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Shawna from Minneapolis, MN

Media Coordinator

A: What led you to work with Awamaki?

S: I found out about Awamaki through a friend of the family. I’ve always done short-term mission trips and volunteering so this was the logical next step, to work somewhere longer term and experience a different way of life.

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

S: I have a really varied schedule. I do a lot of media projects that involve computer work and can be done anywhere. I also work in our fair trade store and lead tours to Patacancha, which gives me a really good variety of work to do on a weekly basis.

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

S: I think each different task that I do has a different reward to it. Working in the store and talking to tourists that come in, I can impart a lot of knowledge about who we are, what we do, and why our product is different. Those sales directly benefit Awamaki as an organization. I see similar rewards when I lead tours to Patacancha, but in a more dramatic way. The tourists are fully exposed to the life and work of the women in our cooperative and get to see them creating products firsthand. On the media side I think that the rewards are more internal; the reward in finishing a design product such as new postcards for the store and having people exclaim over them and purchasing them is exciting.

A: How does your work with Awamaki relate to what you do in the US? 

S: I was a Marketing and Events Manager for seven years before I came here, so that really ties into the media work that I’ve done here. On a personal level, volunteering for a non-profit really fits in with my life and what I think is important. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to donate my time and skill set to a non-profit organization.

A: What’s your favorite thing about Ollanta?

S: I love buying fruit off the jungle trucks on Tuesdays and I love the sound of rushing water all the time. The sequias and river makes a really nice sound and creates a calming atmosphere. I love that I can walk ten minutes and hang out, read, and knit in Incan ruins. 

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

S: I did the Natural Dye Workshop in Parobamba, which was a really amazing experience. It was such a beautiful, serene setting and Daniel’s family was really welcoming and sweet. I took all the yarn and am learning to knit, which was pretty cool. 

I also did the Weaving Immersion Workshop in Patacancha. That was a really interesting experience, to be totally immersed in such a preserved culture where they still speak fluent Quechua. It is a really rustic environment in terms of cooking and amenities and utilities and things like that. The family that I stayed with was really welcoming and friendly; they were as interested to learn about me as I was to learn about them. Learning the techniques for backstrap weaving was really interesting and challenging. I had woven on a European floor loom in the past, but the backstrap loom is a really different technique. 

I also took the Basket Weaving Class. It was a really great afternoon workshop where we got to make a hand-woven basket out of branches that Pancho cut from the mountainside. The best thing about it was to be able to have a completely finished product in a short amount of time that will be a really great keepsake.

A: What was your favorite trip in the surrounding area?

S: I took a trip with friends to Arequipa, Peru and Arica, Chile when I went to renew my visa. I really enjoyed the coastal town of Chile and getting to experience another country, but I really loved the architecture and beauty of Arequipa. We toured the convent and I think that was my favorite part of the trip…along with all of the ice cream.

A: What are your plans upon leaving Ollanta? 

S: I am heading to Ecuador for six weeks to work with another non-profit called Amor Infinitivo, in the town of Montañita. I’m really excited to spend those six weeks experiencing another country and non-profit and seeing how their way of doing things is different before heading home for the holidays. Also, I get to ride horses on the beach, what more can I ask for? 

A: What are you going to miss the most about your time in Peru?

S: I think just the peace of being here. I feel that stress is such a first world problem and my stress level has gone down tremendously since being here. At home I felt like I was always so busy; there weren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to get everything done. After being in the workplace and being out of college for a while, I felt like I could work 9-5 every day for the rest of my life but that I really needed something more. I needed this break to evaluate everything and I think it will affect how I look at things when I go home. I need to bring some of this balance of work and friends and downtime back to my life at home. The pace is life is much slower here and it’s been really rewarding. I feel like it was a year of rejuvenation.

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

S: I think it’s great to step outside of your comfort zone. Experiencing life in a rural setting like this teaches you a lot both about the culture and about yourself.


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.


Sam from Rye, New York

Sustainable Tourism Volunteer

A: Did you live with a host family while you were here?

