Angelica is full of personality and initiative and in addition to sewing arpilleras, she has taken several courses in cosmetology and earns extra income as a stylist. She has gained courage and support from her artisan friends as she raises her sons alone. Angelica has a small flat in which she sews and practices cosmetology. She is a remarkable woman who has found great ways to cope with the difficulties of life. She enjoys exercising on the beach and working on a plot of land she has acquired on a hillside, where she sings away on weekends to relieve stress.
Irene began with the group in 2006 when she was living near some other ToH members. The family: Irene, her husband, and two boys now live on the outskirts of Lima, a two-hour bus journey from the group meetings, but she chooses to continue to belong to ToH. She has used her income to slowly build up a merchant shop in her new neighborhood. Her brother let the family have a plot of land and they have since bought another plot nearby. The boys are aware when payday is coming up and are most attentive as they hope they have a special treat coming.
Aurelia is a dear woman, related to two other artisans in the group, Marina and Suzanna. She is always grateful when there is extra sewing, as she has a medical need that is costly. Because of this, her husband has been unable to finish his teaching degree. The only possibility of getting a teaching post is for him to go to Iquitos in the jungle, leaving the family behind, which they will not do. Aurelia’s husband now works construction, and the two of them beaver away with her sewing in the evenings. They bought their first plot of land in 2015 and are leveling the area to prepare for their future home.
Aleja had a house that was mainly woven matting walls with just a facade in brick, and no bathroom facilities for her family of nine when she started sewing in 1999. She is quiet, consistent artist, who, through her earnings has built a two-story home, including a bathroom. She is currently building a lovely new kitchen. Two of her daughters have been able to complete training, one as a nurse, the other in hotels and tourism. Aleja is now caring for two of her grandchildren since their mother, her oldest daughter, died in an accident. Nicole, her granddaughter, brings her much joy, telling Aleja, “What lovely things you make, grandma. When I am big, I am going to sew just like you.”
Cecelia lived in the jungle with her first husband and had five children. She remarried after he died and now has seven children. She is strong and survives all that the world throws at her. She joined the group in 2006 and learned to sew very quickly. She and her oldest daughter Sara work together; Sara cuts out the detail work: animals, flowers, etc. and then Cecilia sews them into art. Her youngest granddaughter finds great pleasure in all the fabric around the house, routinely taking her fabric and cutting out clothes for her doll. She also takes the little doll figures for the textiles and makes scenes like her grandmother. Cecelia has recently finished her kitchen and living area and added a lovely front door to her home.
Solfina came to ToH scraping by in a scrap shanty, trying to raise three children. Her determination to make a better life for her children had her persist, and now she proudly shows her home, complete with electricity, appliances, and a bathroom. She is a most devoted member of ToH and has developed a firm faith showing much wisdom and grace in group discussions. Her oldest son completed six years of law school, paid for mostly by his mother and is a practicing attorney in Lima. Her granddaughter Dyan, aged five, says, “You must be getting good marks for your sewing, Grandma,” and likes Solfina to sew near her while she does her homework.
Rosa has six children; her husband no longer part of the family. Three generations of the family worked together on the textiles rather like a family workshop with everyone involved in the sewing. Some cut out the detail pieces, others make fruits and flowers, and grandmother helped with the young children. Rosa was a most gifted artisan with her needle, turning out spectacular pieces. She built a new home for her family and had the gift of teaching and mentored new group members who were learning the textile arts of Peru. Due to health challenges Rosa left the sewing group.
Felecia joined the group in 2006 and was widowed shortly thereafter. She now works in tandem with her married daughter, Cecelia, who lives high on the hill behind Felecia’s house. Her grandson brings the partially done work down from his mother, carefully packed into his backpack, and then delivers it to Felicia for her to do her wonderfully imaginative artistry. Another “helpful” young grandson recently cut one of her almost finished hangings in half, while “experimenting” with the scissors! She is a most dynamic lady, always eager to learn and grow. She recently completed a dining room and workshop for her sewing.
