by Campbell Plowden
I generally don’t give away many of my old clothes because my size and fashion sense haven’t changed for 30 years and I wear my shirts until the collars are worn through. Other members of my family, however, do periodically clear out items from their closets that no longer fit them or their lifestyle and put them in a large plastic bag. My daughter once carted a batch of nice blouses and pants to Plato’s Closet in hopes of getting some money, but none were accepted because they weren’t popular top brands. We didn’t want to organize a yard sale, so it looked like four bags were destined for Goodwill. I had regularly taken some t-shirts and pants to our Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE) field assistants and their families in the past, but the stiff new fees to check a bag on Delta Air Lines made it too expensive for me to continue doing this on my own.
Two things made it possible for me to bring 100 pounds of good used clothing and surplus medical supplies with me to Peru this summer. The first was that my 17 year-old son Luke was going with me so we could use his strength and baggage allotment to bring one extra 50 pound duffle bag stuffed with these donated goods while I carried another. The second was that the “Do Good” Committee of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Friends (a group of Quaker teens from the mid-Atlantic region) pledged to raise $200 to pay for the extra baggage charges on our international flight to Lima and domestic flight from there to Iquitos.
We spent the first two weeks of our trip visiting Bora and other native communities in the Ampiyacu River region working with their artisans to develop new products, reforest chambira palm trees, create a communal dye plant garden, monitor the growth of rosewood tree seedlings and recovery of copal resin lumps and finish a community pharmacy built with funds from a CACE rebate of craft sales in the U.S. Amazon Field Volunteer Amrit Moore started making drawings of dye plants for an artisan manual. See CACE update for summer 2013 activities in Peru.
At the end of our stay in the village of Brillo Nuevo, we hosted an appreciation ceremony where we gave about thirty-five artisans a certificate in appreciation for their making handicrafts with the CACE project. The ten top sellers also received simple prizes (a toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, a pair of batteries, and a small tin of Vicks Vaporub). Our project manager Yully Rojas then distributed an equal share of the donated clothing to all of the women while the young artisan Maria filled and refilled the guests’ cups with bright yellow Oro (“gold”) soda – a special treat in this remote village.
Yully and I were both happy and relieved that this gathering had been much more fun than the first time we did this artisan “award” ceremony in 2012 when many artisans were sullen. This year women made jokes when Ines Chichaco won a prize again for being the year’s top seller instead of stewing with resentment. While Ines and another dozen artisans continue to make most of the woven crafts that we sell from Brillo Nuevo, it’s good to see that two dozen artisans, both young and old, now understand we are equally happy to buy creative and well-made crafts from them.
See related story about CACE donation of medical supplies to the regional health clinic at Jenaro Herrera.
Learn more about or donate to the CACE project in Peru at: www.AmazonAlive.net