S: Yes, living with a host family was one of the best parts of my experience here. From a language perspective, it was awesome, three times a day I was guaranteed to sit down for a meal and be immersed in Spanish language. And culturally, I was really engrossed in the culture. At the end of the day I’m living with local people and that is my base, my home unit.

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

S: I’m a volunteer with Sustainable Tourism.  If I have a tour I’ll lead a Quechua Community Visit to the remote high-altitude community of Patacancha and teach people about Incan history, Quechuan culture, and the textile tradition. It allows people to gain an authentic Andean experience and also bring economic benefits and resources directly into rural communities.

A: What is most rewarding about what you do?

S: I think one of the most rewarding parts of the work is being able to bridge cultural gaps between tourists and local indigenous peoples. That’s been an integral part of my work here. I’ve also been working on a comprehensive tourism manual about Ollantaytambo, with a goal of creating incentives for tourists to stay here longer and gain a better appreciation for the town. The goal is to ultimately support the local economy and help increase the access of local business and individuals to the economic and social benefits of tourism that they may not have previously had the access to.

A: What do you do in your free time?

S: I like to balance traveling to other parts of Peru with really spending time around my family, eating long meals together and really practicing my Spanish and just getting to know people. And trying to sort of transcend simply speaking the language of people and be able to ultimately use my language skills to resonate with people and really be able to build meaningful relationships with them. I’ve played soccer with the cooks in the restaurant that my family owns, I’ve watched my homestay father in one of the lead roles of the Ollanta Raymi festival, I’ve been to one of his soccer games, and I’ve been to my little host brother’s birthday party. Just the little things are the most meaningful parts of my experience. And also I’ve been training with a recently retired UFC fighter who lives in town. I’ve been training jujitsu with him just about every morning and that’s been one of the most incredible parts of my experience so far.

A: What’s your favorite Peruvian dish?

S: I really love quinoa soup. Quinoa is great, called chisaya mama or mother grain, has all the essential amino acids that the human body needs. Another great thing about my homestay family is that I cook most of my meals in the kitchen of their restaurant and bond with the kitchen staff. I also love tamales, but I don’t know how to make them, its something I leave to the lovely ladies over at the market.

A: What are your plans upon returning home?

S: I go home for about ten days, spend time with my family and friends, do a lot of reading, and then I’m off to Sri Lanka to study this coming semester. I feel like being down here for an extended period of time has really helped me feel comfortable on my own and in the midst of travel and to be able to be savvy on my toes and to be able to rock it in different contexts. And I’m really excited to be able to travel again and have a little bit more of an academic focus and another really great cultural experience, so bring it on.

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

S: If you’ve read about the organization and the kinds of things we’re doing, between education, revitalizing the weaving tradition, harnessing tourism as a vehicle to help local peoples, then you should absolutely do it. It has been incredible, it’s in an absolutely beautiful part of the world. Awamaki has some really strong initiatives and is doing some really great work in the local community.


Jessie from San Antonio, Texas

Education and Weaving Project Volunteer

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

J: I take Spanish classes in the morning and then I teach English classes and computer classes. I also work two or three shifts a week in our fair trade store.

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

J: I’m working on an economic transparency initiative and that’s more oriented towards my field of interest, since I’m an economics major. So that was really cool and I think it’s a really important project. I also recently helped my computer students make Facebook pages, which they really enjoyed. They took pictures with me to use in their profile picture, so that was nice. And now we’re Facebook friends.

A: What did you enjoy most about living with a host family?

J: The food was really good. Lomo saltado is my favorite. It’s beef chopped up with tomatoes, onions, rice, and french fries. I also really like arroz chaufa, which is like a non-chinese fried rice.

A: What did you learn from them?

J: They’re big on family. Birthday parties are a lot of fun here. There’s a big fiesta with your family where everyone is dancing.

A: I heard you were in a music video, can you tell me more about that?

