Headquarters Office

Bill Kruvant is currently the President and Chairman of the Board. He served as the President of Creative Learning from 2005 to 2017 and returned in 2020.  After earning a Doctorate in Economics in International Development from American University, Bill worked in both the private and public sectors, collaborating on foundation-funded research projects in the areas of energy and civil rights.

Previously, he served as chief of economic studies for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the areas of energy and natural resources and as a Senior Advisor for Creative Associates, consulting on corporate planning and development.

During his tenure at Creative Learning, Bill has worked with his team to establish the America’s Unofficial Ambassadors (AUA) and School-2-School programs.  These programs send young people to serve in local NGOs in the Muslim World and match American and foreign schools so that youth in the U.S. and abroad can learn about each other first hand.

When Aid to Artisans (ATA) joined Creative Learning in 2010, Bill became the president of the new combined institution. In collaboration with ATA staff and Creative Learning experts, he is dedicated to making artisans an integral part of international enterprise development, cultural preservation, income and job generation, and economic development.

More recently, Bill has worked with Professors Tahir Shad and Muqtedar Khan to establish the Global Education Initiatives (GEI) at Creative Learning.  GEI runs the Annual Conference on the Muslim World, trains local and provincial level public officials in modern governance practices under the banner of CL’s American Academy of Good Governance, and runs a volunteer program for young people with De La Salle-College of St. Benilde in the Philippines.

Bill is also president of Crea-Learning Mexico, a Mexican not-for-profit group which develops artisans in Mexico, Central, and South America.

When not occupied at Creative Learning, Bill is a farmer, growing lavender commercially at La Paz farm, and is a ceramic artist.

Blake has over two decades of experience in international development working with for-profit and non-profit organizations in project planning and implementation, as well as in operations and security management.  Blake supports Creative Learning in business development and is passionate about the Creative mission to support locally-led initiatives, people-to-people partnerships, protecting human rights, supporting economic and social development, and building peace.

Blake holds a BA in English Literature from Baylor University and a MS in International Relations from Troy University.  He served in the U.S. Army from 2001 – 2006, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan from 2007-2009.  Additionally, he has worked extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, East Africa, and Central America. 

Lauren brings a blend of marketing and project management expertise to the Aid to Artisans’ team. She has a passion for cultural preservation and deep commitment to empowering local artisans within their communities. She has spent over a year in Latin America collaborating directly with artisans, cultivating a profound interest in textiles and pottery. Lauren has a strong appreciation for other cultures and forging meaningful connections, and has documented her journeys abroad through photography. Lauren has a Bachelors of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Marketing and Spanish. She is excited to join the team at Aid to Artisans and drive transformative change in artisan communities worldwide. 

Maud Obe, Director of Aid to Artisans

Since joining Aid to Artisans in 2007, Maud Obe has 14+ years of experience in designing and managing economic empowerment and development projects for the artisan sector in Latin America, Africa, MENA, and Asia. Maud has implemented many programs that have strengthened more than 5000 artisan businesses and linked them to local, regional, and international markets. She has proven success in managing USAID, MCC, The World Bank, Foundations and USG-funded programs. She is an expert in organizing artisan capacity building workshops, one-on-one coaching, tradeshow preparation, export readiness training, and marketing events targeted for expats, tourism, and international markets. She coordinates the representation of artisan entrepreneurs to NY NOW, Las Vegas Market, and market linkages with US buyers.

Born in France, Maud holds a Master’s Degree in International Development and Social Change and a Bachelor in Government and International Relations from Clark University, Worcester, MA. She is fluent in French, English, and Spanish and has travelled extensively in Europe, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. She lives in Williamsburg VA, with her husband and 2 daughters who are 2 years old and 6 month old.

Rachel is a project management professional with 9 years of non-profit organization and program management experience. Since joining Creative Learning in 2014, Rachel specializes in effective knowledge management, monitoring & evaluation capture, and strategic communication to a wide variety of donors. Serving as Project Manager for all programs, Rachel is passionate about empowering vulnerable individuals in the artisan sector, facilitating access to economic opportunities through market linkages, preserving culture and ensuring sustainable impact.

Rachel graduated from Washington College with a BA in International Studies, a minor in Anthropology and French, and a concentration in African Studies and Peace & Conflict.

