Sachaqa welcomes Workaway Volunteers as there is always so much to do and a little help goes a long way. Ana wrote to me asking if she could help with the children. So Ana spent three hours every afternoon playing games with the local children. Such an amazing gift for all. We only accept volunteers with specific skills, carpenters, instructors, teachers etc.
I came to Sachaqa as a volunteer for a month in January\February to help with the kids during their summer holidays. My time here has been a wonderful and tranquil retreat in which I have been able to enjoy the energy of the jungle, dedicate time to my artwork and spend giggling afternoons with the children of the village.
My role as a volunteer at Sachaqa was to look after Sachaqa kids Jacob 7 and Leia 5, in the afternoons. Taking them down to the plaza in San Roque to play with the gang of village kids who spend the days of their summer holiday in ”la plaza de abajo” (the lower square).
As I soon discovered, the kids of San Roque are friendly, curious and full of imagination. I was astonished to learn that they played almost all of the same games I remember from my own childhood in the UK as well as working at kids camps in Spain; hide and seek, stuck in the mud, sardines, duck-duck-goose (which in the jungle context became ‘buffalo-buffalo-tiger’) to name but a few.
Luckily, I was able to think of a few new ones to offer them (though not as many as they managed to teach me!); we had blindfolded moths catching bats by improvised echolocation, we tied ourselves in knots and did our best to untangle ourselves without letting go of each other’s hands, and we ran wildly around the plaza. In return, they taught me hundreds of new games; both organized and chaotic, and included me in their imaginative play.
Some days we harvested fruit from their imagined chacras or vegetable gardens and sold it in exchange for leaves at our imagined bodegas (local shops). Other days everyone piled into the long-suffering but tough trees of the plaza to fly through the air into intergalactic battles on imagined spaceships. When it rained, as it often did, we sheltered under the roves of the surrounding bodegas and they taught me to make imagined jugos (juices) from crushing flowers and rainwater.
Being someone who has always liked to make my own artwork as a hobby I was really interested to meet some of the artists at Sachaqa and as well as take some inspiration from the buzzing life force of the jungle. I was lucky enough to share some of my time at Sachaqa with Julie Kim, an artist from Seattle who was making her own watercolour paints from rocks found in and around San Roque. Having recently started to experiment with making my own natural drawing inks at home in the UK I was fascinated to learn more, and Julie was generous enough to share some of her wisdom with me.
To begin the paint making process we first had to search for rocks. We climbed the steep hill behind Sachaqa, sweating our way up the dense jungle track, overtaken by amused locals. Finally descending down the other side of the hill, we reached a beach of the Añaquiwi river. The beach was filled with spiders and incredibly blue butterflies as well as an amazing selection of rocks with colours from deep reds to misty purples and dusky greens.
Back at Sachaqa, Julie taught me how she crushed and ground the rocks into a fine powder, then mixed them with gum arabic, honey and water to make her watercolour paints. I was hooked. With the generous use of Julie’s tools, I made a palette of 9 colours over the next couple of days. The muted, misty colours made me think of the dusty shades of the enormous moths I’d seen in the evenings at Sachaqa, so I decided to paint some of them.
In this way, my stay at Sachaqa turned into a mini artist’s residency of its own and I dedicated a delicious amount of time to painting insects and birds in the mornings before going down to the plaza to play with the children in the afternoons.