The impetus for MAKI INTERNATIONAL came in 2008 when Martha Dudenhoeffer, Maki's Founder and Executive Director, traveled to Ayacucho to volunteer. She was assigned to a prison of 2000 inmates to help the female prisoners.
There, she found that the majority of the 160 women were incarcerated for drug trafficking offenses. They came from impoverished homes and were sought out by drug cartels to transport cocaine. After speaking with many of the women, it became clear that for most, the motivation to work as 'mules' for the cartels was a desperate attempt to provide for the basic needs of their families. Their sentences were severe - many were serving up to 20 years.
The women had few opportunities for improvement or to earn income, so Martha and the women explored the possibilities and it soon became evident that their beautiful knitting could be a viable source of revenue.
Martha joined forces with Marisol Chancos Mendoza, a native of Ayacucho, who had developed a passion early on for aiding in the economic development and empowerment of women in her hometown. Marisol had worked for various U.S. nonprofits for years and had extensive experience in developing and implementing programming and organizational structures.
Today, Maki International is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and works with women throughout Ayacucho, Peru. MAKI provides the framework for creating, exporting, and selling the beautiful knit goods and handicrafts made using the Peruvian women's existing talents and traditions.
But Maki International is more than just the name of our organization; it's the philosophy that our organization is built on. MAKI, which means 'hands' in the ancient Quechua language, is the idea that small, thoughtful action can make a tangible and lasting difference. Purchasing a scarf can help a mother pay for her daughter's education, buying a stuffed animal can aid a woman in starting her own business. At MAKI, we believe in empowerment through enterprise and we work directly with women in need: giving them the resources necessary to lift themselves out of poverty. We pay the women directly for their work and all our profits go back to the women in the form of classes, center improvements and empowerment events and activities. So welcome to the MAKI family; with our own two hands we change the world.
Prison Community: Ayacucho’s prison is filled with women who have been used as drug mules and sentenced as full-fledged members of drug cartels. MAKI has built and staffed classrooms for these women where they can learn work skills, team building, self-esteem and attend lectures on relevant issues. We have also provided a classroom and learning supplies for the children who reside in the prison with their mothers.
Rural Mother’s Group: In the small Andean communities above Ayacucho, MAKI has launched a chicken farming initiative that teaches women how to raise and care for chickens and provides them with eggs for eating and selling.
Women’s Community Center: At-risk mothers gather weekly for MAKI sponsored events, activities and projects. Through providing support and enriching programming, MAKI empowers this group of women to reach out into the community and create their own opportunities.
MAKI, which means ‘hands’ in the ancient Quechua language, is more than just the name of our organization; it’s the philosophy that our organization is built on. MAKI embraces the idea that small, thoughtful action can make a tangible and sustainable difference in the lives of the women of Ayacucho, Peru. Our Peruvian team works daily to enrich and empower women’s lives through skills training, education, self-esteem building and employment opportunities.