Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon

by Center for Amazon Community Ecology
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Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon
Support native artisans & rainforest in the Amazon

Over the past five years, some very talented artisan partners have steadily made more and more beautiful and life-like bird and butterfly ornaments with chambira palm fiber.  Our experienced facilitators have also been increasingly successful at showing other artisans how to make these ornaments at our workshops.  We have had a hard time, however, getting large numbers of these ornaments for sale. 

One of the main reasons for this shortage is that it takes a lot of time for even a good artisan to make one of these woven animals really well.  While more artisans can now make these top-quality crafts, some choose not to because other buyers will pay more for the same kinds of crafts made more quickly with less attention to the details.  Even our “rejects” are much better than the mediocre animal ornaments found in the souvenir shops in Iquitos.    

We are trying to charge more for our premium quality crafts to incentivize the artisans to do their best work.  This may work to some extent, but even socially conscious buyers have a limit to what they are willing to pay for a fair trade ornament. Fortunately, we are developing three new techniques with artisan partners to make their ornaments with greater efficiently, quality and consistency.

Artisans usually use a woven sample or photo as a reference to make a bird by themselves from start to finish.  In a workshop, a facilitator provides some guidance for this process, but even artisans working together often produce a variety of shapes, sizes and styles.  In the past month, we used a local version of an “assembly line” or "chain" process at two workshops to make four kinds of birds.  We first tested this method at Brillo Nuevo where our facilitator Pablo organized six artisans to make a batch of Atlantic puffin ornaments.  Two of them made six equal bodies and heads while their teammates cut and bent wires to make sets of wings, tails, and feet.  Once the main pieces were put together, individual artisans took over filling in the details under Pablo’s guidance.

The experiment was successful.  The group produced six puffins with higher quality and consistent design in much less time than it would have taken each person to do their own.  It also allowed one less-skilled artisan to make an important contribution to the group instead of floundering on her own. To be sure, this method requires good cooperation, coordination and appropriate division of tasks to function well.  The participants, however, all felt very good about their collective effort and results.

We repeated the process at the next workshop in Amazonas where small groups made woven ornaments of purple gallinules, kestrels and orange-breasted falcons.  Pablo showed three other facilitators how to use the “chain” process, and they all found it helped their groups make their bird ornaments in less time than their usual individual method.

****

Seven years ago, our artisan partner Doilith placed real butterflies on tracing paper to outline the wings and colorful patches.  She used these lines to shape the wire perimeter of the body and embroider the interior.  This method worked well, but it still took a fair amount of time to draw these patterns for a few dozen butterflies in one order.  Last month, we used Doilith’s drawings to make a rubber stamp for each set of wings for each butterfly she makes.  In one hour, she and a helper used these stamps and an ink pad to create templates for over 200 butterflies – a task that would have taken an entire day by hand. At both workshops, Doilith easily showed young artisans how to cut out the shape of each wing on the butterfly they were making and use it to make a high-quality craft.

Doilith’s innovation in progress is weaving a long solid strip of chambira fiber. She will neatly fit a series of wing templates on this strip and cut them out.  This process will then provide a tightly woven background for each wing and just leave the task of embroidering the colored patches and accents.  This process could be a game changer for artisans who would like to make butterflies to sell.  While it may not be worth their time to make one butterfly per day, it would definitely be worth it to make five or six.

It’s exciting to see our artisan partners applying their imagination and talents to increase the productivity of their process as well as the quality of their crafts.  Seeing an artisan making one craft at a time in their home alone has some poetic appeal, but very few artisans have so far been able to use their skills to do more than buy some basic things for their children attending the primary school in the village. We want to make it possible for dedicated artisans to send their children to a technical school or college if they want.