Edith used to buy clothing in bulk in Lima and then sell it in the mountain villages to supplement the family income; it was difficult low-income work. Since joining ToH, she has built a three-story brick house with bathroom facilities. Her three children are trained as a mechanic, a qualified bus driver, and her daughter started university; all their studies paid for from their mother’s income. Her husband, Simon, lost his steady job years ago. Unable to find consistent work, he is now a “stalwart arpillera assistant,” helping Edith make the textiles. She is one determined lady who most enjoys making the larger pieces in the textile collection.
Isabel has three children, and after a difficult few years, became a single mother. She often worked at night and had a fixed curtain divider, so the light did not bother her sleeping children, but that is all in the past now. Her textile art is now her sole source of income. In 2015 Isabel completed construction on her flat on the second floor of her parent’s home. Her extended family is a lovely, supportive group. She is resilient and determined, taking a refresher dressmaking course recently to continue expanding her skill set. She is a most responsible president of her sewing group. For many years, all income went toward educational expenses for her boys until her life stabilized and she swas able to focus on building a proper flat on the third level of her parents property.
Etelvina joined the group in 2006, without previous experience, and learned quickly. She is a natural born leader and offers much to the sewing group as well as her church. She is totally reliable, and that reliability carried over to supporting her sister as she helped fund a serious operation to save her sister’s life. Her children’s education has been possible through her artistry and her home improves year after year. She can make her art at lightening speed, apparently happy with only four hours of sleep!
Lucila is married and has three grown children. Her son was able to study graphic design and is working in this field. She helped her daughter buy a market stall and set up a small business and her second daughter completed secretarial college. Her income has also taken care of serious medical needs in the family. Her grandson used to discard his plastic animals in favor of the cardboard animal patterns Lucila used for her sewing, especially liking the elephant. Once she found him repeatedly drawing around the elephant all over their bedspread with a pen…she switched to elephant decor.
Elida is married with three young children. The family lived in a rented dwelling until they were able to buy a small plot of land. They have lived in this hut “under construction” since then. In 2016 we witnessed amazing progress on their home seeing oncrete floors, brick walls, and a second story for bedrooms. She is so patient and easy-going in difficult conditions including a son diagnosed with a disability. She has blossomed as an artisan with new found creativity and designs.
Nancy has a son, Jesus, born on Christmas day and a daughter. She is currently focused on construction to create a flat on the second level of her father’s home to make a stable place for her and the children. Regrettably, her husband left her while she was pregnant with her daughter. When Nancy began working with ToH, she was only comfortable sewing the blanket stitch edging around the other women’s art. She was reluctant to try her own designs, but she has flowered over the years in the ToH sewing group! She now produces some of the most imaginative pieces, and recently created the largest arpillera made in the group, measuring 4’x 6′, a stunning museum quality piece that actually hung in a gallery for a period of time.
Sara has five children, two still living at home. Her husband drives a long distance bus. Her income recently helped her husband after a bus crash in which his hand was badly broken. He went back to work, but Sara was able to keep the family going through her artistry. She has been able to buy a large piece of land outside Lima and is developing this as a future home that will support some livestock and growing produce. Once when Sara was sewing a large tree skirt, her youngest daughter thought her mom was making a beautiful skirt for her to wear.
Susana and her family came from the mountains to look for work when she was 15. She was later encouraged to join ToH by her mother who is also in the project. Susana learned quickly and now surpasses her mother in her detailed work. She is married to a most delightful man, Edgar, who is always cheerful and positive, and they have two young boys. She bought a plot on the hillside with her earnings, and they are currently turning their plywood home into a solid brick structure. Recently her oldest son needed an eye operation, which was covered through her profit. He is a fantastic student, winning academic awards in school. Susana has been an efficient treasurer for the group for the last several years.
