Project Independencia

Background

Dorinda Dutcher and the weavers of the rural community of Huancarani began working together during her Peace Corps service in 2007. The women requested assistance to rescue natural dye and traditional weaving techniques and to help market the weavings. Dorinda settled in Independencia permanently in 2008 to continue working with the weavers. In 2010, the volunteer/internship program was started to offer additional technical assistance in the fiber arts. At the end of that year Dorinda and weaver, Doña Máxima Cortez, began the Club de Chicas and Weavers to promote weaving and sewing skills in Independencia.

Doña Máxima Cortez is the weaving and dyeing instructor for rural workshops, Club de Chicas, and for volunteers wishing hands on instruction. She was born and raised in Huancarani and learned to spin and weave from her mother. She and her family reside in Independencia.

Objectives
The objective of Project Independencia is to provide technical assistance and increase points of sale for the traditional weavings in order to deliver income directly into the hands of the weavers so they can maintain their families.

Who do they help?
The program works with the Centro de Artesanía, Huancarani (CAH), the Organization of Women of Chuñavi Chico, and the Club de Chicas and Weavers in Independencia. The weavers seek assistance to preserve their weaving traditional, improve the weavings for an external market, and help reach that market. 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.

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 to 10 hours crossing the altiplano 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 working in a remote rural location.

Projects:

Fiber Arts Workshops
Volunteers may participate in the ongoing natural dye and quality improvement workshops or design their own workshops to teach. Any volunteer who spins, knits, crochets, rug hooks, or weaves will be able to bridge the language barrier. Technical assistance is needed to teach the use of the horizontal loom, sewing classes, product improvement and design, and teaching new knitting and crochet patterns. The weavers have a high skill level but lack resources to learn new patterns. Volunteers interested in learning to weave traditional figures may sign up for one-on-one classes.

International Development Interns
Dorinda’s work at the grass roots work provides an opportunity for university students to gain practical experience and investigate development concepts and theories 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 the floor loom, sewing, knitting, weaving, crocheting, rug hooking, etc.
  • Be flexible, patient, motivated to work independently, and tolerant
  • 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