Wesceslao showing orange breasted falcon ornament
Wesceslao showing orange breasted falcon ornament
Blue crowned mot mot bird ornaments
Blue crowned mot mot bird ornaments
Amazonas artisan Joddy with a Papilio butterfly
Amazonas artisan Joddy with a Papilio butterfly
Puffin ornaments made with chambira palm fiber
Puffin ornaments made with chambira palm fiber
Rubber stamp templates for making butterfly wings
Rubber stamp templates for making butterfly wings
Doilith showing Bora artisan to weave a butterfly
Doilith showing Bora artisan to weave a butterfly
Maria from Brillo Nuevo with two woven butterflies
Maria from Brillo Nuevo with two woven butterflies
Marisela from San Francisco with purple gallinule
Marisela from San Francisco with purple gallinule
Purple gallinule chambira palm fiber ornament
Purple gallinule chambira palm fiber ornament
Orange breasted falcon photo and chambira ornament
Orange breasted falcon photo and chambira ornament
Misael and kestrel chambira palm fiber ornament
Misael and kestrel chambira palm fiber ornament
Marianela making bird ornament at workshop
Marianela making bird ornament at workshop
Chambira fiber strip with butterfly wing templates
Chambira fiber strip with butterfly wing templates
Edson making chambira bird ornament at workshop
Edson making chambira bird ornament at workshop

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WHAT A SKILL-SHARING WORKSHOP MEANS TO AN ARTISAN

One of the core activities that Amazon Ecology does in Peru is host skill-sharing workshops so artisans learn to make new kinds of crafts they can sell directly to tourists who visit their villages and expand their opportunities to sell more crafts to us and other wholesale buyers. After putting these workshops on hold for almost two years during the peak of the COVID pandemic, we have been organizing these sessions again in the Ampiyacu and Marañon River regions. Last month we conducted workshops in the villages of Brillo Nuevo, Puca Urquillo, and San Francisco where participants could learn to make a monarch butterfly, morpho butterfly or two birds which collectively included the great blue heron, blue crowned mot mot, peregrine falcon and the chickadee. The lead facilitators were our veteran trainers Edson, Pablo and Doilith with other experienced artisans from the communities taking one-day turns as apprentice facilitators.

Below are comments from two participants and one apprentice expressing what their workshop meant to them.

Magaly

“It is always interesting to try to make new crafts. I am used to making birds, bags and sometimes placemats, but I rarely try to make new models. In this workshop I was encouraged to make butterflies, and I think I did alright. The teacher Doilith explained things well. She was patient and attentive. I appreciated she was an artisan woman like me with concerns like mine. She does the best she can for her children to fight for her family to meet their daily needs. I was able to speak with her, learn from her and get to know her a bit. I liked that. I liked finding that we had so much in common. The three days of the workshop flew by, and in the end making my butterflies was a great experience. Thank you for that chance.”

Jhony

In my workshop I had the opportunity to be an assistant teacher for a day. It was interesting because I don't have many chances to teach what little I know about making crafts. I also felt a little pressured because I was surrounded by artisans who have a lot of skill, so I put forward my best effort. I approached each person in the group, tried to explain what to do, tried to be understood, and helped when they asked me for help. All in all, it felt good. It was a good experience to learn about myself and my ability which gave me more confidence.

Pilar

“I think my skills making birds are improving. The quality is improving, and I know it can be better still. That's what I try. I want to be able to make very pretty crafts that anyone who sees them will admire. Nobody forces me to come to these workshops. I come because I want to learn and see how my fellow artisans work. I want teachers to tell me how I can do better. By the end I want to have made a craft that I like very much. Then, when I offer these crafts to sell, there will be a better chance that someone will buy them. This is my work. I feel proud of what I made.”

Thank you very much for your support for our work to empower traditional artisans from the Peruvian Amazon, build resilient forests and strengthen their communities. We would very much appreciate any additional gift you can make to our project this Wednesday, July 20.

Wednesday, July 20 is a special Bonus Day with GlobalGiving when your gift could be amplified by other generous donors. Starting at 9 am (EDT), donations made to our page on the GlobalGiving platform from $100 to $499 will receive a 30% match; donations from $500 to $749 will receive a 40% match, and donations from $750 to $1000 will receive a 50% match. Matching funds will be available until midnight or until they are used up.

Thank you very much for your support.

