The craftsmen and artisans of the northern Andes of Ecuador are heirs of ancestral indigenous knowledge such as hand embroidery, pottery and saddlery. For many years, however, these families have been generating handicrafts for intermediaries and middlemen who have exploited their labour for their own material and financial gain.
ALMAWA in its organisational context is made up of 10 partners and works with strategic allies such as the Vibrant Village Foundation, which supports payment for the trainers, and two Sarum Maky Yachay Associations (Ancestral Knowledge at Hand) which is made up of 60 embroidery members of the Angochagua parish. The Zuleta and Pesillo Women’s Association, made up of 80 women with extensive experience in hand embroidery skills passed down from generation to generation. 95% of the members ALMAWA are indigenous from the Quechua Cayambi-Caranqui village and the other 5% are mestizo families.
THE PROBLEM AND SOLUTION
The products generated by this collective of indigenous women create a sense of recovery for the cultural identity of their ancestral heritage. They also provide work and a source of income for the women, often mothers supporting their families, in a region that has high unemployment.
These fashion designs have an excellent reception with tourists, especially foreign backpackers, because the designs are inspired by native flora and fauna of the region. Nevertheless, the lack of machinery with modern technology (such as an electric sewing machines!) has restricted communities from scaling and increasing the production of these original designs, often limiting collections for the domestic market, which in turn prevents an improvement of the economic income of the families involved. Then there are the dozens of cases of international fashion designers plagiarising indigenous designs and then cashing in without supporting the creativity of the rural communities at all.
ALMAWA, however, is an innovative project intended to transform these ancestral designs into avant-gard fashion for the national and International market, using Fair and Direct Trade as well as efficient modern machinery to help strengthen cultural identity and lift communities out of poverty.
THE MISSION OF ALMAWA
Efficiently produce high quality clothing products of ancestral designs inspired by flora, fauna, and Andean Ancestral Iconography, with indigenous communities.
• Develop trusting relationships with responsible international Fair Trade clothing companies and online retailers that want to work with ALMAWA to sell high-quality clothing with ancestral designs while helping alleviate poverty in rural Ecuadorian communities .
• Strengthen the Ancestral skills of indigenous artisan women
• Activate community tourism by sampling typical and traditional food as well as make trips to emblematic sites such as Cuicocha lagoons, Yahuarcocha and communities such as Intag, Pesillo, La Esperanza, Magdalena.
• Provide an excellent and exciting learning environment for volunteers who wish to come and learn ancestral embroidery that has been passed down in indigenous families for generations.
PRICE OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAM
$600 per month
The volunteer project is between Monday to Friday and consists of participating in the Almawa workshop for two days a week and three days of community work.
– 1 month comfortable accommodation in the community with independent kitchen and bathroom facilities
– Day trips to local tourist sites in the beautiful Imbabura “lake province”
– 1 month of breakfast and lunch of traditional Ecuadorian food prepared with fruits and vegetables straight from rural organic farms
– learning techniques of embroidery, fraying, weaving, confection, types of dyeing with vegetable dyes etc
Volunteers participating in this month long project will get to take home a suit comprising of two or three garments. In addition, participants will also enjoy a cultural environment where they will learn techniques of sewing and harvesting, preparation of Andean foods, native recipes, they will be able to learn the native language of the region and practice their Spanish. You will also receive guided tours of the mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and communities.
This website is 100% not-for-profit - volunteers are encouraged to talk directly with the organisations doing the amazing grassroots conservation and community work on the ground in Ecuador.