Lauren Barkume is the Training Director at Creative Learning’s Aid to Artisans division. With over 13 years of experience in international development and artisan programs, Barkume spent nearly 9 years based in South Africa working directly with entrepreneurs, artisans and small businesses in the region, developing community co-created programs, designing and running practical business skills workshops for small business owners, and working in collaboration with artisan communities across Southern Africa. Lauren cares deeply about facilitating responsive, community driven development.
Hannah Klein is the Program Associate at Creative Learning’s Aid to Artisans division. As a former Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji and e-Commerce Manager for a fashion jewelry brand, Hannah has grown an interest in cultural preservation, community development, and helping the expansion of small businesses globally. Hannah has a Master’s in Public Administration, concentrating in International Management at American University, and has a BA in International Business with concentrations in Global Supply Chain Management and Spanish.

Mexico Field Offices

Chiapas Office

María Eugenia Pineda joined Creative Learning in 2012 as Director of Aid To Artisans Mexico. She founded Mexico’s office and since then she has developed and implemented projects to strengthen the artisan sector, the entrepreneurship of rural women and their financial inclusion in several States of Mexico such as Yucatán, Campeche, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Chiapas. Maria Eugenia also enhances the generation of strategic alliances for territorial development.

Maria Eugenia (Maru) has worked for the National Technical Unit of the Strategic Food Safety Project that belongs to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as National Coordinator of the Community Promoters for Food Safety Program. Also, she was the State Coordinator in Chiapas and Evaluator Coordinator. She is expert in project direction with gender perspective and has coordinated a School of Leadership and Political Participation of Women.

Pineda has more than 25 years of experience in rural development, and she has directed NGOs related to topics regarding gender, women rights, food safety, among others. Maru was born in Mexico City and currently lives in Chiapas. She has studies in financial administration and certifications in rural development, learning processes facilitation and social leadership. She has a son and loves gardening.

Andrea Calderonni is a Mexican fashion designer who graduated from Instituto Europeo di Design in Milan, Italy. She has worked directly with native peoples in Mexico through collaboration with civil society organizations in order to promote design areas. She currently works at Aid to Artisans Mexico as coordinator in the design and production area for the Manos Vivas project, collaborating with artisans from Yucatan and Chiapas developing artisan products.

Marbella Silvano, is an indigenous Mayan Tseltal, originally from Bachajon, Chiapas, Mexico and has a degree in public accounting and finance. Marbella is a specialist in textiles, a technique learned since she was a child; technically trains groups of artisans in product design and development, in addition to advising and facilitating human development processes in the Highlands of Chiapas since 2016 within ATA. Marbella is a leading woman who motivates the artisans to organize and improve themselves through example, collaboration and leadership in territorial alliances.

Reyna Jiménez López, is a Tsotsil-Tseltal Mayan indigenous, resident of the municipality of Tenejapa, Chiapas. Reyna is a specialist in textiles, developing the technique since she was a child; technically trains groups of artisans in product design and development, in addition to advising and facilitating human development processes in the Highlands of Chiapas since 2015 within ATA. Reyna is an artisan who has become a professional within ATA to share her knowledge with the groups with which she collaborates. Her work has inspired several women to continue developing products with the highest quality standards and to develop as people.

Tania Gómez, is a Tsotsil Mayan indigenous woman, originally from Chenalhó, Chiapas, Mexico and has a degree in social work. Tania is a specialist in textiles, a technique she learned as a child; technically trains groups of artisans in product design and development, in addition to advising and facilitating human development processes in the Highlands of Chiapas since 2015 within ATA. Her work has inspired several women to continue developing products with the highest quality standards and to develop as people. Tania started as an artisan and her professionalism and leadership has been notable within the groups that she now advises within ATA

Elena Gómez, is an indigenous speaker of the Tseltal and Tsotsil Mayan languages, originally from Huixtán, Chiapas, Mexico. She has a degree in educational psychology specializing in Human Development, community leadership, conflict mediation and Mayan psycho-spiritual companion. She coordinates the operational team of the Manos Vivas project in Chiapas, contributes to the enrichment of exchanges of experiences and knowledge with the team in Yucatan, in addition to advising on savings and entrepreneurship methodology. She has been part of the team since 2017.