Doilith teaching artisan to make a woven butterfly
Doilith teaching artisan to make a woven butterfly
Bora artisan Zafira with woven monarch butterfly
Bora artisan Zafira with woven monarch butterfly
Bora artisan with woven blue morpho butterfly
Bora artisan with woven blue morpho butterfly
Apprentice facilitator Jhoni at San Francisco
Apprentice facilitator Jhoni at San Francisco
Artisan at San Francisco with great blue heron
Artisan at San Francisco with great blue heron
Huitoto artisan Nicolas with puffin ornament
Huitoto artisan Nicolas with puffin ornament
Huitoto artisan with peregrine falcon ornament
Huitoto artisan with peregrine falcon ornament
Monarch butterfly woven with chambira palm fiber
Monarch butterfly woven with chambira palm fiber

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I recently returned from an incredible six-week trip to Peru that included one Artisan Facilitator Workshop, one Basic Artisan Workshop, one Guided Artisan Workshop, and two Training for Facilitators in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) program.  The artisan workshops all focused in different ways on helping groups of artisans learn to make high-quality ornaments representing eight species of Amazonian and North American birds: the great blue heron, snowy egret, blue and gold macaw, chestnut-eared aracari, American kestrel, marvelous spatule-tail hummingbird, roseate spoonbill, and northern cardinal.

The Artisan Facilitator workshop had participants from seven communities who spent four days together learning a bit about the anatomy of birds, how to make a simple drawing of a bird, and how to work in a group to weave bird ornaments with the same size, shape, colors and high quality. The members of each small group had to put aside their craft making for 20 minutes at a time to facilitate their group.  In this role, their tasks were to: explain, show, observe, comment and affirm.  It was intimidating at first for some intermediate level artisans to approach their more experienced peers.  They all learned, however, that the art of facilitating is not trying to be the expert - it is creating a dynamic where everyone learns from and receives encouragement from everyone else.

Our most experienced artisan facilitators Pablo and Edson led the Basic Artisan Workshop and Guided Artisan Workshop in the Marañon River communities of San Francisco and Amazonas with a different apprentice facilitator helping them each day. This gave Jhonni, Wenceslau, Ketty, Wilder, Francisca, Miriam, Maria, Raquel, Rosita, Marianela, Loidy, and Rotmelita a great chance to practice the skills they had learned in the Artisan Facilitator workshop in mid-February.  Edson and Pablo also improved their techniques for teaching the fine-points of weaving bird ornaments, how to help a group make crafts with consistent design and quality, and how to mentor apprentice facilitators.  The photos we took of the artisans at the end of each workshop showed the beauty of their woven birds and the pride they felt in making them.

The AVP Training for Facilitator workshops produced potent emotional experiences for everyone involved.  The lead facilitator team began each workshop with some review material, but most of the time was devoted to giving participants the chance to prepare and deliver a practice agenda.  Many of them had a serious case of the “nerves” when their team presented their session since it was the first time they had ever introduced or led an activity like this for a group.  It was also new for them to share affirmations about themselves and their teammates as well as share ideas for how they and their teammates could do better. They got even more in-depth practice on the third day when they were confronted with challenging situations (e.g. participants talking too much, getting very emotional, or failing to respect the ground rule of confidentiality) requiring tactful interventions and/or quick communication with their fellow facilitators.  It will be exciting to see how these apprentice facilitators improve their skills as they join full AVP and artisan facilitation workshop teams in the future.

Thank you very much for your support that makes all of this work possible.  Any contributions up to $50 made to our project on GlobalGving by this Friday (April 8) in the Little by Little campaign will receive a 50% matching contribution.

