LeslieHetherington's Travel Journals


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  • From Toronto, Canada
  • Currently in Toronto, Canada

Promoting Inca-Inspired Peruvian Jewellery

This journal will record my volunteer trip to Peru to help members of the Inca jewellery-making cooperative promote their workshop tours and their jewellery in April 2012.

Safe Exit from Canada to Cusco and a Different World

Peru Cusco, Peru  |  Apr 08, 2012
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 Upon learning I was from Toronto, Canada, the cell phone salesperson at Lima's airport asked about our big festival: Movember (which is actually a fundraiser for Prostate cancer) but her enthusiasm was so cute. 

Having volunteered for various organizations in Canada but taught international development to post-grad students, I decided it was time to step outside my comfort zone and take a volunteer vacation abroad. 

After all the talk about how to stay safe in South America, the most frightening part of the trip was getting out of Canada. The flight was delayed by about 3 hours because as the airline director stated "the plane is broken.....and there is no technician who knows how to fix it." When another passenger suggested they might switch to a "fixed" plane to fly down the globe she told us it was unlikely. Fortunately, the plane as swapped.

After a 5 hour stoppover in Lima (with stores and restaurants open 24/7 and many sleeping bundles of people), I arrived in Cusco.  I was met by my homestay family, who spoke next to no English but were warm and friendly. We rambled in a taxi along a bumpy road with a 1970s-like wood frame truck ahead. I didn't see Indiana Jones, but could have sworn I was on his set.

My homestay was in Quispicanchis, a relatively affluent residential area (by Peru standards), which is about a 15 minute drive from Cusco's downtown core and historic area. At first I used taxis for a 10 minute trip to and from work four times a day (3 Soles or $0.90 USD/CND per fare), including the midday trip home for the main meal, before the 2 to 7 p.m. afternoon shift. After being "climatized," I made the trek by foot -- a hilly, half-hour walk - two to three times a day but always with a taxi home at night, as it was quite dark by then.

My placement was at the Andean Magic Art Jewelry Workshop (which they called a "factory"), a company with a strong focus on social responsibility. This Cusco-based company makes natural Andean ancestral alchemy jewelry – encompassing the healing power of metals, including 950 silver and 18k gold.  Since its start in 1974, the award-winning company has hired people from rural areas, who are often very poor, and given them an eight-year apprenticeship to become skilled artisans.  

My role was to first improve the guided workshop tours the Peruvian staff gave to primarily English-speaking tourists so that sales would improve. To do this, I was to meet the tour ladies, take their tour, critique it to the owners and then revise the tour and work with the ladies on the new script.  The owners thought this would take me most of my three weeks there to do this but I finished this part in about a week. 

In the remaining time, I outreached to tourist websites to tourist websites (e.g Trip Advisor) to get the jewelry company profile, wrote and built a website for them in English with the framework of a Spanish version (www.amajewelrycusco.com) connected to an online catalogue (that could be scaled up to ecommerce) and re-established their facebook profile.

As connectively was a rare thing and only available at my workplace, I gave up trying to post here but posted a photo and caption a day on Facebook. I've re-posted many of these photos and captions here.

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