How Creativity Blossoms During Service

Never before in my life have I gotten to work so closely and so often with many artisans, indigenous crafters, seamstresses, and entrepreneurs. My Peace Corps volunteer service encouraged me to work with all sorts of people, but little did I know that my creative left-sided brain would kick-in full speed. I’m very grateful that I had the time and space to allow my creativity to bloom, especially to find and connect with my innovative entrepreneurial spirit. The following is a list of examples of projects I started, collaborated on, or supported along with plenty of photos, links, or designs for your viewing pleasure.

Carnival Season 2017 – Dance Group & Costumes
Creativity started early into my service for Carnival season in January to February of IMG_82322017. I worked closely with a group of mostly female students who wanted to perform dance for Carnival at their school. They wanted a costume just like my red leotard, so they raised money and then got the costumes tailor-made. I barely lifted a finger except for coaching and choreography, as well as motivation to fundraise. At the same time, I did design a new dance costume with funds from a community member called Delia Barros. Originally it was meant for that carnival, but they were not completed on time. The students did a much better job organizing their IMG_8321costumes, while I was still learning the ropes of how to approach the seamstress and how to build a relationship with her in order to get this project done. My yellow Afro-Colombian style youth costume designs along with the yellow, blue, and red children’s Afro-Colombian designs were used much later, most notably for a Spring Break Afro-Colombian Pride performance, and for an Independence Day performance in July 2017.

For the actual Carnival in Barranquilla, two of my fellow volunteer friends and I wanted to get matching costumes done together. Yessy Lazaro spearheaded the project after we decided on an overall design with the colors red, yellow, and gold. She bought the fabric in Barranquilla, and then took it back to her site placement of Aracataca to get the outfits made by a seamstress. We had the most amazing time the weekend of the event:

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Eunishi Radm – Wayuu Indigenous Artisanal Small Business

For about a year I worked closely with a Wayuu indigenous woman, Luz Darys Martinez. She and her mother Nuris Epiyayu hand crafted knitted products like the famous Colombian Wayuu mochila bags. Because I saw that the mochila market was highly saturated where competition continued to drive down prices, I tried to think of unique product ideas to inspire them. Luz Darys was inspired by a cloth necklace I wore from Brazil, and I also gave her other necklace ideas inspired by a logo I created for her business.

 

Fellow Volunteer Yessy Lazaro in Aracataca – Logo Design Help

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Yessy Lazaro

Yessy spent Thanksgiving with me in Dibulla, and asked me to help her use Photoshop to create a logo for her counterpart Rodolfo Rodriguez’s business in Aracataca. She wanted to match the logo he already had, which was of a rainbow and the famous yellow butterflies that you see everywhere along the Colombian coast. His business is called

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Gabostown’s Rodolfo

Gabostown (referring to “Gabo”, short for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the famous Nobel Peace prize-winning literary author who was born and raised in Aracataca. Her counterpart was a very savvy entrepreneur that dabbled in everything, so Gabostown offered a variety of services and products from offering guided tours, selling artesanías, providing bike tours, and even started a book club in the community.

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Here is the logo Yessy designed for Rodolfo

Carnival Season 2018 – Dance Group & Costumes
Similar to 2017, I was able to organize a group of girls to perform in several parades during the month of January 2018 as Carnival came early that year, the first week of February. We had started a Community Savings Group back in September 2017, so we got a significant head start to fund raise through bake sales and weekly membership fees. This time, I designed a costume well in advanced because I wanted to make traditional Cumbia folkloric-inspired outfits, but with a modern flair using Dibulla’s colors of green and blue.

I also wanted to make my Samba Carnival feather wings hang on a back piece rather than slip them on uncomfortably on my arms. I use to look and feel so uncomfortable wearing my wings attached to my triceps (see first photo below on the left). Yes, I brought my dance outfit, made in Brazil, from the USA to Colombia for my service in order to integrate with the community for carnival and dance purposes. I designed a drawing of what I wanted, and Kyle helped me look for metal to mold and made it for me. I covered the metal with felt with a glue gun, and then I wrapped the felt with a silky ribbon of the same blue color:

So now I can say that I gained my “wings” in Dibulla, La Guajira, Colombia during Carnival 2018:

Here was our final look for the 2018 Carnival:

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I also wanted to design some fun fluorescent colored outfits mostly for dancing in the Carnival celebration space, called the Cazeta. People start dressing-up more and more during Pre-Carnival festivities leading up to the actual Carnival event, and bright colors are the staple. I wanted to use my favorite combination of vibrant colors: 1) yellow and pink, and 2) orange and blue. I found a typical fluorescent orange shirt with “Carnaval” written all over it, a very popular style in every bright color imaginable among attendees. I decided to make a matching blue skirt with some hints of a similar orange color. The yellow and pink outfit was fully-made from scratch. I designed both outfits ideas, but I worked with another seamstress in Dibulla that made it happen.

