Arnie, our local guide, picked us up in the morning to take us to a Mapuche community reservation called Chiquilihuin; stopping for photo opportunities of the towering, snow capped mountain en route. On our way there, we spent time with Carmen, based in Junin de los Andes, who is an advocate for this community, who accompanied us to Chiquilihuin.
Carmen has led projects with various NGO’s including energy provision, handicrafts, and a recycling programme. Her building was funded by the owner of the local beer ‘Quilmes’ and Cruzada Patagonia helped as well. Carmen is also a member of Ashoka.
When we arrived, we were introduced to Pedro and his wife Maria, Mapuche folk, who immediately displayed their famed hospitality by inviting us to lunch – chivito, which is bbq’d goat, cooked in traditional style which is on a skewer type device over an open fire; it was delicious and incredibly tender, although at that point I thought we would be back at the lodge in time for a late lunch so did not gorge myself.
Pedro is a respected man in the community, so we discussed with him whether the community would like to have volunteers come on a voluntourism trip, and as this was assented to, we spoke about the sort of projects that our guests could get involved with. Painting houses or schools was suggested, as was computer training – the school has three computers. Additionally, people with marketing/sales/branding skills could advise the artisans on how best to promote their crafts to appeal to foreigners.
So it is all looking quite promising! Now we press on to develop the sightseeing portion of our new itinerary, or potentially itineraries, as I am thinking the volunteering here lends itself to a trip blended with Chile…we shall see…visit www.handsupholidays.com for updates!