About angiehodder

Threads of Peru is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization (ngo) registered in Cusco, Peru. The founding members represent the countries of Canada, Australia, and Peru. “Threads of Peru has been created to educate the world about the unique beauty and cultural significance of the Andean people and their textile traditions. Through the web, community tours, and international sales, we connect indigenous Andean weavers of Peru to a global market; contributing to the survival of this art form and to the health and well-being of the people that sustain it.” This is our blog where we write about our community projects and activities with community members. Our website it www.threadsofperu.com

Threads of Peru has a new Project Coordinator!

Sarah Confer has been travelling and volunteering in Peru off and on for the past 6 years. A textile conservator by trade, her passion for textiles extends beyond the storage houses and exhibit halls of museum to include the vibrant living traditions of today. She has travelled extensively throughout Peru, as well as the rest of South America, and is especially familiar with the Cusco and Sacred Valley areas. Through her experience volunteering with other similar NGOs in the area, she comes to Threads already with extensive knowledge of the traditional weaving process, and familiarity with the Quechua lifestyle and customs.

She is excited to work for Threads because she shares their philosophy of sustainable development, and values the effort they make to provide training and a steady market to women in rural highland communities. It’s a win-win situation: rural indigenous women are able to earn income from practising their traditional weaving, thus helping to support their families while maintaining their traditional way of life. It’s also a win-win for the global community. And Sarah’s glad to be a part of it!

When not roaming the Andes, Sarah likes to call Vancouver, British Columbia

Sarah helping out at the entrega in Rumira last Thursday.


Threads Volunteer says Goodbye

Frankie Ginnett volunteered with Threads of Peru from September 2011 to February of this year as a Project Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator. She recommends volunteering with Threads to others.  

I finished my volunteering time at Threads of Peru in February 2012 and have been trying to write my final blog entry ever since. It seems so hard to sum up six months of experience, then I thought how easily it would be to sum up a six month period in my own country; Family, friends, rain, and work.

The truth is that it would be impossible to sum this experience up so glibly and that’s what made it so worthwhile. How can you describe the excitement at learning about a wholly different culture surviving so high up that almost nothing grows, the encounters with women whose lives have been so different from my own and that can create bright & beautiful weavings using only the materials around them, the eeriness of hiking through an unknown landscape shrouded in fog with the rain beating down on you and llamas looking at you curiously, the colonial majesty of Cusco and the breathlessness that follows you everywhere, the noise of the food markets and the combinations you never thought to eat (pumpkin and aloe juice anyone?) and the constant presence of the grassy mountains encircling the city protectively. Impossible. After having some time to consider it though I believe that’s what made my experience with Threads of Peru so valuable, its nothing I can put into words but the change I feel within myself after seeing so many new and strange things, my own horizons have expanded and I look at the world through different eyes.

Throughout these new experiences I was also working in the Threads Office, working for and with people who were actually passionate about what they were doing, open to new ideas and always encouraging if things didn’t work out as planned.

The support from my co-workers really helped in the times when home seemed very far away and Cusco almost overwhelming, which is why I would like to thank them now. So thanks to Amanda, Ariana, Adam & Angie both for accepting me as a volunteer (despite some shaky interview timings!) and for making my volunteer period so rewarding.

Looking to visit Peru this year?

Threads of Peru has been working with its supporter, the trekking company Apus Peru for four years now – $15.00 of each Apus Peru tour goes directly to Threads of Peru and from us it goes towards helping the women in the communities.

For this reason we always encourage people that are planning a trip to Peru to take a look at the Apus website –http://www.apus-peru.com/especially since they are now offering tours with 10% going towards Threads of Peru!

Here’s what our friends at Apus had to say:

New Philanthropic Tours to support Threads of Peru work!

Its both excting and challenging to create a good itinerary for clients.

Apus Peru try to do it every day for their clients, as we design holidays that really become “trips of a lifetime” by working with people and finding out what they are interested in.

Now, Apus Peru have designed some itineraries that are genuinely unique and bring out the best in Peru so that visitors can see a different side of Peru – while contributing to a very worthwhile cause – Threads of Peru.

If you take these tours, you will directly support the people of the Andes! 10% of your overall tour price is donated to Threads of Peru.