Jorge, is originally from San Cristóbal de las Casas. His work began in 2012. Responsible for general services, transporting the team, coordinating the logistics of events and is the methodological operational support of the team.

Guillermo Jester is originally from Mexico City, a fashion designer specializing in marketing, he has been collaborating with artisans in different states of the country for around 11 years. He is in charge of commercial relations with national and international clients, as well as continuously generating marketing strategies for positioning and generating new orders and collaborations. He has been part of the ATA team since 2013.

She is currently Director of the Design and Production Area of ​​the Manos Vivas project of Aid to Artisans México . She is a Textile designer graduated from the Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla. She has worked for more than 8 years in the artisan sector with different brands, workshops, designers and organizations in the product development and implementation of production strategies, design, and collaboration. She has worked with artisans from different states of the Republic, among which are: Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Yucatan. Shee has been part of the team since 2015.

Adela is a Social Anthropologist and a specialist in Gender and Women’s Development. She recognizes herself as a feminist and has worked against all forms of violence against women as well as for their human rights and sexual and reproductive health. She works as an advisor and trainer for the team in Mexico and evaluates the impact on the lives of the women with whom ATA Mexico collaborates. Adela has accompanied the team since 2015.

Liliana is an administrator in Mexico, a public accountant by profession with experience working with other NGOs. Originally from San Cristóbal de Las Casas Chiapas, Mexico. Her support facilitates transparency and accountability to the different actors with whom ATA collaborates.

Anastacia Díaz Gómez, is a Tseltal Mayan indigenous woman, originally from Amatenango del Valle, Chiapas, Mexico and is an industrial engineer. Anastacia has been a specialist in pottery and textiles since she was a child; technically trains groups of artisans in product design and development, in addition to advising and facilitating human development and financial inclusion processes in the Highlands of Chiapas since 2018 within ATA. Her work has inspired several women to continue developing products with the highest quality standards and to develop as people.

Sofia Montaño is originally from Mexico City. With a degree in Textile Design and a specialist in sales and marketing, she is in charge of communicating the achievements, projects, collaborations and vision of Aid to Artisans México with the community that we create day by day, as well as generating new business opportunities and leads that allow the organization and the participants of each project continue to grow.

Pedro is a Tseltal indigenous native of Sitalá, Chiapas. Textile craftsman, who found in ATA, the complement for his training process of his Bachelor studies. He is currently an artisan promoter, he supports the training of artisans in Sitalá in the cross-stitch embroidery technique and its production and design processes.

Yucatán Office

Francisco was born in Mexico City but has lived most of his life in the Yucatan Peninsula. Thanks to his training as a Social Communicator and Master of Science in Rural Development, he joined ATA in 2019 to strengthen the local team in Human Development as well as in strategic coordination to achieve the project’s objectives in the region.

Originally from Nunkini, Campeche, María del Rosario Cohuo Huchin joined the ATA Mexico team in November 2019. Rosario is a promoter within the food pilot project in addition to being in charge of the activities and monitoring of the area, accompanying the groups for the preparation of recipes, quality control and complying with all the necessary regulations for export and national sale. Always passionate about her work and the enthusiasm she sees in the groups she works with, Rosario is a key member of our team. Engineer in Food Industries and Master of Science in Food Biochemistry

Carmela Peraza Poot began as one of the leading artisans in the hammock weaving technique, always demonstrating a great ability to teach and motivate her co-workers, which led her to become an ATA promoter in 2020. Originally from the municipality of Tixméhuac located in the southern part of the state, Carmela is responsible for several groups of hammock weavers. Passionate about sharing her knowledge, teaching and learning new stitches and finishes, Carmela has earned the love and respect of the groups she works with with her energy and perseverance.

Didier Jesús Ramírez Caballero began his history at ATA Mexico in February 2021 as an assistant promoter of the Manos Vivas project within the Yucatan team; supporting training, accompaniment and monitoring of savings banks, financial inclusion issues and cultural animation processes. With vast experience in the design, execution and evaluation of community transformation projects, full of contagious energy and with an insatiable passion for gender, indigenous cultures and development issues. Didier has a degree in Cultural Management and has studies in Social Anthropology.

