By Emily Radek, Marketing and Communications Intern
High in the Andes, the village of Kelkanka is the most remote community where Awamaki works. Four hours from Ollantaytambo, including a short hike, made building a weaving center there a long process.
However, after several years, our partner cooperative, Wakanquilla, has finished their new artisan center. The center will be used for meetings, weaving, and workshops that will enable the cooperative to continue trainings with Awamaki as well as support their future as an independent business.
“The idea to build the center had been in the works for the past three years” Mercedes, our head of the women’s cooperative program, described. Kennedy, our founder and executive director explained that, “the artisans acquired the land in the name of the Wakanquilla cooperative, and Awamaki was able to collaborate with them in the planning, designing, and fundraising of the center.”
To complete the center, the whole community worked together in a community-led initiative called a faena, a traditional Quechua concept. Faenas are group work parties to advance projects that help other community members or contribute to the overall growth and development of the community as a whole. In the faena to build the center, the women’s husbands came to lead the construction of the center, with the women working alongside them.
“The artisans and their families gathered materials like stones, adobe bricks, and materials for a thatched roof,” Kennedy explains, “and the concrete and wood were purchased by Awamaki from the generous individual donations, including GlobalGiving, in support of the Wakanquilla cooperative in Kelkanka.”
“Before the center was built, the women would meet in the open air or in the community schools, never having a permanent or reliable place to congregate,” Kennedy explained. These meetings were also dependent on the weather, which can be unpredictable far up the mountains in Kelkanka where rainy season often blocks transportation on the roads into town completely and snowfall is common.
The women needed a place to call their own to provide security for their meetings and trainings, as well as a place to store their inventory. In the future the center will help provide a safe, independent central meeting space, or even one day be used as a sales center.
When Awamaki recently held the first workshop at the center, the women all showed up early, excited to get inside. During the workshop, the women were enthusiastic; activities like group presentations, acting, and ‘simon says’ got them all smiling and laughing. “It makes me feel very cheerful!” said Eustakia, a Wakankilla artisan, about their new center. It makes us feel cheerful, too!