Fabiana Ayala, ’17, left her home in Bolivia at 16 looking for new opportunities.

“I was born and raised there, and saw the economic abuse and dependence many Bolivian women experience,” Ayala said. “I want to find ways to get them out of these circumstances.”

She started her own social entrepreneurship venture called TodoSuma, a company that employs women in Bolivia and trains them to crochet shirts and swimsuits.

“I started interviewing, then found one woman who was very skilled with her hands, and I encouraged her to start making clothes” Ayala said. “She made the first shirt perfectly. It was a crochet top that I was able to sell to my friends, and give her the profit.”

She and her business partner, Yasmine Karam, ’17, received a $10,000 grant from Projects for Peace, and hope to use the money to train more women in Cochabamba, Ayala’s home town.

“Going back to Bolivia and being able to provide the opportunities that I didn’t see gives me a sense of personal fulfillment. I’m doing what I said I would when I was 16; it feels amazing,” Ayala said. 

George Hiller, lecturer of international business, is Ayala’s mentor and has taught her in multiple courses.

“She thinks outside the box,” Hiller said. “She thinks creatively, looking at new ways to solve either business or social problems.”

Hiller helped her put together the application for the Projects for Peace grant, and had confidence she would receive it. 

“She’s energetic, a self-starter, focused, proactive, and willing to roll up her sleeves and get the job done,” Hiller said.

Ayala is hoping she can make a difference in her hometown, as well as across the world.

“I think what I want to be able to do is to establish consumer consciousness, and allow people to see how much power they have in what they buy,” Ayala said. “TodoSuma is a brand that helps people out of economic abuse, and I want people to see that. So my idea is to change that consciousness.”

During the summer of 2017, Ayala and Karam will partner with community-based organizations to recruit and train women interested in earning an income from crocheting. They’re hoping to expand their products to yoga mat bags, computer cases, and other products for the home.

“Being socially responsible should be what’s most important,” Ayala said. “I think with these products, we can change that mindset and make a difference.”

Their self-designed project was one of 120 selected among all undergraduates invited to apply from American colleges and universities that partner with the Davis United World College Scholars Program. 

You can find out more information about the Projects for Peace program on their website.