J: I’ve been going to Zumba classes with my host sister and her friend. One day I came home from work and my host sister asked if I’d be willing to be in a music video for her friend’s brother, who sings and makes music. I was like, “I don’t dance and I don’t sing, but I’ll do it.” In the video I sat there and played with my hair while he sang to me. I smelled some flowers and then we played with some cuy (guinea pigs) and giggled while we looked into each other’s eyes. How Peruvian is that?

A: Has your Spanish improved since coming here?

J: Definitely, if I don’t talk too much then people might mistake me for being more fluent than I am, which is nice. I took about 8 weeks of language classes and now I could have a conversation with a random person about just about anything.

A: What are you going to miss the most about Ollanta?

J: My family, fiestas, and food.


Amanda from New York, New York

Product Design/ Media Intern

Awa: What inspired you to volunteer with Awamaki?

A: I met Annie, Director of Awamaki Lab, two years ago at the first lab launch in New York. I was really into what Awamaki was doing and was following them for a few years. Then this opportunity to develop a short-term project design internship came up, so I came to do that. Since that was only going to be for about six weeks I was able to then go on and do other photo projects.

Awa: How does your work with Awamaki relate to what you do back at home?

A: I work as a freelance writer and photographer so it’s pretty in line with it. I do a lot about ethical fashion and sustainable design, and I’m really interested in social business and development and textiles, so it all fits together.

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

A: Being able to go see the actual communities that we work with and to see all the different aspects of Awamaki. Getting to do some stuff with tourism, some with Awamaki Lab, and some with the Weaving Project has given me an idea of how all the programs come together in the end.

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

A: I did the Weaving Immersion Workshop in Patacancha and really liked it. We went out and shepherded the animals and she taught me weaving in the fields. It was very genuine ‘this is how we are and you’re just going to be along with us.’ I made two pulseras and two chumpis while I was up there. 

Awa: What do you do in your free time?

A: I go hiking and I do my own side design projects. I’ve gotten a bunch of materials from Cusco and have worked with people outside of Awamaki on the weekends. There’s a seamstress here that I’ve done a couple of projects with. I’ve learned to knit, and just hanging out with friends. I never feel bored here, that’s for sure.

Awa: What are you going to miss the most about your time in Peru?

A: I think just the lifestyle in general. I feel like I have a lot more time here to do things. To walk to Awamaki takes about two minutes versus an hour of commuting. If you are self-directed you can get your work done and still meet up with friends for lunch, which never happens in New York, it’s just a grind. I really like the balance here. There are so many informal things here, like being able to work with a seamstress. And having people that actually still have manual skills is another thing that’s really neat, like seeing people working the fields with their cows, those sorts of images where you’re like, ‘what century am I living in?’


Felicia from Washington D.C.

Community Needs Assessment Volunteer

A: How does your work with Awamaki relate to what you study at home?

F: I am studying international development with a concentration in rural development and economic growth. Seeing that Awamaki is trying to reduce poverty through sustainable non-farm income generating activities, their work was right up my alley. 

A: What was the process of conducting community needs assessment surveys?

F: Each day was quite different. I started off getting to know the town and Awamaki so that I could set the objectives of the needs assessment with the executive staff. After designing and testing the survey, I spent about 10 days conducting surveys with the local community members.

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

F: The most rewarding aspect of the work that I did was having the ability to speak directly to local community members about their thoughts and perceptions on the community they live in and about Awamaki. It was a learning experience for me and taught me to set aside my own beliefs and biases in order to be as open and objective as possible. I feel like I also had the opportunity to learn more about the culture in a short amount of time by having the conversations I had with the respondents. 

A: What did you do in your free time?

F: I spent most of my free time just wandering about the tiny streets in Old Town Ollanta or strolling along the river. I also enjoyed using the time to get to know my fellow volunteers. Each person I met had their own unique background and reasons for being there. I found it fascinating that such different personalities and backgrounds all found one common interest. 

A: What are you going to miss the most about Ollanta?