Blanca Itza May, originally from Chumayel and inhabitant of Teabo, Yucatán, has been part of our team since January 2020. She comes from a family of artisans, which has made her work as a textile promoter easier, helping to improve the quality of knitting techniques, cross stitch and machine embroidery and crochet, as well as giving workshops on fine finishes, decoration, joining and innovation of techniques and materials, and following up with groups in the region of the Peninsula. For Blanca, her work is described as “the love of her roots”.

Carlos Ponce de León began his history at ATA Mexico in November 2019. Born in Mexico City, he joined the organization to lead the pilot food project in the Peninsula and provide support to the Yucatan team in the area of ​​marketing and sales. Something that Carlos highlights from his experience at ATA Mexico is the trust he has received from the organization to contribute his knowledge and experience developing gourmet products and implementing them in the creation of the New Food Division. Carlos has a degree in International Business.

Raquela Chuc Cuxim, better known as Raquel, is from the Tixcacaltuyub community, in Yaxcaba, Yucatán, and joined our team in 2019 as a Promoter of groups of textile artisans in Yaxcabá. A proud artisan expert in the Cross Stitch technique, Raquel is a great promoter, always motivated and full of energy. Her desire to excel and share the heritage of Yucatan in Mexico and the world is contagious.

Ericka Novelo Pérez, originally from Mérida, Yucatán, joined the ATA Mexico team at the beginning of the Manos Vivas project in 2018. With previous experience working with groups of artisans, giving different workshops on issues of design, quality, empowerment and development human, Ericka has been able to continue developing her skills and those of the women we have worked with in recent years. A proud participant in this organization, hard-working and cheerful, she highlights the importance of her work in achieving a positive impact on the self-esteem and social recognition of the women with whom she works. Ericka has a degree in Production Systems Engineering.

Burkina Faso

Abdul Fatahou is a Burkinabe national and has been a resident of Burkina Faso since 1992. He completed his primary and secondary education in Ouagadougou from 1996 to 2011. He pursued his higher education in Koudougou (2011-2015) and Ouagadougou (2019-2021). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics and Environment and a master’s degree in Project Management.

With eight years of professional experience in rural development in Burkina Faso, Abdul Fatahou has worked on various projects financed by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) such as Programme d’appui du Secteur Privé Rural (PASPRU), Assurance Transport Betail avec Indemnité Contractuelle (ATBIC) and the Bus Project. He has collaborated with many national organizations like Fédération Nationale des Femmes Rurales du Burkina, as well as international organizations including Confédération des Fédération Nationales de la Filière Bétail et Viande en Afrique de L’Ouest (COFENABVIE-AO), Andreas Hermes Akademie (AHA), and the German development agency GIZ. In addition to project management, he is a certified trainer in agricultural entrepreneurship and a master trainer in the Cashew Value Chain.

India

Javeed Dar – Project Coordinator

Javeed joined Aid to Artisans in 2020 as Project Coordinator for the Art-X KashmirExport Linkage for Four Artisan Clusters in Jammu & Kashmir” project in India. An expert in artisanal craft, Javeed holds a Master’s Degree in Craft Management and Entrepreneurship from the Craft Development Institute in Srinagar India. Prior to joining ATA Javeed was a Production, Design, and Project Coordinator with Commitment to Kashmir Delhi” (Ctok) –Design organization and a Junior Research Project Fellow at the Design Innovation Centre, Central University of Kashmir.

Mali

Djènèba Kéïta – Project Coordinator

Born in Mali in December 1954, with both her parents being educators, Djènèba basked in nationalist and feminist speeches during her childhood. She sewed my first button when she was 4 years old, wore men’s jacket at 14 and designed her own outfits aged 16 years.

She hold a Master’s degree in English and has spent the majority of her professional career in international organizations (USAID, African Remote Sensing Council, African Association for Cartography and Remote Sensing, Permanent Inter States Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), Mérieux Foundation, International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), and more.

From 2007 to 2013, she finally brought her dream to life by coordinating the activities of 16 crafts businesses in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad. “I  simply love craftsmanship’s beauty, whatever form it takes and wherever it may come from.” – Djènèba Kéïta