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I might have met more than 700 young people who participated in our programs. Grosso modo, I would say that about 30 % of them are still somehow involved in the development field. I also know that some of them are feeling frustrated about profound problems in international development thinking that the foundations of it could be wrong and, hence, maybe, giving up after a realization of other challenges. With the permission of the person who wrote this post, let me share one comment I found on social media of one of our most committed former interns:
Kibera Slum, Nairobi. I’ve been studying and working in development for seven years now, yet this was the first time I’ve spent an entire day in an urban slum. I felt disgusted, not for what I saw but for what I’ve become, i.e. a development practitioner. I felt ashamed for increasingly becoming part of this so-called “development community”, which in many ways continues to optimise Kipling’s theory.
In a couple of weeks from now, I’ll be in (…) writing my thesis in libraries funded by those who have seeded this system of international oppression. I start believing that international development is nothing else than a monstrous sham, a self-perpetuating beast. “The White Man’s Burden” will continue to prevail unless international development is deinstitutionalised.
After reading it I had a mix of feelings. I was concerned about the possibility of him losing his motivation and perspective to do a great work in the development area, but, at the same time I was relieved to see that he still keeps his critical mind. Either I agree or not with his statement, I know it is not easy to be like this, after years of learning, training, working. He is on his way to finish his second master degree from one of the top 5 universities in the world, his career is a list of accomplishments since his graduation of undergraduate school, also in a world-renowned university. Moreover, his achievements are not just in academia, but I witnessed first-hand his commitment to fieldwork and his success during his time with us.
During the last decade, international ‘volunteer’ programs have increased its number and from what I see, participants are being more honest whenever they join them. Nowadays, in our internship program, many of them tell us they participate in this type of programs to gain experience and learn so they can use this experience in their resume to find a job or to get into a graduate program. I must admit that I used to struggle with the design of our initial programs years ago when we were offering ‘volunteering’ opportunities for young people. I was not sure if our approach was the best one and was not sure about the real impact of them. By impact, I refer not just for our local community partners, but also for those ‘volunteers’ who came to participate with us. What did they learn? Do they remember what they learned when they go back to school? Do they believe what they learned in the field it is helpful in their future work or do they only want their participation to be on their resume? We have received feedback and we were able to verify the participation of ‘volunteers’ was positive for our community partners. However, we haven’t been able to follow the 30% of participants currently playing their trade in the development arena. I’m happy to still receive emails from former participants with their news and sometimes with a request for a recommendation letter. I rest assured that they are still doing great work. But emails come from only about 5% of former participants, mostly from the people who knew what they were doing here and why they were doing it.
Since 2015, our approach changed and I’m more satisfied with the changes we are implementing little by little. Based on the idea that our programs are opportunities to learn, my perception has changed of what is most beneficial for our local community partners and for our programs’ participants. I once thought experience in travel and duration of program determined a successful program, but I realized this was not the case. We have been able to develop programs with universities that share similar goals as we do as an organization. For example, our short-term programs of 1-2 weeks, we have received very positive feedback on the projects and on the strength of development ties between community partners and the participants’ experience. Where can we attribute the resounding success? Perhaps to a few factors:
– Focus on the needs of the community partner: the needs of the community take priority, built into the design and implementation of the program. This is the true indication of the success of a program, equal to, if not more than the satisfaction of the volunteer participants. After all, the primary component of a program done well is the impact on the beneficiaries, the target audience.
– Adequate orientation and supervision of the participants: this responsibility must be shared between the university and NC, and based on the results, the success of this step is the success and satisfaction of the two other actors: community partners and the program’s participants. While talking to a former colleague, we came to the conclusion that it is common to believe that for short-term groups like the Alternative Spring Breaks, participants require a more profound orientation whilst the participants of an internship program, do not need it because they are aware of what they are learning through books and lectures. This is not true. We have witnessed how orientation sessions for all participants to be more empathetic, build trusting and lasting relationships, maintain an open mind regarding culture and respect for customs deemed “weird” when they are just different.