F: I will definitely miss the tranquility and change of pace from my usual hectic schedule. I’ll also really miss waking up to the view of the Inca ruins every morning and the sound of the stream below my window. 

A: Does any specific interaction or event during your time here stick out in your mind?

F: I was really touched and inspired while conducting an interview with one of the Awamaki Spanish teachers. The woman I was interviewing was a single mother, educated in anthropology, but was no longer able to work in her field. She was struggling to put food on the table for her young son when she heard Awamaki’s announcement for Spanish teachers. Awamaki trained her and provided her with regular employment. She told me this story with tears in her eyes and it both broke my heart and gave me great hope that Awamaki is changing lives. 

*Felicia is wearing the Neili Mini from Awamaki Lab collection

A group of high school students from Austin, Texas work on a community development project in rural Peru. 

Best friends, Maddy and Christine, decided that they wanted to make a difference this summer. “I have a heart for kids,” Maddy says. The pair contacted Roadmonkey to help organize their trip and set the ball in motion. Awamaki interviewed Maddy and Christine to get a better feel for what inspired this trip, what their favorite parts have been and what lessons they will take away with them.

Roadmonkey ( frequently partners with Awamaki on their adventure philanthropy trips. Past partnerships have included the construction of Awamaki’s Patacancha Weaving Center, greenhouse construction in Patacancha and a community playground in Ollantaytambo. The community of Huayroncoyacpampa, where Awamaki’s knitting cooperative lives, had put in a request for a community playground about 6 months ago. Awamaki Executive Director, Kennedy Leavens, after talking with Road Monkey determined that this project would be a great fit for the eager group of 5 students from Austin.

Project decided, the students set about fundraising the cost of the playground project. They sent over 70 emails and over a dozen letters to acquaintances, friends and family as well as posting about the project on their Facebook pages. The donations rolled in and their project was funded. Destination: Ollantaytambo!

The group arrived in Ollantaytambo this past Sunday and was able to enjoy a trip to Machu Picchu before beginning playground construction on Monday morning. They expect to complete construction within 5 days and conclude the process with a community fiesta to celebrate. “I just want to see the reaction on the kids’ faces,” said Christine.  Maddy adds, “All the neighborhood kids have been here and they’ve asked us to help. They really want to be involved and we’ve met so many of them. I came here to interact with kids and help them and just seeing that, it’s like, THIS is why I’m here.”

Sustainable tourism initiatives are also being met as the group reinvests money directly into the local Ollantaytambo community by staying with homestay families.  When asked how they feel about Peru and Ollantaytambo Maddy said, “It’s so much different than anywhere else but the people are so nice and our homestay families are so welcoming. We’re always laughing and having fun at dinner.”  “This morning our homestay mom braided all our hair and our homestay father made us a special breakfast of pancakes,” Christine says.

When asked about cultural differences and the personal reward of service learning projects Christine said, “Everyone here is so grateful for what they have and I think, in America, they aren’t. Everyone just expects everything and you come down here and even though they don’t have hot water and the things that we take for granted, they’re still like the happiest people and it’s amazing to see.” “It puts everything in a different perspective,” interjects Maddy. Christine continues, “You go back (to the states) and don’t take everything for granted.” Maddy concludes by saying, “After I went on a service trip last year it was like an addiction. You crave to go back and help more. I feel like people here are so humble about other people coming in and helping.”

Each student is documenting their time here through journaling, photos and video. They will use these materials to spread the story of their trip upon their return to the states. “Our school paper is going to do an article so I think we’ll really be able to show our school what high-schoolers can do,” Maddy said. The students have gotten along really throughout this trip. Maddy continues, “It’s such a great group and we all work really well together. Coming to somewhere and working for something just creates a bond that you can’t even compare to.” “We’ve been talking about maybe doing something like this every year, with this group of people and somehow make it even bigger. Or I was even thinking about maybe bringing it back to our school throughout the fall and continue to raise money and keep it going even when we aren’t here,” adds Christine.

