Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru

by Awamaki
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Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Capacity-building for rural women artisans in Peru
Our new home collection starts with these guys
Our new home collection starts with these guys

We are so excited to be getting back to work with our partner artisans. Thanks to your generous support we have started designing a capsule home collection. The idea behind this collection is to create something that appeals directly to the customers from our online store so that we can open new markets for our partner artisans.

Until COVID, most of our customers were tourists in Peru, and we didn't sell very much online in the U.S. Tourists in Peru, who bought from us and directly from the artisans, always loved naturally-dyed yarn and traditional Andean motifs in our artisan partners' textiles. Each of those textiles were unique and we only sold them in Peru. In the U.S., we have sold items with designs that blended Andean and modern styles. 

We have always gotten a lot of requests for this type of traditional Andean design in our online store, but we have never had the ability to create something traditional that we could produce at scale, which is necessary to sell online. Now, with your support, we are excited to be doing that for the first time and developing a collection of home items with beautiful traditional Andean motifs.

For this mini collection, we working with the artisans to create a very traditional Andean design in a contemporary product shape. We will have a collection of pillows but the star of the pillow show will be a very long lumbar pillow that incorporates traditional embroidery/stitching, as well as traditional designs. We will be using yarn that the artisans spin themselves out of alpaca fleece that we buy directly from our artisans and other area alpaca farmers--which helps us generate more income for our partners and their villages. We are planning to dye the yarn using traditional plant dyes. Our first dye workshop with the artisans is next week.

After the yarn is dyed, we will be working with the artisans to support their leadership with the pillow designs. Typically when we design a product to sell in the U.S., our Mexican-American-Peruvian (at heart) designer takes the lead and works with the artisans to incorporate their designs into a contemporary piece that is more popular in the U.S. With this piece, we will be working with the artisans in workshops to explain design principles and ask them to create samples based on examples and ideas, rather than explicit instructions. We have always worked closely with the artisans in the design process, but for this project we will have a series of trainings and then ask them to come up with the final designs.  


Your support for this project has been crucial. We are so grateful to you, not only for helping us bring a new product to market that will give our artisan partners a new sales channel, but also for trusting us to find a new way to do this. We are doing so many things we have never done before! We are weaving with a rustic, handspun, chunky yarn--usually used for knitting, not weaving--that our partners make. Not only are we weaving with it, but we are also dyeing it, whereas until now we have only used it in its undyed colors of black, brown and white. Our artisans are building new skills and developing new products as we do this. Finally, we are so excited to experiment with this new method of design collaboration. We think this home collection will be stunning and we are excited to bring you along. Thank you!

Yarn in the dye pot in a previous workshop
Yarn in the dye pot in a previous workshop
designer sketches to start sampling next week
designer sketches to start sampling next week
Kelkanca artisans will design the pillows
Kelkanca artisans will design the pillows
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Food delivery
Food delivery

This project report was written by Melissa Tola, Awamaki's Tourism Coordinator. Melissa has been in the Sacred Valley for the duration of the pandemic, assisting with food deliveries, artisan product sales, communications and many other jobs in the absence of tourism. 

 

Our partner artisans want to send you a very special thank you through this second year of pandemic we are all living. Every time we go and bring food baskets, they wait for us and share with us a big gratitude for people like you that continue helping them through these rough seasons.

 

With the beginning of the new year, we were hopeful that things will change a bit. Unfortunately Peruvians are becoming less and less hopeful of things getting better anytime soon. Due to political issues and a huge economical gap between regions, oxygen and ICU beds are hard to find in Cusco.

 

Ollantaytambo has been hit hard with Covid-19 for the past 3 months. People in town are very afraid. Some of them haven’t left their houses for a year and a half. With very little help from the government our partner artisans are having a hard time dealing with this. Hospitals, doctors or any type of health access is limited in the communities. If they are feeling ill or need medical assistance, it does not exist in their villages. There is a government clinic in town but it only has 1 doctor available and if you are in an emergency you will have to go to Cusco which is 1hr and a half away from Ollantaytambo. Getting a test for Covid-19 is only available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 11am.

 

The local government announced new variants of Covid-19 have been found in Cusco a couple weeks ago, many of the women in the partner villages are scared to come down to Ollantaytambo.

 

Vaccines have already arrived in Peru but cases have risen in the Cusco region and restrictions have been tighter. The government is talking about new variants and double masks and face shields are required to be worn in markets and  public spaces.