– Participants are genuinely interested in the program: Participants of our short-term programs are increasingly interested in participating in the program, learning about another culture, about their fellows, about themselves, about the world in general. Some of them might be interested in developing a career in international development in the future, but when they come for a shorter period, their main goal it is not to include the program in their resume or to gain more credits. There is nothing wrong in looking for experiences that would allow them to get better jobs or opportunities in masters programs but it is important to not lose the focus of the programs and to remember why the programs exist.
– Genuine respect: much more than political correctness, there must exist a veritable respect towards all cultures and to each person involved.
There are other factors involved in the success of programs but I thought we could start our conversation with our short-term programs and the outlined factors, because short-term group programs are often criticized. For us, however, they have proven positive. I believe these four factors can take us to profound discussions to what is needed to make this type of programs, an opportunity for all those young people who want to be more committed to a better world, those young people who want to use their opportunities and knowledge to do meaningful work and to have a positive impact on our society.
Thanks to the invitation of Dr. Neil Arya, last year I wrote a chapter for a book called: Global Health Experiential Education. From Theory to Practice that will be published soon. It was a tremendous opportunity for me to remember all the many experiences we have had throughout all these years, to analyse our mistakes and our successes and after them, been able to contribute to the improvement of our programs. As our ‘high-season’ for our programs has come to an end, I decided to share my thoughts with you because I know there are former participants and followers of our organization who are very talented and have the potential to be great assets in the development world.
Those very young people need to receive the best education they can from the universities they choose. If they are interested in becoming a development practitioner, they also require education and training in the field. The success of their time in the field is linked to their studies and the supervision they receive from their universities. Furthermore, universities need to recognize the importance of their learning from the field. Universities have the power to make their students, not just fine and efficient professionals but great ones, moreover, great committed citizens, with the potential to improve our world for everyone.
During the next weeks, we will be sharing posts written by our amazing program’s participants. We hope you enjoy them as much we have enjoyed their time in Peru.
Thanks for reading this long post and I hope this to be the start of an ongoing discussion of this subject. And perhaps lead to many more.
Entry level. They can be frustrating words for millennials these days.
When I finished university – part of the class of 2013 – I stepped into a job market that was full of opportunity, but not the kind I was expecting. More applications than I care to remember listed prior experience, sometimes years worth, as a requirement for full time, paid positions. I could never quite understand how graduates, fresh out of finals, were supposed to have experience under their belt – but so it was. In the meantime, employers eagerly filled unpaid internships and advertised volunteer placements. The internship seemed to constitute a new rite of passage that granted access to “entry level” career opportunities.
After completing my degree it quickly became clear that paid, full-time work was scarce in my particular sectors of interest. Having just finished four years of school, unpaid work wouldn’t be sustainable for long. So, as many graduates did, I too broadened my scope and took opportunities as they came, wherever they came from. I searched for paid work in related fields. I took unpaid work on the side. I tried to capitalize on every learning opportunity that presented itself. My goal was to build a resume of transferrable skills that, in time, would help me transition into the positions I was most interested in.
In the fall of 2015, after a brief stint with a research institute and a season in government, I took a position with a small development organization in Peru. Nexos Comunitarios provided me with my first exposure to development work and the day-to-day operations of a not-for-profit. As a development student, this was an opportunity I had been patiently waiting for.
Nexos Comunitarios (NC) is a Peruvian non-profit organization working in the High-Andean communities of South-Eastern Peru. NC, as an organization, focuses its efforts on fostering human capital in some of the most remote indigenous communities in the Andes. Currently, NC is working on community projects related to nutrition, food security and elementary education. To fund their work, NC provides foreign post-secondary students with opportunities to travel and learn with the organization on short-term exposure trips.
I arrived for my three-month placement with NC in October 2015. One of my tasks was to help develop a new program for foreign students; one that was longer in duration and offered a more comprehensive learning experience. Having studied development and public policy, I seized the opportunity to design a program that responded to a very specific need. It started with a couple basic questions: what experiences would be most helpful to students seeking careers in development, policy or non-profit work? What skills could NC equip students with to better position them for entry-level positions?
