This past winter break, I had the amazing opportunity to experience first-hand the good work that WWBM is doing. I, along with a fellow coordinator, Jen Wagman, traveled to Ecuador to visit a few of the different artisan sites that we work with and help them with various projects. In the last blog post, Jen talked about where WWBM is headed this semester and how our trip to Ecuador has shaped this direction. I am going to talk a little about the artisans we worked with and the adventures we had.
We landed in Quito on New Years Day, tired, but ready to start our journey the following day. The first portion of our trip consisted of a 5-hour car ride through the Andes mountains to a small town on the coast. For the next 4 nights, we stayed in a shelter in the middle of a dry rainforest reserve and woke up to howler monkeys screaming outside our window.
The first artisan group we visited was a soap making group called Bellinas Jabones, in Camarones. We spent half a day there helping them package their soaps with banana leafs and labels we printed off for them. They showed us where they grow the plants that make the soap, and talked about how their government is sending all the soap to the Galapagos because of the large tourism market.
The remainder of our time spent on the coast was with a group called El Bolso Magico, in Tabuga, that silk screens bags and t-shirts. Here we helped them with their inventory, visual store display, and they let us try silk screening as well (which is a lot harder than it looks).
When we weren’t working, we spent our free time lying in hammocks, learning new Ecuadorian card games, and hiking through the reserve. In addition to the monkeys, the reserve is full of exotic flora and wildlife, although, thankfully, we didn’t encounter anything too dangerous!
The next half of our trip was spent in the beautiful town of La Calera, back in the mountain region. Here, we lived with Flora for 4 nights and her sister Marisol for 2 nights. Both women are part of the women’s group, Sumak Muyo, that makes jewelry from local nuts and seeds. Here we were able to help the women with their social media skills as well as assist them in preparing for a tourist group that was coming at the end of our stay. We also had the opportunity to learn how to make the jewelry (which is harder than it looks!).
While in La Calera, we attended the grand artisan market in Ottovalo, the largest in South American, eat traditional Ecuadorian food (which included guinea pig for dinner one night!), and see amazing views.
There is still more work that needs to be done, but by visiting these talented, hospitable, and hardworking artisans in Ecuador, we were able to help keep our connections alive and hopefully make them even stronger!
This was blog was written by Sophia Goldschmidt.