It’s amazing what a small group of youth can do when they put their time and effort into it. For everyone who thinks they’re just one person and can’t do a lot, take a look at these two teenagers from Austin and all that their compassion was able to pull together. We can all make a difference.


Top: Miguel, Awamaki

Back Row: Heather, Road Monkey; Marshall; Maddy; Christopher; Cathlyn

Front Row: Ann, Chaperone; Christine


David, IT Volunteer

A: What led you to volunteering with Awamaki? 

D: It was kind of randomness I guess. I was looking for IT volunteering positions in Central and South America and saw a posting on the website Idealist. I googled where Awamaki was and decided I would like to live in the Sacred Valley.

A: What does being an IT volunteer entail?

D: I’ve been programming a database application system for Awamaki, basically to track all their information on volunteers, Spanish classes and other things that go into running the organization. I’ve also been teaching computer classes to local Ollantinos.

A: What’s your favorite thing about Ollanta?

D: The hiking. Just being in the middle of this huge amazing valley with tons of places to go and tons of stuff to climb on.

A: What’s your favorite hike that you’ve done?

D: The Sun Gate or Canteras are definitely up there. Pinkuylluna is awesome, also Socma. The tallest hike I’ve been on is Ausangate, which was a five-day trip. We got up to 17,200 feet and it was amazing. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in my life. My second favorite is Salkantay. There you’re between two mountains over 20,000 feet high and looking up in awe at these huge towering mountains, when you’re already at almost 16,000 feet. 

A: Has anything surprised you about the culture of Peru?

D: Yeah, I mean, the idea that you should only drink hot water. And if you ever eat meat you have to tea afterwards or else you’ll get sick.

A: Has your Spanish improved since being here and did you take language classes?

D: I did take language classes and my Spanish has improved ten fold. When I first got here I had basic Spanish for getting around, but not even conversational Spanish really. Now I can partake in any conversation in Spanish and know what’s going on.

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

D: You live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and you are helping a great community that is for the most part really accepting.


Ingrid from Asuncion, Paraguay

Volunteer Coordinator

A: What do you do as the volunteer coordinator?

I: I answer questions from people who are interested in coming to volunteer here. I review volunteer applications and send them to the program coordinators. Then I send the future volunteers all the pre-departure information that they need when they get here. Once they arrive I do their orientation and help them with whatever they need.

A: What’s your favorite thing about your job? 

I: Meeting a bunch of new and different people.

A: How does your work with Awamaki relate to what you studied? 

I: I studied anthropology and Latin American studies in college. I’m from Latin America, so I knew I wanted to come back. I want to do a masters program in international education. Ideally I would like to manage volunteers or study abroad programs in the future. So working at Awamaki is the perfect experience for that.

A: What are some of your favorite things to do in Ollanta?

I: I like to go get amazing brownies and watch people get on the train to Machu Picchu. I also read a lot. I’ll go outside and find a really cool spot and read close to the river.

A: What has been your favorite Peruvian festival? 

I: I think Ollantay Raymi was awesome. There were about five hundred people all dressed up in beautiful and colorful costumes. They acted out a whole love story between Ollanta and Kusi Qoyllur in Quechua. The fact that the performance was at the ruins, an actual Inca place, was just amazing.

A: What are you going to miss the most about Ollanta when you leave?

I: The mountains and the landscape. It’s really nice to just be able to sit outside and have it be really beautiful and peaceful.


Carolyn from Louisville, Kentucky

Education Volunteer

A: What do you do back in the US? 

C: I go to the University of Kentucky. I’m double majoring in Spanish and International Studies with a concentration in politics of the Middle East.

A: Has your Spanish improved here?

C: Teaching English has definitely improved my Spanish because I’m forced to speak Spanish all the time, there’s no getting around it. And my homestay family has helped a lot with comprehension; they’re pretty fast paced when they are speaking.

A: What did you enjoy most about living with a host family? 

C: I really like hanging out with my little host sister, it was definitely interesting to hear about life from the point of view of a 12 year old Peruvian girl.