These new Philanthropic tours include-

Andean Culture tour.  (14 days), this tour takes you from Lima to Lake Titicaca, and then onto Cusco where you will have the chance to visit remote villages (either by trekking or transport, depending on your fitness) where Threads of Peru works.  These tours have been created so that you can visit one of the many unique festivals that occur in Cusco, and are often not known about by the vast majority of visitors.  This tour provides a fascinating insight into the culture of the Andes.

For more info – http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/andean_culture_tour.html

Hiking through the Andes

Peru Family Adventure (11 days) The name says it all – with this tour, families can take part in a whole range of adventures together, from easy downhill mountain biking, getting to know llamas and alpacas,  to seeing where honey comes from, as well as learning more about how children in another part of the world live.   While a visit to Machu Picchu is a highlight, kids often love the jungle excursions in the Amazon where they can see many beautiful native animals.

For more info – http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/peru_family_adventure.html

A biker on the trail

Adrenalin & Adventure in Peru (12 days).  This is a tour for those who LOVE challenging themselves – and what better place to do it, than in Peru?  In a short 12 day trip you can paraglide, surf, raft, hike, ride, climb, rappel, and zipline!!!   It’s a tour for those who don’t necessarily have experience, but like to learn something new, all the while surrounded by the amazing culture of the Andes.

For more info – http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/adventure_adrenalin_tour.html

Paragliding into the sunset

We hope to see you soon!

Threads of Peru in the USA!

Hi all,

Last summer we had some young American students visit the weaving communities that we work with, we encourage these kinds of trips to try and spread awareness of the beautiful work the women are doing in these isolated places and their difficulty to make sufficient income from their work to allow them to continue. Two students from this group later contacted us to ask if  they could sell some weavings on our behalf in their schools fair trade sale. The girls has this to say about the sale:

‘Overall the sale itself was pretty successful, but overall I think the real blessing was being able to educate the girls at our school about Threads of Peru and Fair Trade. We were able to make a few presentations leading up to the sale. We also applied for a money from the funds that our school collects for dress-down days (when we are allowed to wear blue jeans or sweatpants if we donate a dollar). We’re very excited to donate all of the money back to Threads of Peru. The bracelets especially sold quickly, and we would love to sell them again next year.’

A shot of the fair trade market at the girls' school

Our products on the table


Working at the table to sell some Threads products!

Here at Threads of Peru we would like to thank Amelia Visnauskas & Maddy Masaryk from Hathaway Brown School for their hard work in helping to sell the items and for raising awareness in their school!

A (slightly belated!) 2012 New Years Message

Thoughts at the beginning of 2012 “How did I end up writing the New Year message?” I wonder, as I ponder whether a New Year’s message is about the past or the future… and whether its even a New Years message, when you are writing it more than 30 days into the New Year.

Regardless, I forge on deciding a New Years Message can be about both the past and the future.

2011 was a big year for us, as we employed a fantastic Cusco based Project Manager, Amanda Zenick, and were blessed with the talents of two great volunteers, Fani Karaivanova, Textile Project Assistant & Community Liaison and Frankie Ginnett Assistant Volunteer Coordinator & Project Assistant who have all contributed to advancing the project considerably.

Here you can see Amanda Zenick and Fani Karaivanova working hard to measure everything at the entrega

The idea of having more people “hands on deck” is to relieve the pressure and hours worked on the founders, who are still completely voluntary. What actually happened is that the Founders moved onto new projects, including spreading the marketing of the project further!

This year our Ebay store was absolutely beautiful, thanks to the design talents of Angie Hodder and Adam Foster Collins, and of a number of photographers in Cusco, including volunteer Lynn Dao. In 2012 we will be expanding into an Ethical Community store and hope in the not too distant future to have our own store on our website!

We also should make special note of our patient Master weaver, Daniel Sonqo who put in a sensational year’s work, enduring our requests for different styles and dimensions, and then transforming these requirements into beautiful weavings with the women of our different weaving groups.

Here you can see Daniel giving a talk to the women in Chaullacocha at the pedido, he is asking them what they would like to weave. Due to the heavy rain this talk takes place inside the greenhouse!

As I look back over the year, there are many small and large successes, but in short – we have achieved a lot and have a lot of people to thank, not the least everyone who “put their money where their mouth is” and supported us by buying a fair trade weaving.

Each year the Project takes a weather directed hiatus for several months (January and February) as it’s difficult, if not impossible, to access the communities where we work. So currently we are busy planning, budgeting and dreaming about what we can create for the project in 2012. In general terms – we would like our women to continue improving their weavings, and for us to sell more of their weavings, which will in turn bring a better quality of life to their remote communities.

