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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

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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Our partner artisans in full production
Our partner artisans in full production

Today, we want to introduce to you our 2020 collection and share with you our gratitude for all your support. This collection is called Yanantin.

Yanantin is a powerful Quechua concept that describes a complementary equilibrium, the idea that polarities such as light and dark, male and female, and left and right are essential parts of a whole. These dualities are interdependent and speak to a reverence for reciprocity. All existence depends on this complementary opposition. 

Our designer, Alejandra, captured the Yanantin concept with contrasts in color and design. She shares with us "what has been revolutionary for our designs has been to involve the artisans in the creative process.  ... The process began with a concept that originates in the artisan communities and it’s through the artisan communities that we then retrieved the design elements we chose to work with."

At Awamaki, the concept of Yanantin helps us not only to understand harmoniousness in design, but also how when we come together and lift each other up, we can become greater than the individual. This idea is central to empowering women: together, we can do more. Together, we can lift each other up higher.

You have been an important part of our ability to produce this level of craft(woman)manship. The leather sewing machine that you helped us purchase last year has been so important for producing quality items. Your support also funds trainings so that the artisans can learn to produce high-quality weavings. Seeing our 2020 collection out in the world makes us proud and humbled. We could have not reached this stage in our production if it wasn't for you. We are so grateful for all you do and have done for our mission and our artisan partners. Thank you!  



Margarita and Maria Salome get the yarn ready
Margarita and Maria Salome get the yarn ready
Our new set of coinpurses! Yanantin 2020
Our new set of coinpurses! Yanantin 2020
Our new set of wristlets! Yanantin 2020
Our new set of wristlets! Yanantin 2020

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Sr.Tomas enjoys sewing process with new machine
Sr.Tomas enjoys sewing process with new machine

Dear friend of Awamaki, 

This week we are grateful for you! 

A few months ago, we asked for your support so we could purchase a more professional leather sewing machine. You generously supported us, and last month we were able to install the new machine! This machine will help us improve the craftsmanship of our leather bags for upcoming collection, and allow us to do more complex sewing projects so we can create beautiful, export-worthy products with our partner artisans’ weavings. We appreciate your kind help every day. This improvement in our production practices could not have happened without you.

Thank you!

Sr.Tomas proudly shows us his sewing progress
Sr.Tomas proudly shows us his sewing progress

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Senor Tomas sewing
Senor Tomas sewing

From the wool of Peruvian alpacas to the handbag over your shoulder, do you ever wonder how we go from traditional textiles to your favorite accessories? Exquisite weavings done by artisans like Gregoria don’t turn into our high quality finished products overnight. Insert Señor Tomás, a master-sewer with over 15 years of experience. “I learned how to sew when I was a little kid, working in an industrial factory,” he shared with us. About 27 years ago, Señor Tomás moved to Chinchero, Perú, where he encountered female artisans creating a myriad of beautiful textiles. Awed by the elegance of their work, he found his passions lay in the weaving tradition of the Andes. 

Señor Tomás started working with Awamaki two years ago, and he has established incredibly strong relationships with the women in our partner cooperatives ever since. He collaborates with them and teaches them how to elevate their work. Señor Tomas turns the  beautiful, traditional textiles that our partner artisans create into modern, useful pieces. He explained that, “for each bag, you need a distinct style.” These distinct styles allow for creative expression by the women artisans. To ensure standard dimensions, Señor Tomás notes “The women need to follow exact measurements to make sure our products are high quality.” He can often be found teaching them how to do just that and explaining why it is important.

Up until this July, Señor Tomás and our designers, working hard to create products that fully showcase the talents of our partner artisans, still struggled with an outdated leather machine. As Señor Tomás commented, “We have a lightweight machine [for our leather], but it doesn’t help us that much. Our leather machine is flat.” A more spherical machine would allow the bag to retain its shape while being stitched, better preserving our locally-sourced leather and allowing us to do the artisans’ textiles justice (and better fill our growing demand!). “If we had a better machine” he continued, “our products could be better quality, more durable, and more precise. We need this machine to make the best products possible.” 

On this past Bonus Day, July 18, with generous contributions from our GlobalGiving donors, we raised the $1500 necessary to buy a new leather machine for Señor Tomás and the women artisans. This means that he will no longer have to contend with a less effective leather machine, allowing Señor Tomás and our team to turn out products more efficiently and with more precision. This will increase our production capacity, which increases income opportunities for our partner artisans, and showcases their talents.

We want to express our deep gratitude to you for your continued support, belief and generosity. The new leather machine, like all your investments in our projects and in our artisan partners, enable over 200 women artisans to build thriving businesses, and earn a livelihood to support themselves and care for their families.

Senor Tomas cutting leather
Senor Tomas cutting leather
Our Inti Crossbody bag during production
Our Inti Crossbody bag during production
Sewing a strap
Sewing a strap
Tools and locally sourced leather
Tools and locally sourced leather
Inti textiles with artisan name of who made them
Inti textiles with artisan name of who made them

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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
$39,172 raised of $43,000 goal
 
688 donations
$3,828 to go
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