VACA is a learning program among students, professionals and communities. It is a meeting point between the academic world and the vernacular knowledge. Students and the community learn and improve vernacular construction techniques in a practical way, using their hands and feet. The VACA program Where does it happen? In the context of rural poverty In Mexican communities where industrialized construction has replaced the vernacular techniques and the knowledge of people. Thus disappearing the traditional self-build constructions with natural materials. We are working on joining: community, students and professionals in a participatory design process for mutual learning. We learn together Empowerment and appreciation of vernacular techniques means creating opportunities in the rural environment. This community social knit-work recuperation can stop migration to the city. We learn together looking for tools to overcome poverty. VACA is commitment and enjoyment, is setting a number of actors, with a series of commitments and enjoy fulfilling them during the summer. To me, VACA is a very complete project because includes the architecture from a cooperation approach and different perspectives, it has a teaching part, a portion of helping, housing or equipment of a remarkable architectural quality is built and it´s also a life experience for all who are part of it, which is very valuable. The beneficiated community The building constructed by the volunteers and the community in 2015 was born from the collaboration between the VACA program and the textile cooperative “Mujeres sembrando la vida” “women sowing life” in Spanish. Mujeres sembrando la vida is an association formed by 250 indigenous artisans in the mountains of the Sierra de los Altos, Chiapas, working in the recovery of traditional techniques of weaving and embroidery of the region. We started working since 1999, I was younger, my mother started working with other women here in Zinacantán and other communities like: The cooperative had a kitchen/workshop that was used as headquarters in Zinacantán to show their work process and products to tourists who began to reach the area. The construction we found was 50 years old and was in an advanced state of degradation. It was a building of adobe without foundation. The kitchen wasn’t big enough and not covered the needs of the cooperative. We would like to support us building this kitchen; we want to expand it, because there is not enough room to all the women that work here. Here we do different kind of workshops and cook. Here we get training for make better products: better food, better needlework, etc. I feel it is really small and low; We hope you could support us making it larger and higher considering tourists always hit their heads because the kitchen is small and they are very tall. It was and incredible opportunity in the framework of a program like VACA to work in a place like Chiapas and specially in a women’s cooperative. This empowered group creates continuous responses during the design process. There was no guideline but the decisions that solved the needs as they appeared while building the project. The process The objective of the program and all volunteers who participate is helping Mujeres Sembrando la Vida improve their workshop in three weeks using only vernacular techniques and natural materials. Dialoguing with the artisans and their families we reach agreements on the design, and working together we progress in construction. After three weeks, much effort and a cyclone, we built a new space, larger and higher, reusing all the materials of the previous kitchen: the adobe bricks, wooden beams and tiles. The new workshop has foundations of stone and lime, adobe walls with 3 covers of Earth and sand, tile ceiling with a porch to protect themselves from the rain and sun. The interior space is conformed by a continuous bench of adobe and lime covering so that visitors can participate in the activities of the artisans. We built a safe stove, with a chimney. In addition, ventilation and natural light guarantee comfort. It’s very important to mention that in this project no industrial materials have been used, there is no concrete or steel, everything is made with natural and regional materials. The volunteers Every time VACA happens there are surprises, you see guys who seemed very shy suddenly performing above what was expected, others already had certain qualities and explore them. I think that´s what is interesting about the program: that we don´t have a final product in mind, we only have this momentum to generate the excuse and then all these factors, all these people, the spirit, the desire to take the project forward, generate a result that we don´t know. This year the program has been widely supported in social media, to finance the project through a campaign of crowdfunding and to invite interested students in becoming part of the volunteer team. These volunteers, who did not know each other, have worked together and learned to form a team. During the three weeks of the construction, the cooperative women were also responsible for providing accommodation, food and assistance during construction, which favored the mutual knowledge, learning and the Exchange. I think that here you can do what you like the most, to build with your own hands, meet new people, or perhaps live with a completely different culture to your own, or what you´re used to. The results What, to us is interesting and what is expected, is that the program generates a dynamic that continues beyond what was built. You learn where your limits are, that is a very important thing and what it is more important is that you learn how to overcome them.