Words and photography by: Elin Rut Bieltvedt
I fell in love with Oaxaca around 3 years ago when I came to visit a friend for 8 days. Fast forward to my third time in Oaxaca and my first experience volunteering at an NGO (if you don’t include volunteering at an orphanage in Vietnam for a week at of age 16.)
My role as a volunteer at En Via has been photographing the women after they have received their loan. I have the privilege of going into their homes or businesses and documenting what it is that they are using their money on and seeing the type of business they have created. These businesses include everything from running an abarrotes (grocery store), taco stand, breeding chickens, embroidery, weaving tapetes and many others.
Being only 7% fluent in Spanish by duo lingo standards and saying I was nervous to go out on these jobs would be an understatement. Luckily there are amazing people at En Via that helped me out and made me feel extremely comfortable. I got myself a clipboard and wrote down the most useful phrases and questions I would need to know and hoped to know the responses when in the field. Little did I know that in some of these villages the women do not even speak Spanish but Zapotec, so a big smile always works.
Sadly I am only able to spend 2 months at En Via and am on my second last week now. Looking back at the last few weeks I think that my favourite photos still come from my very first day in Teotitlán del Valle (see images below).
I had been to this beautiful village twice before but getting the opportunity to meet these lovely women and see their workspaces and home lives was truly inspiring. Sarah, a fellow En Via colleague took me out and showed me the ways and I was shocked at how well she knew all these tiny streets and dirt hills, it felt like she had lived there for years. Now having been there for a few weeks I am slowly starting to get a hang of the streets and places and its the best feeling.
I discovered En Via through merely googling NGO’s to work for and I am so grateful that I have had the chance to be a part of this beautiful family.
Elin is a 27 years old jewellery and costume designer, from Iceland but grew up in Hong Kong. Studied Fashion design and development in London and lived there for 6 years. Been living between Iceland, Los Angeles and Oaxaca the past 2 years and hope to spend more time in Oaxaca in the future.