Las Historias de Warmi (Warmi Stories), by Sarah Connette

ConnetteS 2.JPGFor the past 5 weeks I have been working at Centro Integral Warmi, a small non-profit community center in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia. In addition to running a day-care center and a library, Warmi operates a soap factory that employs ten mothers in the community. The women take turns cooking, taking care of the kids, and working in the Centro Productivo. In the Centro Productivo, I had the chance to work with them as they ripped animal fat to be cooked in a giant, fairytale pot, broke hard casts of soap into smaller pieces, and dumped the pieces into two machines that churned out soap in thick, spaghetti-like strings. The women work hard but enjoy it as they chat and joke with each other. As one woman said, “Como hermanas trabajamos,” or “We work like sisters.” The stories of these women are both rich and moving, and I felt like the customers should know more about what buying Warmi soap means to these women.

ConnetteS 3.JPGI had the opportunity to interview the 5 women who have been here for a long time, some since the organization began in 1982. I asked some questions about their families, their personal stories, and what they like about the work and about Warmi, but mostly I just let the conversations flow. Hunched over a little Sony tape recorder in the library filled with chattering kids, I listened to the recorded conversations and typed up the testimonies. With these testimonies I will help create a brochure exclusively about the women and the story of the Centro Productivo to be included when the soap is sold. The power of a story is transformative, and ultimately, the most sustainable development is one that transforms lives through the heart.

ConnetteS 4.JPGAlthough the salaries are fairly minimal, the women continue to work here because of their kids. They want their kids to eat and grow up in an environment that fosters educational and personal growth. One thing I heard over and over again was, “Por mis wawas he entrado,” or “I came because of my kids.” Before Warmi, many of these women sold meat, worked in agricultural fields, or washed clothes. Warmi has been like a foundation for them, a second home, where they know their kids are safe, nearby, and receiving physical, emotional, and intellectual nourishment. They have become active community members. I hope that, with the creation of this brochure about their stories, Warmi can sell more soap to a wider range of people who appreciate and are inspired by the empowerment stories of these women. These señoras exemplify what the power and solidarity of “warmi,” which means “women” in Quechua, can accomplish together.