TRAMA Textiles has always depended on international volunteers to carry out the day-to-day running of our office. And it’s been great – we’ve had tons of volunteers from all around the world come to share their experience and help out the organisation.
But, now, for the first time, we have some money to pay for a permanent member of staff! For us, this is a huge achievement, and we’re really excited. Check out this great new opportunity on Idealist.org, and please share with anyone you think might be interested!
To celebrate, we’re reflecting on past volunteers’ experiences, and how the TRAMA Textiles experience has been for them. Check out what Will, Celia and Maria have to say about working for a fair wage cooperative in Guatemala!
Will – Volunteer Coordinator
Will studied Islamic Studies at Boston University. He started his manufacturing career in Los Angeles as a Process Supervisor in a beer bottle factory. After two years in LA, he moved to New York City and worked as Supply Chain Manager for an electronics company. Seeking a career change, Will joined the TRAMA Textiles team in May 2014, and is halfway through a 6 month stint as Volunteer Coordinator.
Will, What do you like about working at TRAMA?
Working at TRAMA has given me the opportunity to lead a diverse international team, with volunteers from all over world, as well as working closely with the indigenous Mayan women of the cooperative. I’ve loved the experience of working with people from so many cultural and linguistic backgrounds. I’ve also enjoyed testing out the skills and experience I’ve gained through my career in the US, and applying them in a different environment with its own unique challenges. It’s given me a great opportunity to develop myself professionally, and to use my skills to really benefit a small social enterprise. I’ve also loved living in Guatemala, and getting to know the country and the people. Living and working in Spanish has been a great experience too!
What would say the biggest challenges are?
Working cross culturally can be challenging. It can be tricky to work with people who have completely different backgrounds from you, and understand how different cultural norms can come into play in the workplace. But at the end of the day, that was one of the main reasons I came to Guatemala, to experience a different culture, and learning to work around those differences is all part of the fun.
How do you hope this experience will help you in the future?
I came to Guatemala because I wanted a change in career. I’ve always wanted to work for a international crisis relief organization like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, but I needed to get experience living and working in a developing country. While I’ve been here, I’ve really developed my creative problem solving skills, and reinforced my flexibility and ability to adapt to new situations. I’ve also gained and have solid first-hand experience of what it’s like to live and work in slightly more challenging circumstances, and the cross cultural experience has been really valuable. I’ve also learned the importance of keeping your sense of humor – it’s important to laugh when all the lights go off or when you’re squeezed 6-on-a-seat on a chicken bus! It’s all been great experience though, and the skills I´ve learned will be really useful in my new career.
Celia – Communications Manager
Celia studied French and Spanish, and then spent a few years travelling and teaching English around the world. On her return to the UK, she worked for 4 years as an Editor for Cambridge University Press and for Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity. She came to Guatemala to volunteer with TRAMA for 3 months as part of a career break in 2014.
Celia, What have you enjoyed most about working with TRAMA?
I love working with the women, and feeling that our work has a real impact in terms of growing TRAMA as an organisation and making sure all the women have enough work to support their families. I also feel really proud of the gorgeous products that we make – I love seeing new things come into the store! It’s also been a great opportunity to develop my skills in a different context and practise my Spanish as well.
How has TRAMA helped you develop professionally?
TRAMA has been great for my professional development. There’s a huge amount of scope for creating and leading new projects, and it feels really exciting to work out how I can use my skills to best help the organisation. I’ve had the opportunity to develop new social media platforms, get involved in photoshoots, and there’s loads of room for new ideas and creative suggestions which I really enjoy. Having some work experience in a social enterprise in Guatemala will be great for my CV when I get home too, and I hope it will help me get into more international work when I get home.
Any advice you would give to future volunteers?
Come with an open mind! Guatemala is a great place to live and work, but it definitely has its quirks! Sometimes we lose power in the office, and have to go to a cafe to finish off what we’re doing, and downloading or uploading photos can take all afternoon. It’s important to be flexible and look for workarounds, and most of all, stay positive when things are a bit challenging! Living here more than makes up for it though – it’s all part of the experience!
Marie – Sales Manager
Marie studied Psychology in Lyon, France, before moving to Dublin for a year to learn English. She then moved to the US for 2 years, where she worked in Sales and Marketing in New York City for a luxury chocolate brand. Marie came to Guatemala as the first stop on a round the world trip, and worked for TRAMA Textiles as Sales Manager for 3 months.
Marie, What has been your biggest achievement in your role as Sales Manager?
While I’ve been at TRAMA, we’ve worked hard to professionalise the organisation and improve our sales record. We’ve developed wholesale partnerships with a number of boutique fair wage companies, and have improved the look and feel of our Etsy store. As a result, our wholesale orders are up 980% and we’ve seen a 309% increase in sales on our Etsy store. But the best experience so far has been working with a major museum in Paris for an exhibit on Mayan culture – it’s so exciting to see our products displayed in such a famous place!
What has been the best part about working at TRAMA Textiles?
I’ve really enjoyed working with the team at TRAMA. It’s a really nice, supportive atmosphere and everyone is open to new ideas and suggestions, which means there´s a lot of opportunities to be creative. I’ve also loved working with the Mayan women in the cooperative – it’s a great chance to get to know people from a different background and learn more about their culture. I think the best part for me though has been using my professional skills in a different context. I feel like I’ve had the chance to test out what I learned in my other jobs, and use my skills to really make a difference.
What has been your favorite part of living in Guatemala?
I love Xela. It’s a beautiful city, and I fell in love with it straight away. There are so many great restaurants and places to go out, and there’s a really nice community of international volunteers and locals. It’s been fantastic to perfect my Spanish, and get to know people from all over the world, as well as from Guatemala. I’ve loved getting to know the women in the cooperative – tourists don’t usually get to know people from indigenous Guatemalan culture, so I feel really lucky to have experienced that. I’ve travelled all over Guatemala while I’ve been here, but the Western highlands has a special place in my heart!
Work with us!
As well as our fantastic new paid job, we are always looking for experienced volunteers to come join us here at Trama. We have some great opportunities, and don’t charge any fees for our placements. Check out what’s available now on Idealist.org.
You can support us by visiting our Etsy store, to see some of our amazing handwoven fair wage accessories and homeware, made by the women in our 100% worker-owned weaving cooperative.
Stay in touch!
If you’d like to stay in touch, check out our Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We share great photos of our products and the amazing women we work with, as well as all the latest Trama and fair wage news!