A: What is the most rewarding aspect of volunteering?

C: Definitely seeing the progress of the students. I’ll see them around town and they’ll speak English to me. It makes me so happy. It’s more than a student teacher relationship; I’m friends with some of the students. 

A: What do you do in your free time?

C: I go running a lot. I ran in a marathon in Pacasmayo, close to Trujillo, in northern Peru. It was so beautiful running through the desert. And coming down from this altitude it was so easy to breathe there, I loved it.

A: What are your plans upon leaving Awamaki?

C: I will be studying abroad in Chile for the next couple of months. When I get back I still have a year and a half left in school. I really hope to find a part time job where I can use my Spanish skills. I’m thinking about working at a legal clinic that helps immigrants gain their citizenship.

A: What are you going to miss most about Ollanta?

C: I’m going to miss the constant surprises. You’re always learning here. I’ll miss the sense of adventure I’ve found in ziplining, hiking, and exploring ruins; there are so many things to do. 


Names: Ellis, Daniel, and Joshua (left to right center photo)

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Positions: Health Volunteers (Dental Fluoridation Campaign)

A: What does a typical day look like at your volunteer placement?

D:  The beauty of this program is that there is rarely a “typical day.”  In the health program, we were doing anything from organizing medicine to helping patients at mobile health clinics.  

J: The three of us were in charge of a dental fluoridation program, since there’s no fluoride in the water here. We go to schools and give them a gel fluoride and a toothbrush, then show them how to brush their teeth.

E: And for all of them it’s probably the first time they’ve brushed with fluoride in their lives. We found that almost all of the kids have really advanced cavities.

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

 D: The most rewarding aspect for me was the freedom that Ayni Wasi allowed us to have.  We were responsible for designing this dental fluoridation campaign from the ground up, and it was so cool to be able to design and organize this program just how we wanted. 

A: What did you like about living with a host family?

E: My favorite part was how they truly thought of us as a part of their family. For instance, Josh was sick with some altitude sickness earlier; they were really sympathetic and brought him tea.

A: What do you do in your free time?

J: We throw around a football or a Frisbee, or play soccer.

E: Inevitably ten or so Peruvians will join in and dominate us in soccer.

A: What are some of your best traveling memories?

J: We all three took a nap on one of the terraces of Machu Picchu

E: Also, we were kayaking in the amazon in a one-person kayak

J: We rotated two in the boat and one swimming behind

E: and then we saw an Amazonian crocodile…

A: What are you going to miss the most about Ollanta?

J: The three of us have never been on a trip together and it made us really close. Everyday was an adventure.


Layla, from Apeldoorn, The Netherlands

Sustainable Tourism Intern

A: How long have you been working with Awamaki?

L: I’ve been here for four months and I have one month left. I have to go back to university for my last year. My major is sort of a mixture between sustainable tourism and tourism networks.

A: What inspired you to volunteer with Awamaki?

L: There’s a lot of interaction between with different people and departments, which makes it attractive. Everyday is different; it’s not like a regular office job.

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

L: I’ve led quite some tours to Patacancha. People always tell me it’s one of the best things they’ve done while traveling, which is very rewarding. Also, every time I go up to Patacancha, I see that the women are happy we are there. The rewarding part of working on a project is seeing the good results. I’ve been learning a lot here through working with the communities.

A: Have you participated in any of Awamaki’s workshops?

L: I went on the Parobamba Dye Workshop. The drive there is stunning. Daniel and his family have so much knowledge and the area is amazing. It’s a really tiny town where everyone is spinning or dyeing or weaving.

A: What do you like about living in Ollanta? 

L: It’s small but it’s also big. Small, because you know everyone in town. You always see friends on the street or at coffee shops. But it’s not claustrophobically small because there’s so much movement going on. You can go sit at the Inca Pool for a little while or go on a hike. I also spend a lot of time at home knitting. 

A: What will you miss the most about Ollanta?

L: The people. You know almost the whole town from living in a homestay family; everyone greets each other. The people make it feel like home, I’ll miss that.


