Economic Opportunity Award, 2007
Growing up in war-torn Guatemala City convinced Maria Pacheco that she would heal the earth by moving to the mountains and becoming an organic farmer. For a time, that’s what she did.
Hearing of this woman and her expertise, farmers from a nearby village asked her for help with their parched and sloping hillsides. Maria discovered that the land was inarable and its indigenous people were desperate for a way to provide for their families.
It wasn’t long before she found herself on a mission to bring prosperity to communities that others had long forgotten. Maria created Kiej de Los Bosques (Friend of the Trees), a company through which she connects local weavers and artisans to national and international markets.
Through Kiej, quality of life for families in the local communities improved dramatically, and Maria’ s work drew national attention. Even the First Lady of Guatemala took notice, reminding her that there are more than 4,000 indigenous communities throughout Guatemala.
That’ s when she learned about scalability. As a participant in the first FORTUNE/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership with Vital Voices, Maria was paired with Kathy Calvin of the United Nations Foundation. Through the mentorship, Maria created new strategies for taking her work to scale. She returned to Guatemala, committed to creating prosperity for thousands more people in need.