Spotlight on Service - M.I. Burke - Peru
I work with a women’s artisan collective in a rural village called Chicón, about an hour’s walk from the small city of Urubamba. When Ricchariy Warmi, “Rise-up Woman” in the local Quechua language, began last January, several of the fifteen members did not know how to knit. One year later, thanks to the persistence of the women and some incredible volunteers who came before me, Ricchariy Warmi members produce beautiful woven goods, jewelry, and other handicrafts; sell their products locally in Urubamba, in several businesses in the larger city of Cusco, and soon internationally on a fair-trade jewelry website; and have become a tight-knit group that is, above all, a collective of good friends. My work with the women is primarily one of support and organization with the eventual goal to make the group self-sustainable by June 2011. I help plan and make products, organize finances, and market their goods to vendors. Another aspect of the women’s group is community building—we cook together, have gone on day trips to picnic or visit Incan ruins, and play volleyball.
In our first three months in Peru, Bridge Year Peru conducted and evaluated a diagnostic and voting process in our partner communities, Chicón and Media Luna, based on the Peace Corps model. We interviewed community members door-to-door about the needs in the communities, visited local schools, and spoke with community leaders and doctors about their hopes for Media Luna and Chicón. From this data, we compiled a list of viable project ideas that we then presented to community members in the form of a ballot. Again, we walked door-to-door, and we asked each adult to vote. Their choices were: vocational training workshops for young people, cages for guinea pigs (a common Peruvian food), a youth group, and playgrounds. Kenny and I are working together to plan and build the playground in Chicón and organize the youth group.
I also taught art classes in the Chicón preschool for a month. We made paper mache masks to put on a play, as well as journals, picture frames, Christmas cards, and bean, potato, and corn mosaics. So fun!