 

Artisan drawing a hummingbird for artisan workshop
Artisan drawing a hummingbird for artisan workshop
Small group planning their bird design
Small group planning their bird design
Group presenting their plan for weaving a cardinal
Group presenting their plan for weaving a cardinal
Artisan apprentice facilitator helping participant
Artisan apprentice facilitator helping participant
Artisan weaving a kestrel with chambira palm fiber
Artisan weaving a kestrel with chambira palm fiber
Edson reviewing woven roseate spoonbill ornaments
Edson reviewing woven roseate spoonbill ornaments
Great blue heron ornament by marsh in Amazonas
Great blue heron ornament by marsh in Amazonas
Marvelous spatule-tail hummingbird ornament
Marvelous spatule-tail hummingbird ornament
Artisan with roseate spoonbill ornament
Artisan with roseate spoonbill ornament
Marienela leading AVP facilitator practice session
Marienela leading AVP facilitator practice session
AVP facilitator practice team preparing agenda
AVP facilitator practice team preparing agenda
Affirmation thumbs closing at AVP workshop
Affirmation thumbs closing at AVP workshop

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To some academics, traditional medicine is the sum of knowledge, skills and practices based on theories, beliefs and experiences originating from different cultures, whether explainable or not, that is used to maintain health. This definition may fit well in a dictionary, but it may fail to convey its essence to the people who practice it.

Some people view traditional medicine as a form of magic.  Imagine you are in a tropical forest and get a cut on your leg.  Back in the village, a woman arrives and asks to be alone with you. She trims off a few pieces of your pubic hair, heats them over a fire and applies them to your cut. Then as if by magic, the pain in your wound disappears.  In "western medicine" we have drugs that can do the same thing, but in the middle of the jungle being treated with little pills would appear equally magical.

Now consider the COVID pandemic that began in 2020.  Thousands of people in Peru were getting very sick or dying from a disease that was difficult to treat.  The threat was huge in native communities whose small medical centers did not have oxygen tanks or respirators. What did they do?

They had to rely on traditional medicine to supplement whatever drugs from the pharmacy they had available.

We wanted to honor a request from the members of FECONA (the federation that represents 14 native communities in the Ampiyacu region) to come together to discuss how they handled the immediate challenges of the pandemic and how they could better prepare themselves for the future. Thanks to a grant from the GlobalGiving COVID Relief Fund, we organized an Integrated Health workshop in the village of Huitotos del Estiron last October to facilitate the sharing of information and skills related to both traditional and western medicine.  Each community was invited to send a "curaca" who knew traditional medicine well as well as their "health promoter" who was responsible for handling some medicines they had in a village pharmacy.

The first two days of the gathering focused on traditional medicine.  We first asked participants to consider: 1) what diseases and health conditions had they encountered?, 2) what types of physical traumas had they encountered?, and 3) what plants or other treatments had they used to deal with these conditions? Each question was first discussed in a small group which then shared a summary of their responses with the whole group. While plants accounted for most healing agents written on large papers, animal secretions and spiritual treatments were also mentioned.  It was clear that traditional medicine was not just based on following simple recipes.  The curacas talked about the importance of respect for the forest and the need to ask permission from the spirits of the forest to heal someone when they collected plants from it.

On the second day, small groups with a mix of curacas and health promoters walked around the village to find one or more plants they could prepare to treat a specific ailment. It was inspiring to accompany experienced curacas walking in the forest and see how much they enjoyed sharing their encyclopaedic knowledge of diverse ways to heal people with each other.  It’s important to mention they also mentioned how some plants can be used to harm someone’s body or spirit.  Each group took their leaves, roots, and pieces of bark to a home in the village where they chopped and boiled them to prepare a remedy. Back in the meeting room, each group showed the plants they had collected, how they had processed them and how they would apply them to be a healing agent.  With encouragement from the community teacher, several children recorded the presentations using tablets they had received during the pandemic.  We recorded notes to share with all workshop participants.

The final session gave people a chance to share their experiences with COVID in their community. The health promoter from Puca Urquillo Bora offered a heart-rending account. She cried while saying that almost everyone in her village got the disease at some point. Many people got seriously ill, and five people died. Most of the other communities also had high rates of infection and some illness, but fortunately everyone recovered.  A few communities had escaped unscathed - presumably because they had imposed and respected a strict quarantine on themselves that effectively kept the virus out. People also shared which plants they used to deal with the virus. These included varieties of lemon, garlic, ginger, pepper, and onion which are often used to treat respiratory conditions as well as a few lesser known medicinals. While people greatly appreciated receiving some medicines from the pharmacy (mostly from CACE), many people believed that using plants gathered from their backyard gardens and fields greatly helped them reduce the severity of COVID in their communities.