With these questions in mind, the eNCounter Program was formed. The eNCounter Program revolves around four components of active learning: 1) practical skill building in development and non-profit management 2) academic learning 3) language training, and 4) cultural exposure and engagement. Each component of the program is designed to be an asset; to appeal to future employers.
We wanted to ensure the fundamentals of non-profit management were covered; the importance of budgetary, financial, and contingency planning, for example, and the steps in a typical grant application. We wanted to open participants up to new perspectives in academia through study in South America, and simultaneously enhance students’ resumes by offering formal certificates for completed courses taught by the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru. We recognized the importance of language as an asset in the workplace, and have coordinated with local, Peruvian instructors to offer intensive language training, and we have provided opportunity for both structured cultural engagement and leisure exploration to round out students’ experience in Peru. Together, we tried to ensure that every experience in the eNCounter Program would be helpful to students in launching their careers.
After nearly 10 years of work, both in student programs and development, Nexos Comunitarios is excited to continue building on the efforts and experience of its predecessor, Nexos Voluntarios, with the launch of the eNCounter Program. Through the sharing of knowledge and experience, NC hopes to provide future development workers, policy experts and non-profit leaders with the skills and experiences essential for success. Our mission was to create a program that would be an asset to participants launching their careers, and their futures. We hope your encounter with Nexos Comunitarios will be just that!
For more information please visit our website.
By Gabriela Silva Calle (Enlace’s Co-Founder)
My name is Gabriela Silva and I am a volunteer with a heart of a teacher and writer. I remember fondly the day when my volunteer path started. It was in Piura, Peru eight years ago. Since that day I have not stopped thinking about how we as a community can foster real social cohesion and genuine connection in order to work together to develop our society.
I have visited many different places- the jungle, the coast, and the mountains. The more I have traveled, the more inequalities I have discovered, and my desire has grown to bridge and promote spaces where our differences can be opportunities instead of a reason to segregate.
This last year I met the Comunidades de Aprendizaje, an educational NGO. They introduced me to dialogic learning and its principles like egalitarian dialogic and cultural intelligence. The information and methodologies allowed me to put Dialogic Literature Gatherings into practice with children from different public and private schools from Piura. It was an amazing experience because I realized that we usually share a neighborhood, but we do not necessarily know each other. The children told me that it was the first space where they were able to be heard and to listen to others. They enjoyed reading and sharing personal experiences instead of being evaluated with comprehension tests.
A Dialogic Literature Gathering is an interaction where participants read and choose phrases that connect with a personal experience. These phrases and personal experiences are shared in the gathering through a free dialogue. There is no chance to make mistakes because personal experiences are not graded. As a result, children develop social ties, self-knowledge and self-confidence.
For one hour, the children’s reflection and arguments are taken into account, inviting them to be protagonists in the interaction. The power of the moderator adult is eliminated by making people feel free to express themselves without fear of authority. This generates the opportunity to revalue the cultural intelligence of everyone involved.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started my plans have changed a lot. After my anxious and fearful stage, I saw an opportunity. I invited children from different regions and schools to participate in digital Dialogic Literature Gatherings. I have learned a lot from the children, likewise they have learned a lot from their friends. Although they call each other “friends”, they have never met in person. They live so far, but they feel so close. Through their personal experiences and points of view they share their lives, knowledge from those experiences, emotions and feelings, and most importantly they share culture. In one way or another they are strengthening their relationships with society. Here is an excerpt of one conversation:
Yanira: this phrase, “in the middle of a garden”, reminded me when my grandmother had a small garden, I loved it, I played too much and there were many flowers and now because of the quarantine I can not see it or go out. I felt joy because there I played with my cousins and my friends; I loved this phrase because many beautiful memories came to me that I can no longer live.
Moderator: Does anyone have a comment or similar experience?
