Fashion as Social Change: Lessons from One Scholar’s Summer
Wondering what a Morehead-Cain summer is like? Sophomore Sara Holley ’21 is here to tell you about hers!
Sara, who’s from Charlotte, North Carolina, spent her Public Service summer in Ollantaytambo, Peru. She worked as a sales and development assistant for a nonprofit called Awamaki, which connects Andean artisan weavers with global markets and empowers rural women and girls with education and financial independence. In her first few weeks, Sara was invigorated by the head designer’s presentation of the store’s 2019 line.
“The designer explained the iconography of the woven patterns in my coin-purses,” Sara writes. “I absolutely loved learning the meaning of our products! I also loved being able to connect a product to a person; it felt surreal to meet artisans whose name I remembered seeing on one of the tags in the Awamaki store. Through their textiles, the women are able to formulate narratives about their culture. Working for Awamaki reaffirmed my belief that fashion is power. As such, it can be used to facilitate social change.”
By the middle of the summer, Sara’s work for Awamaki and her general experience in Ollantaytambo went far beyond what she’d even hoped for.
“I helped plan a party in collaboration with Sacred Valley Brewery that helped Awamaki raise funds and build brand awareness. I also frequently acted as a sales representative for both stores,” Sara writes. “It was interesting to see customers from all over the world visiting the store. Ollantaytambo acts as a funnel to Machu Picchu, so people usually treat it as a pit stop. However, it’s a beautiful town if one is observant enough to appreciate its subtleties.”
Looking back, Sara says that one of the highlights of her summer was a solo weekend trip to Cusco.
“My favorite part of spending the weekend in Cusco was finding our hostel on my own,” Sara writes. “As odd as it may sound, the Inti Raymi festival and mercados (aggressive salesmen and saleswomen, included) formed a sort of beautiful chaos. It felt good to figure something out independently, and I took common sense precautions to protect myself from any potential mishaps. My brief solo journey gave me the opportunity to take in the sights, sounds, and aromas of the city for what they were.”
Sara says that something about Peru gave her the constant urge to reflect and meditate. At the end of her summer, she found that the simple activity of swimming in a club pool felt deeply meaningful.
“I think one of the reasons I was really excited to spend time in the water is that swimming played such an integral role in my last SEP (Outward Bound Maine Coast Sailing). Since I never formally learned how to swim, swimming without a life jacket was one of the biggest challenges of my previous SEP. I didn’t mention it to any of the other volunteers, but the simple act of swimming laps around the pool made me realize how far I’ve come in a year. A year ago, I could barely tread water in the Atlantic Ocean. But there I was, swimming laps.
A year ago, I struggled to hold a basic conversation in Spanish. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel much more comfortable with my Spanish abilities now. A year ago, I disliked the outdoors; I would have been terrified of the insects that regularly inhabit the volunteer house. I now have a deeper appreciation for the beauty of a good hike. Overall, I feel like a stronger, kinder, more autonomous, and more relaxed person than I was a year ago. Things came full circle for me in that moment. I can only hope to keep growing!”
Morehead-Cain’s Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) is a key element of the Program. Scholars design their own experiences, submit budgets for funding, and then spend the summer months all around the world working on a mind-boggling array of projects. As you learn more about the Morehead-Cain, we invite you to consider: Where might your future SEP take you?