 *Layla is wearing the Chusi Poncho from Awamaki Lab

Mothers Day in Ollanta | by Amanda Coen


Rather than Hallmark cards and personal gifts, Mother’s Day is a huge public celebration in Peru commemorating the women who make this world possible. 
Whether dancing in the square in Ollantaytambo,
Preparing chicken for 1,500 people in Chachora, 
Being honored by the workplace,

Celebrating with friends,
Taking a break with offspring close by,
Or making Chicha,
The whole country seems to have taken the time to celebrate.


Lady in the Sacred Valley


Lady in the Sacred Valley

After two lovely days in Machu Picchu, it was time to head back to Cuzco. But when my train arrived at Ollantaytambo station in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, I still had one thing left to do: meet one of the town’s most important organizations.

Yarn at the Awamaki store in Ollantaytambo Peru

Or rather, they met me. As soon as my train pulled into the station, I was welcomed by Layla, a volunteer with Awamaki, an NGO in the Sacred Valley that promotes women’s fair trade weaving and knitting projects as well as education, health, and sustainable tourism.

Market in Ollantaytambo Peru

As we walked up the hill from the train station to the town, Layla told me about Awamaki’s goal of empowering impoverished indigenous communities by promoting traditional Quechua weaving. The craft provides women with a sustainable income stream while promoting an important aspect of their culture.

Once we reached Ollantaytambo, Layla took me to the Awamaki shop. In it a myriad of woven goods ranging from belts to bags was on display. There was also a binder full of photos and stories about the local Quechua women that weaved the pieces for sale.

Woven goods at the Awamaki store in Ollantaytambo Peru

After admiring the weaving, we walked through the local market. Layla’s host family had a stall there, as did many others in the community. Above us towered stunning Inca ruins. A zig-zagging wall crawling up the hillside resembled the fortifications of a medieval European castle, while the terraced walls beneath it were all Inca.

Inca ruins in Ollantaytambo Peru

As we meandered over to the town’s main square, Layla told me that Awamaki offers visitors to Ollantaytambo opportunities to do home stays with local families. It also runs tours and workshops where people traveling through Peru can learn woodcarving, traditional cooking, basket weaving, pottery, and traditional loom weaving.

Town square in Ollantaytambo Peru

At the end of our walk, we settled in for tea at Le Esquina, a cafe and bakery run by some of the Awamaki volunteers. The place was busy with people sipping tea and eating pastries while catching up with friends or taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi on their laptops.

La Esquina cafe in Ollantaytambo Peru

After tea I said good-bye to Layla and hopped in a combi (mini-bus) to Urubamba. From there I took a shared taxi to Cuzco. My accommodation for the night was the Libertador Palacio Del Inka Hotel, a large luxury hotel by the Iglesia de Santo Domingo that had offered me a room for the evening.

Lobby of the Libertador hotel in Cuzco Peru

The hotel had a grand lobby and intimate restaurant on the ground floor. The check-in staff was friendly and helpful, and one of its members escorted me to my suite above. It was huge, and featured a large bed, sitting area, desk, and spacious ensuite bathroom. Some of the furniture was a bit small for the size of the room, but it was comfortable and provided more than enough places for me to spread out.

Room at the Libertador hotel in Cuzco Peru

I got settled in and went to dinner at a local restaurant that had come highly recommended by people I met in the Peruvian Amazon. My dinner at MAP Cafe was good, and after eating there I knew why it was considered one of the best restaurants in Cuzco. However, the terrible food poisoning that ensued put a damper on my enthusiasm for the place and its cuisine.

Dinner at MAP Cafe in Cuzco Peru

But it didn’t dent my excitement for the land of the Incas. My time in Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley had been one of the highlights of my trip to Peru, and I departed for Lake Titicaca the next morning knowing that I would be back someday. If nothing else, I would love to catch up with my welcoming hosts at Awamaki and visit their local weavers to see the traditional techniques in practice.

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