Gabriela: in the garden of my house a swing has been placed in which I sit and watch my dog and play and it is very beautiful, it smells of grass and flowers.
Paul: I have an orchard, an orchard has things to harvest, food, I prefer an orchard because you take care of the plants, entertain yourself, give them food, water, compost
And another example about moving houses:
Gabriela: this phrase reminded me when we went to see my grandparents’ house but it was not there, I thought they had demolished it but in reality, they had moved to a house near the forest, it was difficult to accept because we had to said goodbye to the neighbors.
Joaquín: when we went to Tarapoto I thought it was going to be similar than Lima, I had to get used to it after a month, the first month I wanted to bathe all day, but I was surprised that there was a lot of plants, I remembered many friends
Ariana: my parents argued a lot, that’s why we moved from Apurímac to Lima, I had to get used to Lima little by little.
After six months of sharing with those children, I would like to expand this initiative because I really trust its cohesive impact. That is why some friends and I are working to launch Enlace as a social educational volunteer program that promotes social cohesion through gatherings for equal dialogue between Peruvian children. We would love to invite girls and boys from different regions to get to know each other, to connect with the expression of arts like literature, music, paintings, etc. and share their personal and important experience through digital gatherings.
Recently, I met Mari and Gabi of Nexos Comunitarios, and I would like to invite children from Cuncani to participate in these virtual gatherings. I am certain they are going to feel closer to their country when they meet children from different regions, continuing to share and learn. This will be the start of a wonderful alliance between people who want to promote the real social cohesion that we urgently need.
To finish this article, please, find below testimonials:
“The first day I thought they had gatherings with children from my school and when I saw that they weren’t my classmates, I was scared, but when the miss asked me if I had any comment, many things came to my head, things that I had not told before because I had not had the opportunity.” Urpi, Cusco
“I thought it was like a conversation, but it was better, it’s better because we read, we tell each other everything.” Carlos, Cusco
“I have learned to share moments with friends from other places that I have not known yet” Alexandra, Lima
“I have learned to feel a little more confidence to talk to more people other than my family because before I was a bit ashamed to talk to people who were not my family” Gabriela, Piura
By Marie-Eve Monette (NC Academic Program Coordinator)
On September 24th, I was invited by Nexos Comunitarios to give the first talk of its Strong Ideas for a Fair World series. The title of my talk was “Global Solidarity and Intercultural Engagement Narratives,” and since I define engagement as starting with an encounter, I want to start this post by referring to a comment made by one of the people in attendance. This person summed up my talk in the following manner: global solidarity and engagement have to be built on a foundation of human connections and the development of relationships. That is exactly what my talk was about. We can theorize all we want, share examples and information about people from other cultures, but if they are not linked to human connections, any solidarity is difficult to develop and sustain.
Intercultural has become a buzz word in the past few decades, and its appearance has become common, if not expected, in any discussion about interactions between people from different backgrounds, or in the design of curriculum that involves service-learning, community engagement, global studies. Many refer to intercultural learning, but I prefer to talk about intercultural engagement. Let me tell you briefly why, before I link it back to the theme of global solidarity and narratives.
In my opinion, intercultural learning is more detached. It implies acquisition, but exchange is not inherent to it. We as learners are often introduced to new cultures as the subjects of knowledge learning, and are often kept separate from the “object” of study, that is, the new cultures. The people who contribute and are involved in those cultures rarely participate in the process, at least not initially. What this teaches is a disconnect between the learner and the people from those cultures. How can we build solidarity on such a disconnect?
Engagement, on the other hand, is much more encompassing. When I think about engagement, I think about relationships, involvement, of making a commitment. Intercultural engagement therefore requires immediate interaction of some kind between people of different backgrounds. Learning becomes relational, and the process has the potential of evolving around interconnectedness and exchange. This process fosters a much more fertile ground from which to grow solidarity.