An example of one of the beautiful ponchos made this year by the women we work with.

Happy New Year everyone!

Ariana Svenson, Co- Founder

Interview with Adam Foster Collins – a founder of Threads of Peru

1) What has been your most culture shocking moment whilst in the communities?

The most culture-shocking moment for me was when we were received in Rumira Sondormayo in the cold rain with a welcome dinner which consisted of a plastic laundry basket filled with about 20 types of potato; boiled and whole, accompanied with one hard-boiled egg; warm and still in the shell. As a special treat, we were also offered a dish of salt to add to the food. So there we all were, cold and wet. Eleven of us sat huddled in the darkened interior of a mud brick hut munching on the potatoes and eggs. And honestly, I have to admit, it was one of the greatest tasting and most memorable meals of my life.

A picture of Adam at Machu Picchu

2) What inspires you to work for Threads of Peru?

As a designer, I’m inspired by the idea that design thinking can be applied to any set of problems to the benefit of the situation – not only that, it MUST be applied. Even if the people involved are not “designers” as a profession. Design is the key to human beings figuring out how to move from a situation that they’re not satisfied with, to one that does satisfy them. Threads of Peru requires that we think about everything from human dynamics, to business management, to marketing and graphic design. The range of issues and the challenges they present – all aimed at the preservation and promotion of indigenous culture in Peru – is what I find so interesting.

3) What’s your favourite Peruvian food?

I really enjoy the fresh salsa that often accompanies meals in Peru. I also really love coca tea with mint.

4) And your least favourite Peruvian food (and why?)

Not so much a food, but a drink – coffee. It’s very difficult to find coffee prepared the way I am accustomed to (and addicted to) at home.

5) In your opinion where is the best spot in Cusco for visiting?

The restaurants and Churches surrounding the Plaza de Armas (Central Square) in Cusco are nice to visit, and I love the square at night; the way the city lights of the residential area are visible on the mountainsides above – like stars. Also the San Blas area, which is within walking distance of the Plaza, is full of interesting shops and local art and crafts.

The Plaza at night, lit up with the Christmas decorations!

6) Describe the happiest/most touching moment you have experienced in the communities?

For me, it was the first time we went to the communities, which the culmination of a design class project in Canada. Eleven students made the journey, and to finally find ourselves there with the weavers in the mountains for the first time was an experience I’ll never forget. It was snowing heavily for a while, and it was beautiful.

7) Your strangest/funniest moment from living in Peru?

Trying really hard to communicate in Spanish to an elderly woman at the market about spices I was looking for, and having her suddenly get exasperated with me and huff, “No Ingles! No entiendo!” (Until then, I thought I was doing pretty well…)

8) Biggest achievement so far?

For me, it has been to see the whole structure set up; from weaving workshops and buying in the communities, to the online store and the vast internet information site,  shipping and positive customer feedback from all over the world. It has required an incredible amount of work and creative energy to set up all of this infrastructure, and to see the structure finally functioning end-to-end is a great achievement for so few people to have built.

9) Finally, whats the main thing you wish to achieve in the next five years?

To be a fully self-sustaining organisation. To see the women’s sewing skills improve so that we can introduce more contemporary product design to our inventory, which will require more complex sewing.

Adam is a Graphic and Communication Designer, living and working in Halifax, Canada. Besides working as a professional Designer, he has been a teacher of Design for almost ten years. His interest in bringing Design thinking to bear on socioeconomic issues led to the creation of Project Peru, and to the collaborative development of Threads of Peru.

Our Christmas Chocolatada 2011

Every year in December Threads organizes a Chocolatada in Chaullacocha, the remoter of the two communities we work with, along with Apus Peru, a responsible trekking company which helps to fund our project.

A Chocolatada, as you might be able to guess from the name involves preparing a large amount of hot chocolate, which is shared out amongst everyone along with fresh bread buns. This is a form of spreading a little Christmas cheer to everyone in the community!

When we set out in the morning (3.30am!) for the long drive up through the Sacred Valley we don’t know what kind of conditions to expect, although I heard so much about the rainy season in Cuzco before arriving, this year has been extremely dry so we are hoping that we will be able to drive all the way to Chaullacocha.

However the combination of 11 people in one two-wheel drive van carrying enough hot chocolate and bread for 60 people along with the mud roads means that we have to stop around a two hour walk from Chaullacocha. Although we all get out and push, the edges of the road are literally falling off and rolling down the hill side so we decide walking is probably the smarter option.

