Maria Tuesta Pizango and her seven siblings grew up with their mother after their father died of a snake bite when Maria was only 10 years old.
Maria remembers that she and her siblings always wanted to escape the life they had in Nueva Luz, Peru, because of a lack of economic and educational opportunity. Maria married and had three kids, beginning at the young age of 15. Sixteen years ago, she separated from her husband due to his alcoholism, and raised her children alone for three years before returning to her community to be with her aging mother.
Maria began knitting clothing and selling artisanal products in order to support her children’s’ health and education. After a few years, the district mayor invited Maria to participate in a contest with her products. She won a cash reward, which inspired her to keep working passionately. Because of her success, the district mayor also took her to the cities of Iquitos and Moyobamba, where she presented her products, allowing her and her work to gain prestige.
Maria used the money they awarded her to plant crops and continue to educate her children. Seeing Maria’s success, other women began promoting their own knitting and artisanal products.
“Through the years, life shows us different opportunities, and I, as a divorced mother, learned that as women we are very valuable in the things we want to do,” Maria said. She said that, despite the many challenges she encountered throughout her life, her children always gave her the strength and courage to keep going.
Maria says that The Hunger Project trainings in her community have changed her life, teaching her best farming and livestock-raising practices. Maria is overjoyed by the impact she notices herself making on other women in the community. She claims that they too are now knitting, creating artisanal products, planting and consuming vegetables and attending trainings.
“The truth is that I feel very happy because it is not only me who is advancing and getting better, it is also my neighbors and the families of other communities. There are families who used to always buy vegetables in the stores, or some did not consume, but now they are planting with their children and consuming them. I can see some women who used to not participate in trainings have more interest in learning, to better feed their children. I know these changes are sometimes difficult, but when we have the will and we dream of doing it, we make it into a reality.”
Learn more about The Hunger Project’s work in Peru