Intercultural engagement narratives can be central in rethinking this solidarity, and in promoting intercultural development in our students. Whether these narratives are developed through podcasts, journals, vlogs, or other formats, they can help students establish connections between themselves and people from different cultures, practice self-reflexivity, and work through any challenges that inevitably arise during intercultural interactions. Before we even invite our students to engage in such narratives though, the journey needs to begin with us, as educators. We need to look at the ways in which we connect our identities, every day experience, and academic work. We need to understand what relationships inspired our continued engagement, and how we initiated and fostered these relationships. We can use this knowledge and these experiences to shape the ways in which we teach our students. This will help them develop their own practice of engagement based on joining relationships, experiential learning and academic knowledge, which will hopefully and naturally lead to a more sustainable global solidarity.
By Nico Bruce
From June to August the skies in the mountain region of Peru are phenomenal. The sun shines like no other season of the year. The mountains change from green thanks to the rains of previous months to yellowish-brown in color thanks to the constant sunshine. It’s very likely that not even a drop of rain will fall in these three months. It’s a high-altitude paradise.
The markets and squares are full of people making the most of the optimal temperatures. The shops move products quickly with the many purchases. There’s a flow to it all, shared between many, from foreigners and tourists to the community residents, the most humble up to the rich business owners, everyone ready to offer a welcome in one way or another.
Only this year, in these months, none of this is happening.
There is not an exchange of languages and cultures, business and welcomes as usual. The guides who are set and ready to lead tours have no one to guide. The chefs in high-end restaurants and in humble street stands have few people to serve. Further away, in the high Andes, the communities are as remote during the low tourist season.
It’s hard. Just ask the community residents to understand the situation.
“Before, we had tourists and we sold our handmade crafts. Now the tourists don’t come,” says Damiana, a member of the community of Cuncani. “It has cost us quite a lot because that’s what we lived off, supporting our children with that money. Now that we are with this problem, we ask for help with training or craftwork or something to carry on from all this.”
Damiana, like many women of her community and others located far from cities and tourists, produces handicraft. Some of their handmade items sell quite well (about 120 soles or US $40) for a hand sewn blanket. The blanket is distinct and involves a lot of time and the most organic of materials – wool from the llamas of their community. The rest of the products are more simple such as bracelets that the women of Cuncani and Media Luna make for the tourists trekking the Andes mountains. Earning 12 soles (US $4) a day is a lot. The only thing is earnings like this only come 3-4 months a year.
Like tourism, the service industry worldwide, is suffering. And that greatly affects the lower income people often in service jobs. In Kenya, an article came out with a very intriguing title: “What Washerwomen Would Say on a Webinar.” It explains that groups of 50 women congregate in some 40 places through the capital of Nairobi looking for work, waiting and praying for someone to offer them a day job.
A day of work washing clothes pays about 500 Kenyan shillings, less than US $5. They earn five dollars a day if they are lucky. It’s a good amount. With that, the women feed their children and their husbands who, due to the pandemic, may not have work either. What happens however is the women don’t get day work because they are many and the work opportunities are few. Instead of work, they receive fines for not observing social distancing rules. They can’t pay the fines so they spend the day doing community service work far from home as payment.
Realities like the women’s in Kenya and the High-Andean communities in Peru may seem far away from our lives. Webinars are necessary for many of us to continue our work. Some of us have jobs that allow us to maintain our lifestyles. But for millions of people, a job is what allows them to survive.
Por Nicholas Bruce
De junio a agosto el cielo es espectacular en la sierra del Perú. El sol brilla como en ninguna otra temporada del año. Los colores de las montañas cambian de verde gracias a las lluvias de meses anteriores a “amarillo moreno” debido al calor. Es un paraíso en las alturas.
Los mercados y las plazas están llenos de gente aprovechando el buen clima. Las tiendas mueven rápido sus productos. Existe una afluencia compartida entre muchos, extranjeros, turistas y residentes de la comunidad, los más sencillos hasta los negociantes con recursos, todos listxs para darles la bienvenida en una forma u otra.
Pere este año, en estos meses, todo es muy diferente.