We set off on the hike and although the weather is wet and windy the scenery more than makes up for it, it’s quite eerie walking through the deserted and silent landscape but then you turn a corner to find yourself face to face with a llama! The llamas themselves are utterly unmoved by these encounters.

Llamas on the trail to Chaullacocha

When we reach Chaullacocha bedraggled and hungry we set to work straight away cooking up the Chocolate in HUGE pots over little portable stoves, I can’t see how it’s going to work but pretty soon there are chocolatey fumes in the air and all the children are running around in excitement, their cups clean and ready in one hand. To try and distract their attention, Willy, one of the guides from Apus Peru organizes games for them, even though I can’t understand the Quechua instructions I can recognize the games from my own experience, cat and mouse and then later oranges and apples.

The children playing cat & mouse in the schoolyardPlaying oranges and apples!

All games stop when two enormous steaming pots are brought out filled with the creamy hot chocolate. A line quickly forms, all the children jostling each other to try and see the pots, even the grown men and women look excited although they hide it a little better than the children! It’s a hectic next thirty minutes ensuring that everyone gets a cup and a bread bun to eat, luckily we have brought plenty so we can satisfy even the children coming back for thirds, and there’s still enough to spare when curious people from the neighbouring villages drop in.

Fely cooks the hot chocolate

Handing out the hot chocolate to the kids

Everyone gets a big bread roll to eat too!

You can see the boys here enjoying their hot chocolate and bread roll

Thanks to the generous donations we receive, we were able to buy a Christmas present for every boy & girl in the village this year, trucks for the boys and dolls for the girls. The children have all seen the large sacks being carried in and are waiting excitedly to see what’s inside them.

The children line up to receive their presents

A guide from Apus Peru Willy hands out the trucks to the boys

From the point of view of an outsider it’s quite difficult not to compare my normal Christmas at home to the one we try to provide here. At home my nieces and nephews normally get around 10 presents each year, they unwrap one, say ‘cool!’ and then put it down so they can concentrate on opening the next present, compared to their blasé attitude its really heartwarming to watch the reaction of each child in this community. They approach with a concerned look, then a shy smile as the present is brought to them, then when they hold the present and know it’s truly theirs the massive smile breaks out and they run off shouting to their friends and holding their present close to them. The other volunteers get involved with handing out the presents and the shouts and yells are deafening!

Erika hands out the dolls to the girls

The kids sing a Quechuan song to say thank you

As a special gift this year, thanks to Tianna Meriage-Reiter and her husband Yuri we were able to give clothes to everyone in the community, for the young mothers especially this was a wonderful gift and I liked that we were able to give something to everyone in the community, even if it was a hat for their baby or just a hot drink on a cold day.

Every crams in to collect their new clothes!

As we set off on the long hike back to the car we were all exhausted, cold and dirty, however for the first time this year I felt that elusive Christmas spirit and excitement which as an adult is so hard to recapture, I think we all felt it as we had done something, something which Christmas is really all about – sharing what you have with others, and making other people happy.

A picture of me with the women as they line up to collect their clothes

Happy Holidays everyone!

Apus Peru & Threads of Peru would like to thank all the participants in this years Chocolatada, special thanks to Jerzy family for their contribution, again to Tianna Meriage-Reiter and her husband Yuri for donating the much needed clothes, to the Apus Peru clients who generously donated their time on the day and from year-round donations to Threads of Peru.

10 Questions for Ariana S, one of the founders of Threads of Peru, on Cuzco, learning Spanish and working in the communities!

1)      What has been your most culture shocking moment whilst in the communities?

I am used to the communities now, I don’t feel culture shocked too often. I feel instead that I am returning somewhere familiar.  However, I remember one of my first visits sitting in one of the stone houses, and the smoke filling up the room.  It was freezing cold and I was hungry, tired and alone.  The smoke was choking me so badly that I had to run outside and took deep breaths until the cold forced me back into the smoke.  The other shocking moment that comes to mind was doing a nits (head lice) check and pulling off the chullo (beanie) of a small girl and her head literally seething with lice.

Maria Quispe carries Molly on her back. (July 2010)

2) What inspires you to work for Threads of Peru?

I started this project when I was about to finish my Masters of Arts degree in Development studies, with a specalisation in Third World nations.  At first, I was inspired by putting my studies into practice, and the women and their remote circumstances.  The women, their environment and their weavings are very inspiring.

