Travel Notes

Winay Maki – Volunteering in Ayacycho

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Have you ever had a moment during one of your trips that has changed you or the way you travel? Something that has taught you something so important that it’s still one of the best memories you have?

This moment for me was when I spent almost three weeks in the outskirts of Ayacucho, living with a local family.

sign saying Welcome to the company Winay Maki

Like I said in some of my previous posts, before leaving I was planning to volunteer as much as I could, and so I created an account with Workaway. On this platform, most of the volunteering opportunities for backpackers entail working in hostels in exchange for food and accommodation. For this reason, when I saw about this volunteering opportunity, to work with a local artisan family, in exchange for accommodation and to learn how to create traditional Peruvian handicrafts, I jumped on it, and contacted the family straight away.

The Sosa family owns a small artisan business, where they create beautiful handicrafts, such as pillows, table runners, belts, hats, headbands, bags and more and decorate them with beautiful embroidery from the Andean tradition.

With the profit from this business, Ciriaco and Victoria are trying to set up an NGO to help people living in the area gain access to education opportunities and healthcare. The Sosa family really believes that everyone should do their best to make the place they live in a little better and this is why wit, through their work, they try to help people living in poverty in the region and are currently giving work to more than 60 people, who are thus able to sustain their families. 

The family was also hosting free English summer classes for kids and teenagers and is registered with Couchsurfing, to host backpackers and other people travelling on a budget.

After a long night bus all the way from Ica, we arrived in Ayacucho early in the morning, where we were welcomed by Ciriaco. He guided us to his house, in the outskirts of Ayacucho, which was going to be our home for the following few weeks.

Here is a summary of what we did.

English classes for kids

Every morning, from Monday to Friday, we were busy with teaching English to kids and teenagers between 6 and 15, in a room at the back of the house. A lot of kids started coming to the classes, which continued through the summer thanks to all the volunteers who kept coming to the house.

Everyday, at 11, we would have a break to play bandera, a game the kids really loved.

The reason why Victoria and Ciriaco are hosting this summer classes – which they hope can turn into a year long course – is because in the area, English isn’t taught in public schools. People living in the outskirts of Ayacucho often don’t have the possibility to travel to learn English, and even if they did, a private English course would cost the equivalent of 200 to 500 euro.

For people who wish to move to bigger city, such as Lima or Cusco, and work for bigger companies or in the field of tourism, a good knowledge of the English language is fundamental. It is for this reason that the family is trying to give young people the opportunity to learn English for free, thus giving them a better chance to find employment in the future.

Marketing of the Winay Maki products

After the English classes, although it wasn’t required by the Workaway description, we decided to help the family with the marketing of their products.

We built for them a more user friendly website, that besides selling their products, also explains their mission and what they are trying to achieve in their region.

At the same time, we took charge of social media to try to sell more products to people we knew in Italy and Ireland.

Selling their beautiful products is a fundamental part of the project their are trying to realise, since, it not only gives them the necessary funds to carry out community projects, but it also makes it possible to give more work to more people.

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Embroidery like the Andean people

One of the main reasons why I really wanted to apply for this Workaway position, was because I really wanted to learn how to make the beautiful products they were making.

In the few days I was there, it wasn’t possible to learn how to use the tools to hand weave, but Victoria taught me how to do some embroidered designs with a technique called bordado de punto relleno and cadenas.

We also learnt how to use natural colours and colouring technique, to make the products unique and have no environmental impact!

Volunteering and Couchsurfing

At Winay Maki, there are lots of volunteers that come from all over the world to help the Sosa family and support their mission. In exchange for this, the family shares their beautiful home and some of their artisan techniques, traditional food and help visitor improve their Spanish and learn the local traditional language, Quechua.

In addition, they offer free accommodation for travellers and backpackers who want to live an authentic Peruvian experience.

Living with this amazing family was the best way to experience true local life. Together we cooked plenty of traditional Peruvian recipes, including my favourite dish – Puca Picante. The nights there were so much fun: we played music, went to play football, play card games and learnt how to make bracelets.

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