Ely nearly completed her degree in psychology but was unable to complete her studies due to family complications. She plans to finish her education as soon as is possible. She is a very gifted artisan and has been an inspiration to all with her innovative designs. She is forever inventing new designs and colour combinations. She does not get much help from her little niece, who can now toddle around the house and “helps” her sew…her last trick was to pour her milk over several of Ely’s finished pieces of work!
Beatriz came to Lima from the far north for her husband’s work, leaving a good teaching position. She was unable to find teaching work with the changing requirements of the last two governments. She joined ToH in 2009 and found the sewing very difficult but has persevered and learned a great deal. Her profit has been used for funding her daughter’s linguistic studies at university. She also has a “special needs” son, Junior. Junior helps her with making the small fabric dolls for the textiles. He enjoys making the dolls dance about, which made them dirty, so now he carefully puts down a white cloth before dancing with them! Beatriz began teaching again 2013 and continues sewing part-time.
Hilda’s mother died when she was 19, leaving her to raise her six siblings. Now 38, she lives collaboratively with her siblings and father, having built her own flat on the second floor of the family home. She recently bought a market stall to give work to her brother and sister and hopes to send another sister to school. Her father, hardened by a rough life, has recently realized he wishes for a happier and better life for his family. He has returned to church and seems a changed man, much softer and less critical than before. Hilda enjoys the new floral textiles ~ the softness of the scene matches her kind demeanor.
Marina and her family came to Lima from a jungle village in 1985 seeking work and needing a place to live. They landed in Lima, living in a scrap shanty while looking for work. Since coming to the ToH sewing group in 1998, Marina and her husband have built a two-story brick home and educated four children. All these years since coming to Lima, Marina is still adapting to city life. We recently persuaded her to try the elevator when doing the documentation for exporting the textiles. Before that, she walked up 16 flights of stairs to reach the office. She gets up at 4am to prepare breakfast for her family, and then begins her sewing. Her specialty is exquisite large market scenes.
Nery comes from the jungle and is married with three boys. Her oldest son was born with a form of cancer, which he has recovered from, but he requires annual check-ups and has a weak immune system. He was working, but at the moment is suffering from hepatitis. The two younger boys are still in school. Last year Nery was able to buy a plot of land with her income from Threads of Hope and the family is now living there and slowly building their house. She is very positive and dynamic and produces large quantities of arpilleras each month. She is always willing to take on more work and grateful to be making steady progress in life.
Carmen is one of the newest members of the Lima sewing group. She was taught to sew by Reina, a ToH member who has since died, whom Carmen cared for when she was very ill. Carmen learned very quickly and now works at a great rate. She and her husband have three boys; Harold aged 20, Gabriel 14 and Alejandro 7, all very organized. It is impressive to see how the youngest plays quietly, and immediately puts things away in their boxes when Mum says it is time to go. Harold is a committed member of the church youth group and works in a restaurant. They have a hut on a hillside, which is now being converted into a brick-and-mortar dwelling with their income from ToH.
Maria was an education student at the time of Fujimori and was swept up by the police in a raid when some students were thought to be involved in terrorism. No-one knew where she was for some two months and was eventually found in Santa Monica prison, where she became a Christian. She encountered ToH while in prison. Maria married college sweetheart, and they have two little children. Maria makes ornamental doll ornaments and a few other crafts, but her main income is from a market stall she has at their house. At the beginning of each school year, she brings in school materials for her neighbours and has opened a computer lab furnished with refurbished computers that her husband has repaired.
Caty is a single mother with two grown-up sons, one living with her aged 27 and the other, 28, with his paternal grandmother. There are 11 siblings in her family, most of them doing craft work. Caty emigrated to Italy, seeking opportunity, but came back “home” after a year. She is superb miniaturist, quiet, dedicated and enjoys working at home. She is very involved in her church and has a strong faith. She recently added a workshop onto her home and shared the delight of her youngest son’s engagement.