By Merel Haverhals, Monitoring & Evaluations Volunteer

 

Last weekend I joined a team of two other volunteers and the Awamaki Tourism Coordinator, Giulia, to complete a GPS mapping project. We journeyed to Patacancha, the community of the oldest and largest of our five cooperatives of female artisans, to conduct surveys and to take GPS coordinates. After settling into our homestays, we began the trek to visit the homes of each and every one of the 37 women of the cooperative to collect the GPS coordinates of the houses and information that will help us determine the standard of living of each of the women. While many women live in the village itself, some live up to an hour’s walk away. With our guide Rolando, the six year old son of Graciela Laucata, we trudged through potato fields and alpaca pastures to reach even the furthest houses, enjoying the stunning scenery of the Patacancha Valley along the way. Upon arriving at the furthest house, we stumbled upon a social gathering of some of the women of Songuillay (the cooperative’s chosen name) and were immediately invited to join them for tea and snacks. This warm welcome was repeated for many other visits, and we were soon quite full with homegrown potatoes!

The GPS coordinates and information that we gathered last weekend will enable us to digitally map all of the homes of the Patacancha women, and to match that information with data on their economic well being. This will further our effort to ensure that the benefits of Awamaki’s projects are enjoyed equitably among the many women of Songuillay. It was an enlightening and enjoyable experience to visit the homes of all of the women and to catch a glimpse into the routines of their every day lives. After walking a few kilometers in their ajotas (the sandals crafted from recycled truck tires that the women always wear, even in the winter), I feel that we gained a better understanding of a community that we work with.

Merel Haverhals is a Monitoring and Evaluations Volunteer from The Hague. When she isn’t busy writing her Master’s Thesis on Fair Trade & Women’s Empowerment she enjoys hiking to local ruins around Ollanta and occasionally through corn fields when she gets lost.