Meet Awamaki’s Volunteers

Tessa, from Mountain View, California

Weaving Volunteer

A: What led you to volunteering with Awamaki?

T: I needed a break from New York City and working in fashion. I was looking for a way to be able to see a new place and travel, but also to volunteer. I wanted to do something that felt more positive than working in the fashion industry. Because I was working as a freelance designer in New York, I was able to bring some of the stuff that I’ve learned into my work with Awamaki, like creating drawings and line sheets.

A: What have you learned the most from your host family?

T: I learned a lot about how daily life flows here, and how hard people work. My host dad is a driver and he is only home a few days a month. My host mom works raising four kids and also sells goods at a stand outside the Plaza Leta. They also had a chakra where they grew corn, which I got to go and plant with them.

A: What is your favorite Peruvian dish?

T: I like the banana pancakes, my host mom made really good ones for breakfast.

A: What’s a typical day like at your volunteer placement?

T: I work in the fair trade store between two and four shifts a week and then I work on a variety of different projects. I knit and design samples for international orders.  At the moment I’m working on knitting a slipper sock pattern with baubles. Recently I’ve been attending the knitting cooperative meetings and helping to facilitate them. I’ve done some photography and created some graphics, like a map in our fair trade store that shows where the women’s cooperatives are and graphics for the weaving immersion book we give to travelers to illustrate weaving principles.

A: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

T: I enjoy talking to people that come into the store about what we do and why we are doing this kind of work. Those customers come away with a raised awareness about Awamaki, and then they will know and appreciate the fact that our stuff is different from what you buy at any tourist stand. Since I’m not up with the women everyday, that feels like the way that I can help Awamaki.

A: Have you participated in any of the Awamaki workshops?

T: Yeah, the Natural Dye Workshop. It was amazing. I also did the Basket Weaving Workshop and went on the Weaving Immersion Workshop. It was really neat to see the way that the women of Patacancha live and work. And it was nice to be included in their family, as an outsider and with a language barrier.  I think it made me appreciate the amount of work that goes into weaving, which doesn’t even include the time spent spinning the yarn and the dyeing and all of that. Going on these workshops made it easier for me to communicate to customers the amount of work that goes into our products and how difficult that work is.

A: What would you tell a friend that was considering volunteering with Awamaki?

T: I would say it’s an amazing experience. Even though it can be hard at times, it is really positive to put your own life and worldview into perspective by spending an extended amount of time in Peru.