The second half of the workshop focused on western medicine was led by Sica – the health technician from the health post Puca Urquillo. This medical center serves the twin Bora and Huitoto communities there as well as other more distant villages in the region. During the peak of the pandemic, Sica and her small team did a titanic job attending to all of the patients who came.

Sica gave a two-day crash course in some of the tools that people at the front line of health care in the villages might use to assess and deal with COVID and other medical situations. They learned how to use some instruments to measure someone’s temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation.  They practiced giving injections on oranges and suturing wounds on a piece of paca (large rodent) meat.  After the workshop, CACE donated sets of these equipment to five remote communities with health promoters who were well prepared to use them. The session closed with fascinating discussions about how some conditions like snake bite and COVID could first be treated in the field with medicinal plants and then followed up with medicines from the pharmacy or other treatments at a health center if needed.

Here are a few comments about the workshop offered by the participants. 

Alcebio - curaca of Ancon Colonia: “I have learned a lot in my many years as a curaca, but it is always good to reinforce what you know. I heard my brothers talk about different treatments - some I knew and others not so much. I knew the basics of some western medicine like what pills to give, but I learned new treatments I could use. I liked everything we did especially having the chance to practice some things.”

Moraima - health promoter of Betania: “During the pandemic we applied much of what we knew, but we also experimented a lot. We had to try everything.  I came to this workshop to hear everything that others tried, and some were new to me. Medicine is a wonderful and complex thing. The knowledge of our ancestors is valuable, and our children should know it. This was an experience I had never had before.”

Clever – the health promoter from meeting host Huitotos del Estiron offered these closing words: “I think this workshop should be repeated every year. It is very important to continue sharing our knowledge because we are always updating it. Not everything is spoken in traditional medicine. There is a lot of knowledge, but there is also so much we don't know. Tomorrow someone will discover something new, and if it can be shared to save lives, it should be shared.  Western medicine also continues to evolve. New medicines, new procedures, new treatments. The health of the communities will greatly benefit if we can sit down to learn together every year.

The farewells shared by participants at this workshop were some of the most emotional we have ever seen. Many curacas had said they had felt discouraged for a long time that few if any people from their communities seemed interested in learning the knowledge they wished to pass along before they passed. They now had a sense of hope that at least some people in the younger generation were hungry to hear what they could share and continue to learn with them.

Two curacas discuss a medicinal plant in the field
Two curacas discuss a medicinal plant in the field
Small group discusses medicinal plant uses
Small group discusses medicinal plant uses
Collecting liquid from a wild banana for medicine
Collecting liquid from a wild banana for medicine
Scraping bark to make a medicinal tea
Scraping bark to make a medicinal tea
Boiling bark to made a medicinal tea
Boiling bark to made a medicinal tea
Woman describing use of a medicinal leaf
Woman describing use of a medicinal leaf
Small group collection of medicinal plants
Small group collection of medicinal plants
Curaca describing use of a medicinal root
Curaca describing use of a medicinal root
Workshop participants with medicinal plants
Workshop participants with medicinal plants
School children recording medicinal plant talks
School children recording medicinal plant talks
Plant medicines used to treat COVID
Plant medicines used to treat COVID
Learning to read a thermometer
Learning to read a thermometer
Learning to measure blood pressure
Learning to measure blood pressure
Measuring oxygen saturation to assess COVID
Measuring oxygen saturation to assess COVID
Learning to take blood samples to test for malaria
Learning to take blood samples to test for malaria
Practice giving injections on oranges
Practice giving injections on oranges
Practice suturing a wound on a piece of paca meat
Practice suturing a wound on a piece of paca meat

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Before we began our recent workshop on digital literacy, one artisan told us: "I have never used a computer." Here is how this story unfolded…

Since the pandemic began to recede in Peru, Amazon Ecology has been working hard to help form and strengthen artisan associations in many communities. Formalizing an association creates new opportunities for artisans to access scholarships, invitations to special craft fairs and introductions to wholesale customers. While talking with them about their aspirations and doubts about this process, we realized we wanted to help them get more comfortable with digital technology to meet governmental requirements, better market their products and tell their own stories. Thanks to a grant from the American Tower Foundation, we organized a workshop to introduce artisan leaders to the computer, social media and creative writing.

