Project Independencia

Dorinda Dutcher began working with weavers of the rural community of Huancarani as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2007. She and local master weaver, Doña Máxima Cortez, have worked as a team since 2008. They provide technical assistance and market access to the rural weavers and run the Club de Artesanas (CdA) in Independencia that offers a variety of workshops and experiences to its members.

In 2010, the volunteer/internship program was started to bring technical assistance to Independencia, and to offer research, cultural, and technical exchange opportunities to volunteers. Volunteers and interns teach their own CdA workshops which allow them to build the relationships that lay the foundation to do research. Workshop activities of interest to CdA members are arts and crafts, and especially the fiber arts – sewing, knitting, and crocheting. 

Connect kindred spirits with marginalized rural Andean women and teens and their grass roots effort to benefit today from their ancient textile tradition and sustain it for the future.

Provide technical assistance to help rural Bolivian women and teen girls to help themselves.

Provide technical assistance to:

  • Support the grass roots effort of the weavers to preserve their textile tradition
  • Foster income generation for the weavers through market access for their weavings
  • Provide opportunities through activities and experiences for women and teen girls to discover and reach their potential

Who do they help?

The program works with the 25 member Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH). The weavers receive assistance in product design and quality for an external market that appreciates the skill, labor, and artistry of the weavings. Sale of the weavings is the one source of income available to the rural weavers struggling to reconcile their farmer subsistence lifestyle with modern needs.

The program also runs the 13 member Club de Artesanas (CdA) in Independencia. The CdA is project based and the women meet twice a week to work on individual or group projects. The teens meet half a day during the school year and join the women during vacations.

Working conditions
Independencia lies in an isolated valley of the East Range of the Andes, 220 km. northwest of Cochabamba at an altitude of about 8,000’. The bus ride from Cochabamba is 8 hours with 3/4 of the drive on a single lane unpaved mountain road. There is a single room for volunteers at the home Dorinda shares with a local family or lodging may be arranged at the nearby modern hotel. Transportation in this rural area is on foot or in the back of a cargo truck, so volunteers should be in good physical shape. This is a project for independent volunteers who are interested in being involved in a grass roots effort in a remote rural location.


Arts and Crafts Workshops
Volunteers participate in group CdA projects such as natural dyeing of wool skeins and soap making. They also plan and teach their own workshops. Technical assistance is needed to teach sewing classes. The CdA members have a high skill level for knitting and crocheting but lack resources to learn new patterns. Successful workshop ideas are: knitting, crocheting, needle felting, jewelry making, hair adornment design and construction, kiddie games, drawing and other art projects, etc.

Volunteers interested in learning to weave traditional figures may sign up for one-on-one classes with Doña Máxima.

Spinzilla Spinning Week (
Two volunteers are needed the first week of October to participate and support the weavers´ Team Warmis Phuskadoras. One volunteer will be a team member and spin with the 24 local participants. The other volunteer will be the social media coordinator.

International Development Interns
The CdA workshop format provides university students an opportunity to gain practical experience and investigate development concepts by teaching a skill to a group. Skills taught in the workshops need to be of interest to the participants but not necessarily related to fiber arts.

Volunteer/ Internship requirements

  • Interest in working at the grass roots level in rural Andean Bolivia with Quechua women and teens
  • Intermediate Spanish – Your language level will influence the effectiveness of  the workshops you teach and the quality of the cultural exchange
  • Fiber Arts Skills Preferred – Especially in the areas of sewing, knitting, weaving, crocheting, rug hooking, etc.
  • Be flexible, patient, tolerant, and motivated to work independently
  • Due to the remote location, volunteer should be healthy and in good physical shape
  • Minimum commitment of one week in Independencia, the program will not be prorated for less than 1 week