No existe esta mezcla de gente de varios idiomas y culturas. Los guías bien preparados no tienen a quien guiar. Los cocineros de los restaurantes de comida gourmet hasta los de los pequeños quioscos en la calle tienen poca gente para atender. Más allá, en las alturas de los Andes, las comunidades andinas están más aisladas más que durante las temporadas bajas del turismo.
Es difícil y para comprender un poco más, es necesario preguntar a los residentes de las comunidades.
“Antes nosotros teníamos turistas y vendíamos artesanía. Ahora ya no” dice Damiana, miembro de la comunidad de Cuncani. “Nos cuesta bastante porque de eso, nosotros vivíamos, manteniendo nuestros hijos con ese dinero. Ahora, que ya no hay, no lo tenemos como trabajo. Ahora que estamos en este problema, pedimos ayuda con capacitación o artesanía o cómo avanzamos de esa parte.”
Damiana, como muchas mujeres de su comunidad y otras ubicadas lejos de las ciudades y turistas, hace artesanía. Aunque no es muy usual, cuando vende una manta, gana bien (cerca de 120 soles, o US $40). La manta es original, demora meses en hacerla y en muchas ocasiones está hecha con tintes orgánicos – y de la lana de llamas de la misma comunidad. El resto de los productos son más sencillos. Ganar 12 soles (US $4) al día es relativamente significativo. Este dinero es el único que pueden tener (por 3-4meses) al año.
Así como ocurre con el turismo, la industria de servicios está sufriendo en todo el mundo. En Kenia, hace poco, fue publicado un artículo con un título que llamó mucho la atención: “Qué dirían las mujeres que lavan ropa en un webinar.” El artículo explica que grupos de 50 mujeres se congregan en 40 lugares por todo la capital, Nairobi, buscando trabajo, esperando y rezando que alguien les ofrezca una oportunidad de trabajo.
En un día de trabajo, una persona puede recibir 500 chilines kenianos (menos de US $5). Ganan cinco dólares al día si tienen suerte. Aunque no lo parezca, es un monto significativo. Con éste, las mujeres les dan comida a sus niñxs y a sus esposos que, debido a la pandemia, no tienen trabajo. Encontrar un trabajo disponible para ellas, es inusual, en comparación con las multas que reciben por no haber observado las reglas de distanciamiento social.
Realidades como las de las mujeres en Kenia y las de las comunidades altoandinas en Perú, nos pueden parecer bastante lejanas a nuestra realidad. Actualmente, los webinars son importantes para mantener nuestro trabajo, así como lo son los empleos y la generación de ingresos para todos. Algunos de nosotros, tenemos trabajos que nos permiten mantener nuestro estilo de vida, pero par millones de personas, el trabajo les permite seguir viviendo la vida.
During covid, sport has been struck with a heavy dose of humility. The athletes are not listed as everyday essential workers of society. Those who are – delivery persons, medical workers, cleaners, among countless others – are used to humbly working hard with no spectators, behind closed doors, often away from any folks who appreciate them.
Now, sport is picking itself up off the field of play, re-assessing their place in society. The players themselves are recognizing their role with truthful words to a prime minister to reverse his decision on eliminating food vouchers for the most vulnerable people. That was Manchester United player Marcus Rashford to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. You also won’t see Rashford sewn across the back of his jersey. It will read Black Lives Matter. For him, his teammates, every player in Premier League. For the rest of the season.
These are small steps and big decisions. It just feels good to have sport in our lives again. Our mental health is better with sport and we welcome it back in our lives. Sport, and the pro athletes, will one day, hopefully sooner than later, welcome us back as well.
In the same way, Cuncani needs soccer and we are adjusting our Kick-off project to go back, soon.
Por Jean-Gabriel Tarassenko
Interconexión. Esa sería la palabra que me viene a la mente cuando pienso en el trabajo en colaboración con la comunidad alto andina de Cuncani en el programa de Almuerzos y otros proyectos de desarrollo comunitario. Para aprender y comprender cómo opera y funciona una comunidad rural como Cuncani, es necesario invertir paciencia y mucho tiempo para desarrollar relaciones sinceras con la gente.
