What is an Awamaki Media and Communications Workshop Like?

What is an Awamaki Media and Communications Workshop Like?

By Sarah Crable, Marketing and Communications Intern

After about two and a half hours of driving through the mountains, past herds of alpacas and stunning views of Apu Veronica, we came into a valley dotted with red roofs. As we (four volunteers, two permanent staff, and our driver) climbed out of the packed car and made our way towards the group gathered outside of the community center, we waved to the women of the Wakanquilla cooperative in Kelkanka. We exchanged greetings of “Buenos Días, compañera,” the way we normally greet our artisan partners and they us. Mercedes, our head of artisan cooperatives, descended the path to the center and addressed the women in Quechua. The women promptly erupted in laughter. We filed into the community center, a new stone building with a red roof, two windows with a view of the snow-capped mountains, and logs lined up around the perimeter that we used as chairs. A palpable sense of excitement and nerves from all parties followed close behind.

Once we had settled in, Mercedes asked us all to stand up and hold hands. Giggles abounded as we began to rush around in a circle, bumping into each other and flying around the room. “To introduce ourselves,” announced Mercedes in Quechua, then in Spanish, “tell everyone your name and why you are happy today.” We went around the circle, artisans and volunteers responding in a mix of Quechua and Spanish. “Nokaq sutiymi Sarah,” I introduced myself. A few giggles followed. Sara, it turns out, is the Quechua word for corn.

Before we could begin the workshop, our projector failed, so one of the volunteers held up a PowerPoint on a laptop for all to see. Justin, this summer’s Monitoring and Evaluation head volunteer, led the workshop in Spanish, while Mercedes translated into Quechua. We began by talking about the different types of communication—verbal, body language, written, and facial expressions—and practiced portraying different sentiments in these different ways. Once we had practiced effective communication, we discussed why each type of communication is vital in marketing. Several of the women took turns standing and practicing speaking and asking for what they want. We watched their smiles grow bigger the longer they talked, their posture more confident.

Before we continued with the social media workshop, we took a lunch break. Clusters of women chatted and laughed and shared food while volunteers milled about with clipboards to survey the women about their income, education levels, families, skills they have acquired or would like to, their experiences with Awamaki, and what they would like to see from Awamaki moving forward. A few men and women from the community translated from Spanish to Quechua and back again, allowing us to collect valuable data. Despite the language barrier and a few comical misunderstandings, we finished the break feeling like we had gotten to know each other a little better, collected good information, and feeling refreshed and ready for the next workshop.

This workshop included a basic overview of different types of social media and how they can be beneficial in business, advertising, and making connections with the international market. For the first group activity, we wrote messages and folded up paper airplanes to fly to each other to explain how emails work. Laughter erupted as airplanes dive-bombed into the floor before reaching their intended recipients. Still, I think it was a fun way to demonstrate sending an email, and helped break the ice a little bit. Afterwards, the women taped pictures on the wall to simulate posting a photo on Instagram, then taped little hearts to demonstrate liking a picture. The walls crowded with pictures and paper hearts as the cold air crowded with chatter. In our final demonstrative activity, a volunteer carried around a ball of yarn and asked each woman to cut off a piece. Each piece, he explained, represents a copy of a photograph you post online. Even when you delete the original, the photo remains in the hands of everyone who downloaded or reposted it. This activity, in my opinion, carried some of the most important lessons of the day, as it demonstrated in an accessible way what it really means to have your photo online, and reaffirmed to our partners that they get to decide whether someone can take a photo of them, and whether they can post it—a crucial thing to be aware of when working in marketing and with tourists.

After another round of survey questions and warm goodbyes, it was time for us to begin the journey back to Ollantaytambo. Though we did not speak the same language as most of the artisans, the smiles we shared and our interactions and experience that day forged between us a sense of community and trust. The women with whom Awamaki has the privilege of working take great pride in their craft and heritage, and excitedly shared with us their hopes for future growth.

Workshops like these aim to empower our artisan partners with both practical knowledge and confidence building exercises. This workshop series in particular is designed to expand our partners’ toolkit as they continue to share their craft, support their communities, and advocate for themselves.

About Awamaki

Awamaki is a nonprofit fair trade social enterprise dedicated to connecting Andean artisan weavers with global markets. We collaborate with women artisans to support their efforts towards educational and financial independence by co-creating beautifully handcrafted knit and woven accessories using hertiage techniques.