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Student takes Willamette’s mission and motto to Peru to help local women pursue financial independence

by Linda Lenhoff,

Indigenous women from Peru called Munay Panti display their hand-mad

International Studies major Becky Heath BA’23 was given an opportunity to turn knowledge into action across the world in Peru. A five-month-long internship with Salto Perú allowed Heath to put Willamette’s motto, Not Unto Ourselves Alone Are We Born, to use to help empower low-income women working in micro enterprises as they strive to improve their financial situations.

Becky Heath BA’23 in Peru for an internship with *Salto Perú

Heath advised a collective of 20 indigenous women called Munay Panti. “My role consisted of supporting a local textile business so that they might increase their profits, which in turn, supports their families and the greater economic development of Cusco,” Heath said. “These amazing women possessed centuries-old skills of knowing which plants can be used for natural dyes, hand-spinning wool, weaving intricate patterns, and speaking Quechua,” she added.

As an intern with Salto Peru, a non-profit social enterprise that seeks to increase the competitiveness of Peruvian micro companies by offering strategic advice, Heath met with the women multiple times to assess their needs and goals. “I looked at everything holistically before focusing my recommendations on the three most important areas: accounting, marketing, and operations. I had to consider that these women don't have computers or Wi-Fi where they live, so everything I did for them was written in Spanish and explained in Quechua by my co-worker.” She realized that the women lacked a way to set prices, track revenue and stock, pay employees, and manage production, so Heath helped create systems for these needs–and designed their new logo, too.

Heath found the work challenging but believed she could help due to her past work experience in consultancy. She began by examining the numerous challenges the group faced, including their lack of Internet, the women’s many roles and responsibilities outside of the business, and language barriers. “I gave them the best recommendations I could given their situation, their goals, and what could be practically achieved,” Heath said. “It was a very rewarding experience to know that these women can better pursue financial independence with the success of their business.”

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