Meet Nicole, Part 3: Tantakuna

Posted by Monica Nicole Saavedra on

I hadn't been to Bolivia since graduating college in 2013. I was a year into living in Columbus and was unfortunately laid off from my job in 2018. That is when my childhood friend contacted me to invite me to his wedding. I agreed to go since I hadn't seen my family in more than 5 years. Little did I know that this trip would lead to a life-changing experience.

I always knew I wanted to help women in Bolivia learn new skills and give them jobs in order to avoid them having to work in areas where human trafficking is prevalent; I just never knew how to go about that. While at the wedding, I started talking to a lady who works for the Horizon Project in Bolivia. She explained her group's mission of working with a mining community near Cochabamba to learn new skills and bring their economy back up in an area where the mining industry had left the community behind. Without reliable employment, the community had taken a downward spiral and alcoholism became a big problem. Proyecto Horizonte works with the community by teaching them new skills and working in the school to provide education to all the children.

Within this group, there is a sub-group of women called Tantakuna. Erica, the group's advocate, told me that they have very good weaving skills but they needed projects and work to do. I decided, then and there, to start working with these women to create textiles. Erica arranged a meeting with the ladies where they showed me some samples, which were really darn good! I have prepared some designs and am working with them to debut the new collection in June/July 2019. These women now have a steady income to be able to provide for their families. 

I suppose that word travels fast in Bolivia and if you're looking for something, you will find it in abundance. Over the next few weeks, my dad discovered several different craftsmen and women from different indigenous communities in Bolivia. During a visit to his mom's, he met Maria Cristina, the leader of Chiquitano Threads. This is another that helps women work by making textiles. They are from a tropical area in Bolivia and use fruits and leaves to dye the fabrics. I am very proud to be working with them to reach our goal of providing jobs for women to become independent and end a vicious cycle. 

My goal in life is to empower and educate people from communities that don't have as many resources to help them become independent, and to help end cycles of addiction and human trafficking. Through Tantakuna LLC, I hope to further this mission. With the use of globalization and an emphasis on shopping from local, small businesses, we can all come together and affect the lives of both our neighbors as well as those on the other side of the world. 

Being the daughter of an environmental consultant, I am also passionate about protecting the environment. Many of Tantakuna's products are made with sustainable materials to help end our reliance on plastic. I want to conserve the natural resources that we have left by reducing fumes and waste. I am currently trying the no-waste challenge in my own daily life, and going from room to room in my house to create less waste. This transition will hopefully reflect within the store. I am aiming to reduce and reuse. I would like to reuse boxes and packaging and I only use glass and metal containers. I am using minimal plastic and Tantakuna will have a rewards program for clients who wish to re-fill their containers.  

Join me in this journey to protect our environment while empowering those who have less means than ourselves to create a better life.

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