I found LLI a few months after graduating college while looking for an internship with a fair-trade fashion label, and ended up spending 5 months in 2017 working for Huaywasi. Huaywasi was born out of the success of the women's program of the Light and Leadership Initiative and involves 7 artisans, all women living in Huaycan.
The majority of my time with LLI was spent with Huaywasi and I am so grateful for this experience. I got the chance to know the artisans very closely, and spent time in their homes 2-3x a week working on patterns and samples for the upcoming collection. I became pretty close with a few of the women involved with Huaywasi and have come to think of them as family. While we were working we would talk about our families, our beliefs, relationships, friends, pets, work and art and so much more.
The one (hopeful) expectation I had before coming to work for Huaywasi was to see, no matter our backgrounds or the countries we reside in, that women have a sort of unwavering and intrinsic bond. I found this and more during my time with Huaywasi. There is a community here that transcends boundaries. LLI truly is a space for ethical cultural exchanges and that is one of the most beautiful things about volunteering abroad that you don't always find.
I returned back to Huaycan this year to do some more work with the artisans and spent some time talking with one of the woman who is involved both with Huaywasi and the women's program about the nature of LLI, and what it feels like to get to know so many different people from all over the world, albeit temporarily. And what she was saying to me was that it was a wonderful and enriching experience to get to know people, of all ages and from all over the world, and learn about our homes and different ways of lives.
So many of the volunteers come back after their time with LLI and I think that says a lot. This experience has an impact. And Lara has done a fantastic job ensuring that this program is for the community first, and for the volunteers second, which is the most important thing. The community in Huaycan is appreciative of the work LLI does and the volunteers of LLI have a really good reputation.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed my time living in the volunteer house. For most of my time, there were about 12-14 people living in the house and while there are definitely some struggles with living amongst this many people, we found ways to laugh it off and bonded over it. I made really close relationships with the volunteers and am still in contact with most of them.
I would highly recommend this experience to people of all ages, but especially to those who find themselves between graduating college and taking the first steps of your career. You will be humbled and empowered, as LLI truly does create leaders. This experience has given me more than I could put into words. Again, I am so grateful.