INTERVIEW WITH OUR VOLUNTEER: CLEMMIE DESMONS
Hola! My name is Clemmie, I am half French / half English, I am 37, I live in London but grew up in the south of France. I work as a French, Spanish and International Development teacher. I have just completed my Masters in Education, Gender and International Development at UCL.
Let's get started!
What brings you to Guatemala?
I am on sabbatical for a year. The original plan was to go around the world… but in the end, I only managed to leave Europe in January after getting stuck in 5 consecutive lockdowns! Luckily I could fly to Costa Rica, then I went to Mexico and now I am delighted to be here. Next on the list is Ecuador, I'm very excited!
How did you find out about Trama Textiles?
I was searching for a workaway experience which would ideally be helping women. Naturally, not many projects are currently available, so when I came across this opportunity I couldn't believe it and got in touch immediately! I was thrilled when Kerri got back to me and what is more, we found out that we’d both been to the same NGO in Zanzibar - such a coincidence!
What have you learned during your time with us?
I’ve learned about the running of a small NGO, how to run a shop, as well as the rich history and art of backstrap loom weaving.
If you could live anywhere, where would you choose?
I’ve been asking myself this for the last 10 years..! I think it’s a tossup between Italy and Mexico, though I’m currently leaning towards the latter... Latin America has once again captured my heart!
What are your top 3 hobbies?
I am passionate about traveling, cooking and reading.
What aspects of volunteering here have you most enjoyed?
I have really enjoyed getting to know Kerri, Amparo and Oralia. Learning about this traditional art has been fascinating, particularly the meaning of the Mayan symbols and how each village has its own specific designs. Redecorating the shop was lots of fun too!
How are you finding life in Quetzaltenango?
I like it here more and more every day, it’s a town that slowly reveals its treasures to you. The 5pm alcohol ban has a significantly quieting effect on the town - I gather it’s usually quite pumping! What has been great is getting back into salsa, and the hills all around make for excellent weekend treks. A top experience was the natural sauna with steam coming straight from the volcano! The pacas (thrift store) are fantastic too.
What is your motto?
I have two: Don’t let fear hold you back but don’t take any unnecessary risks / Always make an effort.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
Female empowerment isn’t easy to measure or quantify, but in general terms I would say that gaining (at least some) education and financial independence are the key foundation stones. At the top of the pyramid of empowerment, I would place total gender equality. What I find interesting is how every single woman in the world is concerned, whether you come from a Guatemalan rural community or a global north metropolis. With regards to my own journey, I will consider myself empowered when I am no longer concerned about men’s opinion of me, Hence, I will try to always speak honestly and act according to my personal values.
What would you say to other volunteers?
That you should absolutely come here! Trama textiles´ mission and work is outstanding and it feels great to be able to contribute towards it, in whatever way you can. Don’t let the pandemic put you off, it is possible to travel here despite the restrictions. Lastly, I would encourage you to learn some Spanish so that you can get to know Amparo and Oralia.
With the wish to have intrigued you, we just have to tell you: we are waiting for you! Become a volunteer for Trama Textiles now and become a participant in our project.