Awamaki is an organization working to promote sustainable development in and around the village of Ollantaytambo, in Peru’s Sacred Valley, not far from Cusco and Machu Picchu. Its focus is on economic empowerment of disadvantaged Quechua women, and its efforts are a three-pronged approach: women’s cooperatives, sustainable tourism, and community education. Awamaki has been instrumental in recovering ancient weaving techniques in the area and in assisting weavers to market their products both at local crafts markets and internationally.

Awamaki’s program is a well-thought-out combination of volunteering, learning, and cultural immersion.Volunteers might teach English or computer skills, support a workshop that teaches household financial management or tourism hospitality skills, help out at the Awamaki Fair Trade shop, or even lead a hike through Incan ruins.

View of a weaver's hands looping thread around a loom at Awamaki in Ollantaytambo, Peru.

A weaver prepares the base of a traditional Andean hand loom. Photo © McKay Savage, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Those interested in working with children can lend a hand at the local preschool. Awamaki’s program is a well-thought-out combination of volunteering, learning, and cultural immersion, with six hours per week of Spanish-language instruction, group discussions on relevant topics of culture and development, and instruction in basket weaving, Andean cookery, and backstrap weaving. While fees are not cheap, a significant portion goes into the project work.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and described as a “living Incan city,” Ollantaytambo is home to a fascinating mix of Incan ruins and indigenous Andean culture. Thanks to its thriving tourism industry, there are plenty of restaurants and cafés, and endless possibilities for weekend explorations. Excursions to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and around the Sacred Valley are available for an additional fee.

Awamaki

Ollantaytambo, Peru
tel. 51/8420-4149
U.S. tel. 570/850-5260
http://www.awamaki.org

Application Process: Send an email or call, and Awamaki will send information and an application form. There is no minimum age to volunteer, and families are welcome. Awamaki has even helped enroll visiting children in the local school.

Cost: US$1,250 for three weeks, US$200 each additional week

Placement Length: Three weeks minimum.

Language Requirements: None. Language instruction is part of the program.

Housing: Awamaki offers a homestay program with middle-class families in Ollantaytambo. Volunteers have their own rooms and a private bathroom, and meals are provided by the family—coffee and tea with toast (and sometimes eggs) for breakfast; soup, chicken or beef, and rice or potatoes for lunch; and a smaller portion of the same for dinner.

Operating Since: 2009

Number of Volunteers: around 50 in 2012

Color travel map of Ollantaytambo City, Peru

Ollantaytambo City


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America.