct women within the community and at that point realized I had so much to learn about life from them. Despite how little they had (whether it is food, housing, or income), they were very grateful. Northern Creations had such an admirable sense of humility and gratitude that I hope to, one day, attain.
On a brighter note, I quickly came to see that all the cooperative women love knitting. Some of the women are the main wage earners in their homes, and many have several children. While I was with Northern Creations, I interviewed most of the women members and was happy to see that other than needing additional income, they revealed that their attraction to the cooperative was to exercise a skill they adore: knitting. They were intrigued in seeing how they could use their knitting skills to help sustain their family and were excited about the possibility of learning new skills. I cannot tell you how much of a deep passion these women have for knitting. They are so skilled that they know how to pick the cotton from the plant, spin it into thread (yes friends, they know how to do it manually ….u know, the work that takes several machines in a mill to accomplish) and then use it to weave. It gladdened me to hear that despite their difficult realities, they were able to gain employment through something they genuinely enjoyed doing.
In closing, if you are wondering why I so vividly described Northern Creation’s living conditions in this blog—it is because I would like to give you an accurate picture of how different Northern Creation’s world is to our own and how much of an impact your support can have. We may have an abundance of material wealth, but they have a distinct type of wealth that cannot be described in something tangible. One message they wanted me to relay to the American public was: “thank you for supporting us through the purchase of our products. We make them with lots of love and are so happy to know you like them.”
Who knew that a purchase could change so much for people on the opposite side of our hemisphere?