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Singing with Children in Dibulla
I naturally and magically attracted some musical moments with children because I would encourage them to sing with me, and I would sing-along with them. I ended up giving a few basic and informal voice lessons on my porch at one point. The amount of time I spent teaching and playing with children expanded my imagination, a direct positive impact on creativity and innovation.

 

Sisterhood of the Traveling Mochila Design – My Passion Project Blog Travel Latina
As a personal side project, I run a community blog that encourages Latinas to voluntarily share their unique travel perspectives and experiences. Whether they travel to the nearby park, to a neighbouring state, to live abroad, or to visit their motherland, it’s been a free community for 3 years now. I was inspired by several “Sisterhood of the Traveling [Items]” that I saw going around, so I decided to design my own mochila bag to form a unique sisterhood “Hermandad of the Traveling Mochila“. I worked with Wayuu artisans in the nearby city of Riohacha 1 hour away.

After the first mochila was finished with the TL logo, I decided to include a journal, some handmade knitted bracelets, local sage, a Brown Girl Travels zine, and a leather wallet made in Salento, Colombia – all of which was included in the bag to share with the Sisterhood. I took the bag back with me to the USA for my first trip back in almost 2 years, where towards the end of my trip I shipped it to my first fellow blogger Cindy Medina in Los Angeles. Since it was made in about May/June 2018, the mochila has been d9015829-1420-43ae-89c7-0712dd38ced6to different members of the sisterhood starting with me in Riohacha / Dibulla / Palomino, Colombia > Indianapolis, Indiana > Chicago, Illinois > New Buffalo, Michigan > and then Cindy Medina and Stacey Lopez in Los Angeles, California > Accra, Ghana >  Antigua, Guatemala. Many members of the TL community reached out inquiring on how to order a similar bag, but unfortunately I was medically evacuated due to my health at the very end of service and had to end my service two months earlier than expected, on top of the fact that I didn’t have the funds to order enough inventory of this mochila and the items it contained in order to take it back with me to the USA to sell. I still have it in my mind to try to make this business a reality as many people remain interested.

These links will take you to read more details about how I thought of the idea and some information about the Wayuu: 1) a Facebook post, and 2) an Instagram “Highlight” Story.

 

Cacao Association APOMD – Chocolate Product “Ushikaa” Logo

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The “Ushikaa” logo

My husband Kyle worked closely with a cacao association called APOMD (Asociación de Productores Orgánicos de Mingueo y Dibulla) during our whole 2-year service. Towards the end of service, he supported their business plan in order to build a profitable business from APOMD called “Ushikaa (Wayuunaiki for Sierra Nevada Mountains). Wayuunaiki is the language spoken by the indigenous group called the Wayuu, local to La Guajira. I worked with Kyle to create a logo to be considered for Ushikaa that we felt would encompass everything about the area and local culture.

 

Mochila Straps Wall Art Piece
Since the beginning of my service, I had envisioned a wall art piece inspired by the IMG_8526unique and bright-colored knitting of the Wayuu mochilas. At the same time I was ordering my TL mochila, I was picking out mochila straps that hadn’t been attached to a bag yet. I was slowly collecting 2-3 straps at a time each time I went to Riohacha for the day, which was about once every 2 weeks. In order to not spend all of my volunteer stipend money at the same time, I didn’t buy all straps at the same time, plus I also wanted to order special-made larger straps 2x or 3x the normal size. I then found a broken broom stick, and started attaching each strap with clothes pins. I loved the final product, and presented the idea for other Wayuu artesanas to make and sell.  I’m sad to report that the wall art piece got lost after we moved out for medical evacuation, but I’m glad I have photo evidence and also Wayuu artisanal contacts that I could reach out to should I ever want to make it again.

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I got a broken broomstick, and started hanging mochila straps of differing widths on them. This is still not a finished piece, but I wanted to inspire Wayuu women to think of more innovative products to sell.

Overall, thanks to the nature of the entrepreneurship work we perform as volunteers, as well as the proximity to artisans and crafters, it has never been so easy and accessible for me to create so many different kinds of products. This led to many dreams and visions about possible and viable businesses, most importantly for locals, but also for us as volunteers. I wish to keep experimenting, designing, playing, and creating just like I did during service!

 

****Post Script****: I taught some Cheer & Gymnastics, so I designed some Dibulla cheerleading outfit ideas that didn’t end up happening because we were medically evacuated due to my health. I wish we could have made them!

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