Now, I have not progressed any further with the Masters and don’t seem likely to in the next few years…because there is just simply too much to do with Threads of Peru! So now I am inspired by what we have achieved so far, and the things that we might be able to achieve in the future!

3) Favourite Peruvian food?

Anticuchos! I was non-flesh eating vegetarian for 8 years and lived happily for a year in Cusco before the mouth watering aromas of anticuchos on street corners at night finally got the better of me!  (I had sincerely not ever wanted to eat meat for such a long time, until the smell of anticuchos lured me!)   My second favourite is ceviche… also a strange choice for an ex vego.  Oh, and Chicharon!  (Deep fried pork)

The women take care of Molly in Rumira Sondormayo

It’s still one of my favourite things about Cusco, huddling with others around an anticucho seller and her hot coals, on a crisp winter night!

4) Least favourite Peruvian food (and why?)

Chuño.   I think it must be an acquired taste.

5) Best spot in Cuzco for visiting?

San Pedro market.  While the main market is OK, you need to get off into the back streets to feel the true market vibe.  San Pedro used to be crazy, with stall holders illegally squatted on the sidewalks, rubbish, litter and pick pockets.  I cried when the Municipality rounded them up and pushed all those vendors without permits onto cattle trucks.

6) Happiest/most touching moment in the communities?

Watching the women’s delight in playing with my baby.   I had never realized that while we, as foreigners are curious and interested in them, they are also fascinated by us.  As soon as we arrive in the communities the women take Molly from me, and play with her, inspect her, look at her skin and hands, discuss her clothe s and do all the things that I think that they would like to do with us!  (as adults).

7) Strangest/funniest moment from living in Peru?

I guess the longer I stay in Cusco the more it feels part of me…   it’s certainly a second home.  So as I go about my day to day business, I forget that to the Cusqueños I am just another gringa face, one of the thousands that fly in and fly out of Cusco every day.

I was recently in the market with my 8 year old god-daughter, who I have known since she was a babe in arms and shared much of her childhood.   We were shopping, asking prices, and trying to get an idea of some things that we wanted to buy.  We got a few extremely high “gringo” prices in a row and she turned to me solemnly and said, “Aunty, I think it’s time that I started to ask for the prices.”  Perhaps it was a little girl growing up, but it was also her recognizing the gringa in me.

Ariana visiting the communities & feeding Molly while she was a tiny baby.

8) Most embarrassing faux-pas when communicating in Spanish?

I used to teach English in exchange for Spanish lessons, at a local English institute.  I asked my class if they were excited about the class we were going to have.  They all looked at me blankly, so I asked them at the top of my voice: “Estan excitados?”  (Excitement in Spanish has a very strong sexual connotation…) I was literally asking them if they were turned on!

There are also lots of easy to make mistakes in Quechua, my most common being asking the taxi drivers to take me to Koo-che- punku (door of the pig) instead of the correct pronunciation, Koo-i-che- punku (door of the rainbow). That often makes them laugh.

9) Biggest achievement so far?

Everything we have done in Threads of Peru is a big achievement.  Taking indigenous women and getting them to weave items to specification has been very challenging… but then the marketing and sales aspects of the project have been big too. It’s an achievement not only because of how much has been done, but also because we’ve done it with a skeleton budget.   Every step of the way has been a massive learning curve.

Ariana and Molly in Palqaq

10) Main thing you wish to achieve in the next five years?

I’d like to see the project fully sustainable.

The first phase of the sustainability would be to have the project not rely on volunteer hours. The founders currently put in excess of 2000 volunteer hours a year, combined.  That’s a crazy amount of work!

The second phase would be to have the women taking control of the orders, quality control and delivery so that we can focus on the sales.   (and indeed have some of the women involved in sales and marketing as well.)

To watch a short interview with Ariana created by the LATA foundation please click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbcXLVlEgpE

It’s Christmas in Cusco…

Hi all,

We’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front this last week or so, because we are all preparing for the holiday period!

The lights are all up in the Plaza and even though the sun is blazing outside, everyone is still in a Christmassy mood…

Christmas in the Plaza

This Wednesday, we are going to one of the weaving communities, Chaullacocha, for our annual Chocolatada. We will be preparing hot chocolate with bread for all the children and hopefully spreading a bit of Christmas cheer! Photos and a report of this to come in the New Year…