We are looking for a creative spirit with an eye for design, an interest in cultural immersion, and lots of initiative to share and implement ideas with a grassroots women's weaving cooperative. This opportunity is for a highly unique and integrative summer internship experience working and living alongside women weavers in a Maya town in Guatemala.
This is NOT a typical "professional internship" experience. This posting is authored by a longtime friend of the cooperative who speaks English and will be available for friendship, advice, and support. However, interns will be solely accountable to the women in the group, with the main contact person being Amalia, the president of the cooperative.
We will help the intern locate housing during his/her stay with a local family or on their own depending on preference and budget.
You will share ideas with cooperative leaders and find your own ways to implement them. They will need your support with anything technical (e.g. involving computers), raising funds for your project, and keeping the project on track. From the women, you will learn about local culture, backstrap loom weaving, and Tz'utujil Maya ways of life. You will learn by doing, gaining rich and nuanced experience in collaborating with local cultures in the development of their own communities.
About San Juan la Laguna and Lake Atitlán:
You will be working in the town of San Juan la Laguna, on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The lake is beautiful and draws visitors from the world over. It is flanked by small Maya towns, and each has developed uniquely in response to tourism. In San Juan there exists a conscious effort on the part of the community to locally control the fruits of tourism. Women are highly organized into weaving cooperatives, painters sell through cooperative galleries, the town boasts its own organic coffee cooperative, and most businesses that cater to day visitors are locally owned. The experiences these groups provide also emphasize education and promotion of the people's Tz'utujil Maya culture and its traditions. It is a very inspiring, lovely, and friendly community!
You will be surrounded by a wealth of options for hiking, exploring, and relaxing in surrounding communities during your off-time.
TinteMaya is a group of 25 Tz'utujil Maya women artisans. Most are masters of the art of backstrap loom weaving. The women use natural plant dye traditions that have been largely lost in most other Guatemalan communities. Most women in the group never received a formal education. Their native tongue is Tz'utujil. The women weave to earn an income to sustain their families and ensure that their children receive an education. Their ability to earn an income also grants them greater autonomy from their husbands and the ability to make spending decisions in their homes.
The group partners with local and international clients to export their textiles and sells locally through their shop on a consignment model by which the artisan earns an income when her product sells.
It will be your responsibility to be open to the needs of the group and determine where your skills and interests will align most effectively with those needs to determine a project or projects. You will then implement your project. You will need to fund your project or raise funds necessary to do so. You won't need to raise a lot of money to be able to have an impact, but it will help to raise or have a budget for printing, materials, etc. depending on what project you choose to implement.
Projects could be, but are not limited to:
- Help develop a line of textile art and open an online or Etsy shop, teaching our sales attendant how to maintain it.
- Train our president and sales attendant in computer skills
- Help implement a system for tracking inventory in Excel
- Provide training on processes that are essential to growing an export business: writing emails, managing time, customer relationship building, writing invoices, etc.
- Help our web design volunteer create a website and/or video for the group
- Develop and distribute flyers to promote weaving workshops in local tourist spots
- Implement ideas for making the space in the shop more organized, inviting, and appealing, or for better sharing the groups' impact story in the space
- Hosting design workshops with the women to share new product ideas
- Create a design inspiration board in the shop and fill it with images
You will be responsible for developing your project idea/s with our president and planning how to implement them.
- Spanish proficiency required
- Willingness to live in a way that is consistent with how local people here live. Although we're close to nearby towns with restaurants and hotels, life in San Juan is without some of the luxuries you may be used to.
- Willingness to be flexible and responsive is necessary for working effectively in Guatemala. You may make a plan, and then other things come up. Your ability to plan and structure your project/s will be a huge asset to the group, and you will also need to be flexible when needed.
- Be curious with a sensitivity as to when and how to move ideas forward given sometimes lack of resources or aversion to risk-taking within the group.
- Unique summer internship experience for college students interested in or studying textile design (with an interest in Guatemalan traditions), graphic design, anthropology, international studies, community development, or social entrepreneurship.
- Ability to develop and implement a project with little formal guidance.
Your service is a gift to us and there are no fees to participate in this internship. However, you will need to understand that the cooperative does not have the budget to support your service or your project. You will be expected to pay for your accommodation, meals, and to fund or raise funds (if necessary) for your project.
Housing and meals may cost $400-$500 a month depending on your spending habits.
A note on fees: the model of this cooperative is to give a high percentage of each sale directly to the artisan who made the product. As such, the group itself does not have funds to cover more than the most basic of operating expenses. Your project fee is a donation to the group. It is also intended to help you have access to necessary funds to help implement your project: printing, materials, etc. It may or may not be used for your project, but the idea is that it will be used for the general benefit of the group. You and Amalia can discuss ideas on how these funds may be used, and she and the women will be the final decision-makers.
You will receive:
- Instruction in natural dye processes and backstrap loom weaving, for you to learn alongside or in conjunction with your project/s
- Experience working in a grassroots organization with a very unique bottom-up model
- An understanding of Tz'utujil Maya culture and ways of living
- Relationships with wonderful people in an inspiring and welcoming community!
Areas of focus:
Calle 02CL (a la par de la tienda de buen precio)
Zona 1, Cantón Central
San Juan La Laguna, Departamento de Sololá, Guatemala
Start date:June 1, 2016
End date:July 31, 2016
Hours per week:30