Meet Awamaki’s Staff
Shawna from Minneapolis, MN
A: What led you to work with Awamaki?
S: I found out about Awamaki through a friend of the family. I’ve always done short-term mission trips and volunteering so this was the logical next step, to work somewhere longer term and experience a different way of life.
A: What’s a typical day like at your volunteer placement?
S: I have a really varied schedule. I do a lot of media projects that involve computer work and can be done anywhere. I also work in our fair trade store and lead tours to Patacancha, which gives me a really good variety of work to do on a weekly basis.
A: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
S: I think each different task that I do has a different reward to it. Working in the store and talking to tourists that come in, I can impart a lot of knowledge about who we are, what we do, and why our product is different. Those sales directly benefit Awamaki as an organization. I see similar rewards when I lead tours to Patacancha, but in a more dramatic way. The tourists are fully exposed to the life and work of the women in our cooperative and get to see them creating products firsthand. On the media side I think that the rewards are more internal; the reward in finishing a design product such as new postcards for the store and having people exclaim over them and purchasing them is exciting.
A: How does your work with Awamaki relate to what you do in the US?
S: I was a Marketing and Events Manager for seven years before I came here, so that really ties into the media work that I’ve done here. On a personal level, volunteering for a non-profit really fits in with my life and what I think is important. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to donate my time and skill set to a non-profit organization.
A: What’s your favorite thing about Ollanta?
S: I love buying fruit off the jungle trucks on Tuesdays and I love the sound of rushing water all the time. The sequias and river makes a really nice sound and creates a calming atmosphere. I love that I can walk ten minutes and hang out, read, and knit in Incan ruins.
A: Have you participated in any of the Awamaki workshops?
S: I did the Natural Dye Workshop in Parobamba, which was a really amazing experience. It was such a beautiful, serene setting and Daniel’s family was really welcoming and sweet. I took all the yarn and am learning to knit, which was pretty cool.
I also did the Weaving Immersion Workshop in Patacancha. That was a really interesting experience, to be totally immersed in such a preserved culture where they still speak fluent Quechua. It is a really rustic environment in terms of cooking and amenities and utilities and things like that. The family that I stayed with was really welcoming and friendly; they were as interested to learn about me as I was to learn about them. Learning the techniques for backstrap weaving was really interesting and challenging. I had woven on a European floor loom in the past, but the backstrap loom is a really different technique.
I also took the Basket Weaving Class. It was a really great afternoon workshop where we got to make a hand-woven basket out of branches that Pancho cut from the mountainside. The best thing about it was to be able to have a completely finished product in a short amount of time that will be a really great keepsake.
A: What was your favorite trip in the surrounding area?
S: I took a trip with friends to Arequipa, Peru and Arica, Chile when I went to renew my visa. I really enjoyed the coastal town of Chile and getting to experience another country, but I really loved the architecture and beauty of Arequipa. We toured the convent and I think that was my favorite part of the trip…along with all of the ice cream.
A: What are your plans upon leaving Ollanta?
S: I am heading to Ecuador for six weeks to work with another non-profit called Amor Infinitivo, in the town of Montañita. I’m really excited to spend those six weeks experiencing another country and non-profit and seeing how their way of doing things is different before heading home for the holidays. Also, I get to ride horses on the beach, what more can I ask for?
A: What are you going to miss the most about your time in Peru?
S: I think just the peace of being here. I feel that stress is such a first world problem and my stress level has gone down tremendously since being here. At home I felt like I was always so busy; there weren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to get everything done. After being in the workplace and being out of college for a while, I felt like I could work 9-5 every day for the rest of my life but that I really needed something more. I needed this break to evaluate everything and I think it will affect how I look at things when I go home. I need to bring some of this balance of work and friends and downtime back to my life at home. The pace is life is much slower here and it’s been really rewarding. I feel like it was a year of rejuvenation.
A: What would you tell a friend that was considering volunteering with Awamaki?
S: I think it’s great to step outside of your comfort zone. Experiencing life in a rural setting like this teaches you a lot both about the culture and about yourself.