Given the large number of artisans who wanted to receive this training, we first brought 22 men and women from communities of the Marañon, Ucayali and Tahuayo river basins to Iquitos for the four-day workshop in late November. The second group of artisans from the Ampiyacu region followed them the following week. Morning sessions were held in a cyber café where everyone could use their own computer. In the afternoons, they gathered in the dining room of the hotel next door where they were staying to practice writing.

In the first few days, artisans in their early twenties through veterans over fifty learned some basics about the hardware and software aspects of computers with an emphasis on using the Word program to write and save a document. The second and third days gave participants guidance and practice writing about themselves, interviewing others, and crafting stories about their group and community. The final workshop module introduced them to social networks with practice writing content and using photos to publish posts that would enlighten viewers about themselves and their crafts.

Kiari, a young Bora native artisan from Brillo Nuevo told us: “I have used a computer before, but I learned many new things in this workshop – particularly new ways to use Word and Facebook. It was great to see older people at this workshop who were comfortable and willing to learn. The trainers were very patient with them which helped their self-esteem. This was really important since many of them had barely finished elementary school. This workshop was really good. When I return to my community, I want to share what I have learned with other members of my association.”

Kiari’s comments brought to mind reflections shared by Estelita who is an artisan leader from Chino on the Tahuayo River. “I used to be afraid of a computer. I had never been encouraged to use one, and while my children had some experience with one, I didn’t really care. But I came to this workshop to learn and found that I liked the computer. I could turn it on, turn it off, and use it to write. I'm not saying it was easy, but I found I shouldn’t be scared of it.”

Estelita continued, “I'd always heard of Facebook, but didn't pay much attention to it. This week I created a page for my association where I described and posted photos of our products. It was also nice to write about something that happened to me. I had told one story orally before, but when I wrote it, it became something else. It was a beautiful experience.”

Francisca, an artisan leader from Amazonas on the Marañon River shared a story she wrote during the workshop that motivated her to become an artisan. “I met my partner when I was young. At first he worked, and I stayed at home. He bought things for us, but I didn't earn money because I took care of the house. Once I was hungry and asked him for 3 soles (less than $1) to buy something to eat. He got annoyed, treated me like a girl and refused to give me anything. I felt so humiliated. It was like I had to beg for money. I remember that I cried from helplessness.

Francisca concluded, “After that incident, I decided that I didn't have to beg from him or anyone else. I was going to earn my own money. I first sold things that I grew in our little farm, and then dedicated myself more and more to making handicrafts. And it was the crafts, more than anything that gave me my own money. I became independent.”

At the end of both workshops, each artisan association received a surprise gift of a laptop computer so their members could continue writing and publishing more stories. We hope to organize other digital literacy workshops in the future which will expand artisans’ ability to effectively use photos and videos and learn to use Excel to track their income, expenses and inventory. We thank the American Tower Foundation and our supporters on GlobalGiving who made this workshop and our other work possible.

Bora artisan learning to use computer
Bora artisan learning to use computer
Ampiyacu artisan learning to use computer
Ampiyacu artisan learning to use computer
Artisans practice writing stories at workshop
Artisans practice writing stories at workshop
Amazon Ecology staff helping artisan at computer
Amazon Ecology staff helping artisan at computer
Artisan writing her story
Artisan writing her story
Artisan sharing her story in writing workshop
Artisan sharing her story in writing workshop
Huitoto artisan sharing his story
Huitoto artisan sharing his story
Artisan smiling behind a computer
Artisan smiling behind a computer
Francisca with woven chambira basket and ornament
Francisca with woven chambira basket and ornament
Estelita with chambira basket at Chino
Estelita with chambira basket at Chino

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Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Location: Lemoyne, Pennsylvania - USA
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Twitter: @Amazon Ecology
Project Leader:
Campbell Plowden
Dr.
Lemoyne, Pennsylvania United States
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