Sarah Mitts is a graduate of Kansas State University with an undergraduate degree in Business Management, International Studies and Non Profit Leadership. Her background is in International Development and Non Profit Management and while at KSU, she helped to organize many activities to raise awareness about international social justice issues, such as co-founding the Fair Trade Advocates student organization and starting the KSU Save Darfur Team. Drawn to her passion for service, she went to India in 2005, and since then has been working to help strengthen grassroots organizations in India and support income generating activities for women and communities. A social entrepreneur at heart, she co-founded AWAZ Voice for Empowerment, LLC in 2008 to help expand the market for Fair Trade handicrafts and raise support for community development in India. She loves to sing and dance, cook international cuisine and take nature walks. She currently lives outside of Portland, Oregon where she manages AWAZ Voice for Empowerment.
Rafael Aviles, the Co–Owner at AWAZ along with Founder / Owner Sarah Mitts, was brought into the AWAZ family in 2010 to help with the goals, vision and all the moving parts of the organization. Rafael brings with him over 18 years in the Fair Trade movement, 17 years of business experience, 15 years experience in the needle and fabric industry. He studied art and photography at City University of New York. As an executive at Bloomingdale’s in NYC, Rafael held the position of Men’s Merchandise Coordinator in their advertising department. In September 2011, Rafael made a career change to the non-profit sector where he went on to become Director at HB & GC in Holyoke, MA as a liaison with the state legislature working with at-risk youth. Rafael has also held membership on many non-profit boards. Currently, in addition to being a strong supporter and driver for the AWAZ vision, he is also a co-owner and South Western United States Sales Representative at Equal Exchange, a pioneer in the FAIR TRADE MOVEMENT. Lastly, he is the Co-Founder of North West Fair Trade Coalition in Portland, OR. He is a great addition to our family and brings a great deal of experience and knowledge that is needed in the evolution of AWAZ and its vision to reach and support more artisan groups in their work.
Jaya Bhatt received a degree in Textile Design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi in 2003. Instead of going mainstream working for a corporate export house, Jaya chose to use her design skills to help strengthen traditional craft in India and create marketable products for artisan groups.She has years of experience in India’s craft sector working with a variety of artisan organizations as a Design Consultant where she helps with product development, marketing and production planning. She has worked on projects with Aid to Artisans and has just started a craft-based clothing line in India with her friend called Indigenecraft. She partners with AWAZ Voice for Empowerment to help conduct trainings with our artisan partners and design new products for the market.
Neena Kainthola holds a Masters in Library Science and Social Science with an emphasis in Ancient Indian culture and Sanskrit. She has also received professional upgrades from Strathclyde University, Glasgow. She is an experienced teacher of Indian Sanskrit and spiritual teachings and has actively participated in cultural festivals across the UK for the past 15 years sharing these teachings and doing community work. She has now started 'Nisarg Anandam' in Dehradun to teach courses about India’s ancient teachings to help people today live a more balanced life complete with harmony and peace. We work with Neena to conduct our In Country Orientation and provide on site support to our programs.