Xela is surely one of the hot spots of volunteer work in Guatemala. TRAMA Textiles , which is a worker-owned women’s weaving association, will be more than happy to have you volunteer for them.
The Spanish word “trama” means “weft” or “binding thread”. However, the association’s perception of “trama” is extends beyond the definition itself. According to their website: “Our weavings clothe us, warm our families through highland winters, and carry our babies on our backs. They unite our people from generation to generation and sustain us as much as any food”.
As a response to the devastation from the civil war, TRAMA was established in 1988 as CENAT (Centro Nactional de Artesania Textile) with initial support from the Netherlands and Belgium.
As a member of the Association of Women for Artisan Development in Backstrap Loom Weaving, the goal of TRAMA Textiles is to support Gutatemalan women and increase their income by selling their textile products, while preserving the textile tradition of the country. Sololá, Huehuetenango, Sacatepéquez, Quetzaltenango and Quiché are the main regions that TRAMA is involved in.
Amparo de León de Rubio, 53, and Oralia Chopen, 34, are the only staff members at TRAMA textiles. Neither of them have a specific job description. According to Amparo, who came up with the idea to start an association, TRAMA has volunteers all year long. There are two or three volunteers at a time, and they are responsible for publicity, translation, website maintenance, or producing new ideas for marketing. Emanuelle Graciet, the current volunteer coordinator, said that, “TRAMA is basically run by volunteers”.
Applying for a volunteer position is simple. An e-mail stating your intentions to volunteer with your dates and duration of stay will be enough. Volunteer opportunities can be from one week to six months. There is no set work schedule, since your help is seen as a big favor. TRAMA can’t afford to provide room and board. They need Spanish speakers, but if you are not fluent in Spanish it is a good opportunity to practice.
Apart from the volunteering opportunities, you can also learn how to weave at TRAMA textiles and go back home with a piece of Guatemalan textile that you produce by yourself or you can shop from the store and contribute to the fair trade.