Para tratar de comprender la estructura jerárquica socio-política, la posición de cada familia, los miembros de la comunidad, el papel de las maestras y maestros de la escuela primaria, las relaciones con el gobierno local, es necesario para tiempo con las personas, conocerlos como seres humanos. El primer paso del aprendizaje es escuchar. Escuchar las historias, escuchar a cada una de las personas y a partir de allí, poder descubrir la interconexión de cada una de ellas con la comunidad.
En las comunidades andinas de habla quechua, se hace referencia al concepto de ‘ayllu‘ que data de los tiempos Precolombinos y los días de los Incas. Sin embargo, el concepto no es, simplemente, una noción socio-histórica de comunidad. Es una experiencia viva y continua de identidad comunitaria: cada miembro del ‘ayllu‘ es una parte integral de la comunidad y sirve a la comunidad en un rol específico.
En esto, la interconexión con la tierra es centralmente importante, ya que en la cultura del ‘ayllu‘ no hay propiedad privada de la tierra porque cada familia tiene parcelas específicas que sirven y trabajan un cierto periodo de tiempo, pero permanecen bajo la administración del ‘ayllu‘.
La noción de reciprocidad (‘ayni‘) está en la base de la vida comunitaria – los miembros de la comunidad trabajan juntos, uno para el otro, en beneficio de la comunidad. Este acto de reciprocidad se ilustra a través de la faena, mediante la cual los miembros de la comunidad de manera voluntaria o convocada por su presidente, trabajan juntos en un proyecto como construir un invernadero, cosechar cultivos, etc. Históricamente, la faena es una forma de mantener la cohesión de la comunidad a través de la unión del pasado con el presente. Desafortunadamente, ahora existe un sentimiento creciente entre la generación mayor, que este sentido de la tradición y la unión se están perdiendo debido a que las generaciones más jóvenes se sienten obligadas a participar en las faenas y trabajar para evitar el pago de una multa.
Todos los miembros de la comunidad ofrecen sus servicios para trabajar la tierra, juntos. El conocimiento compartido se transmite de generación en generación. El sentido de reciprocidad está vivo en el intercambio de conocimientos dentro de la comunidad. En el contexto actual sobre el cambio climático y los desastres naturales, el intercambio de conocimientos dentro del ‘ayllu‘ significa que las familias saben exactamente qué variedad particular de papa puede crecer a 4,000 m.s.n.m. y cuál no. Saben exactamente por dónde pueden pastear las ovejas y las alpacas durante el duro y árido invierno, y dónde moverlas durante los meses lluviosos de verano.
Sin embargo, la identidad del ‘ayllu‘ no refleja una cultura específica de una comunidad y sus relaciones entre ellas. El ‘ayllu‘ podemos entenderlo, también, como parentesco; esencialmente, el ‘ayllu‘ se extiende fuera de la comunidad e incluye la compleja red de todas las relaciones sociales, culturales y económicas que existen. En este sentido, el ‘ayllu‘ incluye a toda la familia extendida que tiene alguna relación con esa comunidad pero que vive en otro lugar. De manera importante, también incluye a todos los que crearon esas relaciones con las familias de la comunidad y los miembros individuales, ya sean maestros, personas o trabajadores de ONG.
Lo que descubrí es la importancia del sentido del ‘ayllu‘, representado con más fuerza que las familias individuales de la comunidad. El ‘ayllu‘ es la encarnación viviente de una identidad comunitaria única que se refleja en su interconexión con la tierra y el sentimiento de parentesco que evoluciona constantemente y se extiende fuera de los límites físicos de la comunidad. El fallecido y gran antropólogo peruano Carlos Iván Degregori declaró que “no hay país más diverso” al escribir sobre la historia del Perú. No creo que era un comentario impertinente con una intención arrogante. En realidad, Degregori reveló la naturaleza inherente de esa interconexión entre todos los pueblos peruanos como se refleja en el ‘ayllu‘. Hayamos estado en Cuncani o no, estamos unidos por esos lazos de parentesco, estamos interconectados entre nosotros mismos. Lo que hagamos en el lugar en donde nos encontremos, por pequeñas que sean nuestras acciones, tiene impacto en el otro lado.
