When I was making my itinerary to Peru a few weeks ago, I was sure I had hit all the highlights. Trip to Machu Picchu, check. Extra tickets to climb Waynapicchu, check (here is the official site to book). Place to stay at the Huacachina Oasis, check. Figure out how to see the Nazca Lines without being hustled or breaking the bank, check. I thought I had all of the angles covered. Then, I received an email from my friend Sarah who was going on this trip with me. She suggested that we do something that gave back to the local people directly. Now, why didn’t I think of that? I have always wanted to do something like this, but these days, it is hard to know who you can trust. It is equally difficult to find services which will enrich you, and benefit the local people without spending a fortune. Awamaki is an organization that truly benefits the local people in the Cuzco region near Ollantaytambo, Peru.
What the Heck is Awamaki?
Awamaki was started in 2009 as a program that would benefit the local women of the Patacancha community in rural Peru. The villagers, along with most of the people in the Cusco region are known as the Quechua, the descendants of the people which formed and expanded the great empire of the Inca. These people have depended on weaving as a major source of income and general living for hundreds of years. In modern times, however, the art and lifestyle is dying as modernization is pushing out the old ways.
To put things into perspective, many of the villages in the area still don’t have electricity or running water. In addition, ideas like currency were introduced just 6 years ago! Before 2007, they still used a system of bartering their goods for necessities. Awamaki aims to preserve the local people’s way of live, but at the same time, create opportunities to improve their social and economic situation.
I stumbled upon Awamaki while doing a search for things to do in Ollantaytambo, Peru on Trip Advisor (check out what they have to say). I must say that while I don’t always trust the recommendations, they hit it right on with this one. All of my research and my experience tell me that they are the real deal.
How can Awamaki and I help each other?
Awamaki offers a number of services and tours that directly benefit the local people. The one I did was a homestay with a family from Ollantaytambo (booking and more information here). This cost us 20 USD a person, which included 3 meals a day and was an amazing cultural experience, so it was win-win. I was amazed at how helpful the people at Awamaki were through email and in person to make sure we had a wonderful experience.
They however have a number of other tours and packages available, including volunteering and long term gigs. These include learning how to weave, learning how to cook Peruvian food, or learning Spanish or Quechua, the local language. Check out their website here and don’t hesitate to ask them more questions if you have any. It was one of our favorite experiences in Peru, and I am sure you will love it too, especially since it is benefiting those who need it most.
Why did this post sound like an advertisement?
Because it is! Well, kind of. I have never been inclined or inspired as much as I was with this experience to promote a product, organization, company, or service and I guess that once I started writing, this is how it came out. I am not about to go back and re-write the whole thing! I also wanted to show that it is possible for you to travel and make a difference at the same time, even if it is a small difference. This is why I will be launching a new section of my blog where I will periodically (read, very sparingly) promote a product, or service that can benefit the locals. One other service in Cambodia comes to mind, but more on that later. They will also be under the new category “Responsible Tourism” or on the top under “Make a Difference…”
[Note: The promotion of this company was not paid for or encouraged in any way by Awamaki and are my own personal thoughts. Just in case you were wondering. In the future, if a post is sponsored, I will note it as so.]