 

With vaccinations coming available in other countries, the borders have become more flexible and this means more people coming into Ollantaytambo. There is a lot of confusion and mistrust in seeing tourists back in Ollantaytambo. While this brings hope and gives them light, our partner artisans are very scared of going back to “normal.” Some of them will venture into the markets and sell their product, but what they earn is not nearly as much as they used to.

 

Our Awamaki team keeps working hand in hand with partners outside of Peru to give the artisans some extra income, but things are very different from other years.

 

With your contribution we have been able to share 632 food baskets to 5 different communities, since the beginning of the year. All are full of vegetables and grains that will help the women and their families build a strong immunity system. We are committed to continue to support our partner artisans in these times of insecurity and stress.

 

Once again thank you for your support and we will continue to keep you updated on our efforts to continue with food baskets.

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Hello all,

 

I am writing to thank you for your support of food relief to our Quechua artisan women partners and their families this year.

 

It has been a tough year in Peru, as it has been all over the world. Peru had a military-enforced lockdown that lasted four months, and the third-highest COVID mortality rate in the world. Our artisan partners went from successful entrepreneurs excited about their businesses, filling textile orders, and connecting with customers, to having little to no financial resources or food security besides what they had grown on their small subsistence farms. Their villages do not have markets, and transportation in the valley where we work was closed for much of the year. This means that the families had to survive on the potato harvest that they planted the previous summer, intended as supplemental food, or walk 4-13 hours each way to spend their limited savings at the market.

 

It was difficult to to know they were in this position. Their villages have made incredible strides over the past generation. When our artisan partners were growing up in these villages, school didn't go past third grade.  There wasn't a road or public transportation, so the 4-13 hour walk to town was part of life if you wanted to go to market or a health clinic. There were few ways to make money, and families relied on farming and barter. The women with whom we partner have been working so hard to give their kids more than they had, like education and food security. In all the impact assessment we do, again and again these are the main things they tell us they are spending their income on--buying food and sending kids to study. Now, with the pandemic, it feels like they lost a generation of progress in one swoop. Children can no longer attend school, the women are isolated in their villages without transportation, jobs have disappeared, and they are relying again on subsistence farming to feed their families.

 

Of course, this progress isn't really lost. I believe that tourism will be back, and the schools will reopen. The artisans are working with us at Awamaki to figure out ways to keep business going. But this year, they told us that they feel isolated and scared, and that without outside help, they had only potatoes to feed their kids. I am so grateful to you for helping us change that. The food you have provided this year has been a lifeline to our partners and their families, including the 522 children that they support. Your support was also hope and solidarity and a hand up at a time when quarantine measures left them without any resources from outside their small villages. Every time our team comes back from a food delivery they try to tell me how much this assistance means to the artisans and I have to say, as I try to do the same thing here--it is hard to fully convey what a difference this support is making to these families.

 

In 2020, thanks to your help, we carried out eight monthly food deliveries to 163 artisans and their families in four villages over the course of the pandemic. This is an incredible accomplishment, far beyond what we initially imagined would be needed or even possible. I am so grateful for your partnership in making this happen.

 

Unfortunately, we all know that the pandemic is far from over. Our team at Awamaki is committed to continuing food support throughout 2021 until the artisans can return to their businesses. It may be well into this year before tourism returns to Peru and the Sacred Valley, and our goal is to ensure that the artisans’ and their families’ basic needs are met until then. I hope you will consider joining us in supporting the food deliveries into the new year. We are so grateful to you for standing by them during this time.

 

Thank you and I hope your new year has been off to a good start. 

Eggs, rice, oil, and other staples
Eggs, rice, oil, and other staples
Artisan from Kelkanca in front of her home
Artisan from Kelkanca in front of her home

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Dear friends,

 

As the pandemic continues in Peru and across the world, we continue working to make sure that our artisan partners and their families have food security during this difficult time.

 

Back in March, we all hoped that life would be getting back to normal by this time. It is clear that is not the case.   Peru had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world; despite these drastic measures, it has also had one of the worst outbreaks anbd highest fatality rates in the world. After over three months in military-enforced lockdown, during which adults were only allowed to leave their homes for necessities, children were not allowed out to play, and basic services like public transportation and the mail were suspended, the country began the reopening process. Many regions, including Cusco, saw a quick resurgence of the virus. After only a few weeks, Cusco was out of ICU beds and cases were continuing to rise, and the reopening was paused or reversed.

