Peru Trip Day 2: Angeles Anonimos on Life Support

Today we visited the Angeles Anonimos (Anonymous Angels) to brainstorm with them about their struggling business. Angels is an organization that trains and employs people with disabilities, most of whom are considered “unemployable” here.  As of now their only customer is Fair Indigo.  We’ve been selling their jewelry for nearly 3 years, but it’s not quite enough to keep them fully operational year round.

We learned from Jorge (one of the founders, and in our mind a living saint) that today the workers are only called as-needed.  He said that for the school/workshop to provide full employment, they would need about $20,000 of orders per month, well above where we are now.

We also had the privilege of speaking with two of the workers, Marlene and Alfredo.  A.A. has clearly given them some confidence that was immediately apparent (bigger smiles, more assured voices, even new haircuts!).  But their dream is to work with A.A. full time again.

Jorge (co-founder of A.A.), Marlene (artisan), Katie (from Fair Indigo), Rob (from Fair Indigo), and Alfredo (artisan).  Starting work on our fall collection.

All the Angels really need is more business.  For Fair Indigo to sell more of their jewelry, for more businesses to carry their jewelry. An “Oprah moment” wouldn’t hurt.  We’ve shot video which we’ll be editing and releasing soon.  Hoping many of you can help us find them some new business.  At fair trade shops, jewelry stores, small companies, big companies…anyone can help.

Katie and Jorge share an emotional good-bye with a renewed determination to find “our Angels” more business.

Anonymous Angels

We are celebrating two years of jewelry-making partnership with Angeles Anonimos (Anonymous Angels) of Lima, Peru. Introduced to the Angels by other partners we were working with, we knew immediately we had found something quite special.

The founders of the organization, Maria Elena, Jorge, and Adriana had backgrounds in the mainstream jewelry business in South America. Combining their expertise in jewelry with their passion for helping “unemployable” Peruvians with disabilities created Angeles Anonimos. A key component of their plan was finding a US partner to sell the jewelry. We couldn’t be happier to be that partner.

The San Luis district of Lima is desperately poor. Jobs are scarce, almost non-existent for people with disabilities such as polio or the inability to hear. The year-round mild San Francisco-like climate here is scant comfort to millions of residents who live on less than $2 per day.  Groups like A.A. are helping to make sure that Peru’s recent economic boom is shared with people in areas like this where the workshop is located.

Some pictures from one of our production runs:

Accompanying us on one of our trips were local Madison, Wisconsin video storyteller Katy Sai and photographer Jay Olsen of StoryBridge.tv.  Thank you Katy and Jay…well done!  You can view the videos below.  We encourage you to share them with anyone you think may be touched by the stories here.

So what’s with the name? Maria Elena was surprised it was not obvious to us when we asked her.  She told us that every time someone buys a piece of their jewelry, that person is an anonymous angel. Someone they will never meet, but who is making a big difference.  We had several disagreements about this as it was quite obvious to us who the angels were. “No no, you’re the angels.”  “No no, you are!” But our angel-calling sessions ended quite amicably, often with huge servings of delicious Peruvian food. (we know when we’re outmatched). Thank you Angels! We are motivated every day to sell as much jewelry as we can. If you would like to help us support them, it’s as easy as buying a piece of their jewelry.