 

Our artisan partners and the people of Ollantaytambo have been scared. The town is 1.5 hours from Cusco and doesn't have health facilities to care for COVID patients.  The people of the town have imposed a voluntary quarantine that they are asking surrounding villages, nearby towns and transport operators to honor. We are hoping that this will keep the people of the town and the villages from further spread. However, it does mean we are back to a situation where markets are inaccessible to our artisan partners and they are isolated in their villages without any way to earn income or access food beyond the potatoes that they planted last August and intended as supplemental to what they normally buy. 

 

When you and others contributed enough for four rounds of food distribution we believed that it would be enough to see our artisan families through this pandemic. It is becoming clear that the hardship will last for longer and our goal now is to support the families through the duration of the crisis and all the way out the other side. We are so grateful for all your generosity which has enabled us to provide this support so far. 

 

In the meantime we have been speaking to our artisans about what life is like in quarantine. They have told us about returning to older ways, supporting each other with the custom of Ayni. "There are many people working in the Ayni," artisan Simeona from Huilloc told us.  The principle of Andean reciprocity, Ayni means "today for you, tomorrow for me," and this idea has guided Andean life for centuries. Ayni governs how villages work together to farm each family's fields and share resources. In the pre-tourism economy, this shared community effort was necessary for small farming communities to survive in the harsh and remote Andes.   "Our grandparents used to practice Ayni, then the farms were abandoned," said Agripina.  Now, as the planting season begins, families are taking turns working in communal labor parties in each others' fields, trying to grow as much food as they can for the coming year.

 

They also explained how Ayni has guided other aspects of life. "There is no internet connection. We lend each other our cell phones so our children can take classes," Hilda from Huilloc explained. Artisan Gregoria from Kelkanca told us, "Ayni is done with food as well. We don't always have our pantries full."

 

These communities are strong and resilient. It is an honor to work with them and support them as they draw on their customs and the resources they have to build a better future, even facing the threat and uncertainty that the pandemic has brought.

 

Thank you for all you are doing to walk with us and our artisan partners through this difficult time.

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Dear supporters, 

 

We are writing to update you on the COVID situation in Peru and tell you how our artisans are faring. 

 

Despite early and drastic action by the government, the health crisis has spread rapidly in Peru. The country’s borders are closed and the tourism industry is shuttered. The stay at home order prohibits people from leaving their homes except once per day to go to the market, and public transport is almost entirely shut down. The lockdown is being enforced in the streets by the police and military. While restrictions are set to ease a little soon, the majority of the lockdown measures remain in force until the end of June at least. 

 

Our partner villages are isolated in their villages. Public transport has been very limited or nonexistent, and due to a death from COVID in one of the villages, the artisans and their families have spent much of the last two months in quarantine, unable to come to town or to reach the nearest market or store. Moreover, their families have lost their income. Our artisans depended on tourism for their livelihood. Through our programs, they hosted visitors and sold their crafts to tourists who shop in our store in Peru. The artisans’ husbands also worked in tourism, mostly as porters on the Inca Trail. Without tourism, their families are suddenly facing food insecurity.



At Awamaki, we are heartsick to see these strong, resilient women leaders go from independent entrepreneurs, working and supporting their families, to being unsure how they are going to feed their children. We are determined to accompany them through this crisis. 

 

Thanks to our donors, we have been able to support 160 artisans with deliveries of food baskets to our four partner villages, and we just started our second round of food deliveries. The food baskets consist of rice, oil, sugar, lentils, eggs, tuna, carrots, onions and other staples to supplement the potatoes that the artisans grow. We just started our second round of deliveries and we plan to deliver food to each artisan every two weeks until lockdown is lifted and for as long as we can afterwards. We welcome you to join us in this work by contributing. 

 

In the meantime, we are also working on creating new opportunities for our partner artisans to earn income, such as virtual tourism, selling their work on Instagram, and making improvements to our online store. 

 

It is all your support over the years that has put us in a position where we can be here for our artisans during this difficult time. We are immensely grateful to you. We know how much compassion and heart you have for our work and our artisans, and that knowledge buoys us. We are thinking of you, and hoping you are healthy and safe. 

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Organization Information

Awamaki

Location: Ollantaytambo, Cusco - Peru
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @awamaki
Project Leader:
Mary Kennedy Leavens
Ollantaytambo, Cusco Peru
$49,143 raised of $51,000 goal
 
830 donations
$1,857 to go
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