Este tiempo me recuerda, que todos estamos interconectados y como parte de un gran ‘ayllu‘; que nuestras acciones y omisiones no existen en el vacío. Durante este tiempo, nuestra sensación de interconexión nos da la tranquilidad de sentir que no estamos solos, pero también debe motivarnos a tomar acción.
Finalmente, si estás buscando una manera de apoyar a nuestras amigas y amigos de Cuncani, échale un vistazo a la maravillosa obra de arte digital de mi colega, Kenji Misawa. ¡No dudes en comprar una de sus creaciones inspiradas en Cuncani! El dinero que recaudemos nos ayudará a seguir trabajando por la comunidad. Envíanos un correo si quieres más información.
Jean-Gabriel es miembro de nuestro Consejo Consultivo. El trabajó con nosotros por casi 5 años. JG, como nos gusta llamarlo, fue el Coordinador de Nexos Voluntarios (NeVo) entre el 2011-2013, y después el Director de Programas (2014-2015).
Al regresar a su país, Reino Unido, estudió una maestría en Globalización y Desarrollo en América Latina en University College London (UCL) y actualmente trabaja en una de las organizaciones sin fines de lucro más grandes de su país.
By Jean-Gabriel Tarassenko
Interconnectedness. That would be the word that comes to mind when I think of working in collaboration with the high Andean community of Cuncani on the lunch program and other localised community development projects in the Urubamba province. In order to learn and understand how such a rural community operates and functions, one needs to invest patience and a lot of time in creating those vital relationships with the people.
In attempting to understand the hierarchical socio-political structure, the position of each family, individual community members, the role of the local primary school teachers, the relationship with local government, this cannot be done without simply spending the time with people and learning about them all as human beings. The first stage of learning is listening. Listen to the stories, listen to each person who makes up that community and you will eventually discover the interconnectedness of each person within that community.
In Andean Quechua-speaking communities, there is reference to the concept of the ‘ayllu’ that dates to pre-Colombian times and the days of the Inca. The concept isn’t simply a theoretical socio-historical notion of ‘community’, however. It is a lived, ongoing experience of community identity; each member of the ayllu an integral part of the community and serves the community in a specific role.
In this, the interconnectedness with the land is centrally important, as in the culture of the ayllu, there is no private ownership of the land as each family has specific plots which they serve and work for a certain period of time, but it remains under the general stewardship of the ayllu.
The notion of reciprocity (‘ayni’) is at the foundation of community life – community members work together, for one another, for the benefit of the community. This act of reciprocity is illustrated through the ‘faena’ – whereby the community voluntary, or is called upon by the President, to work together on a community project, such as building a greenhouse, harvesting crops, digging a well etc. Historically, the ‘faena‘ was a way to maintain community cohesion through linking the present with the past, unfortunately now, there is an increasing feeling amongst the older generation that this sense of tradition and cohesiveness is being lost due to the fact that more members of the younger generation feel obligated to participate in ‘faenas‘ and work so they do not have to pay a penalty fine to the community.
All community members serve to work the land together; shared knowledge is passed on between generations and consistently added to. The sense of reciprocity is alive in knowledge exchange within the community. In the current context of climate change and ecological disasters, knowledge exchange within an ‘ayllu‘ means that families know exactly which particular variety of potato can grow at 4,000 m above sea level, and which ones cannot. They know which crops are likely to thrive at an altitude of 3,800 m as opposed to 4,400 m. They know exactly where the sheep and alpacas can graze during the hard, arid winter, and where to move them during the wet, summer months.
The identity of the ayllu, however, does not only reflect a specific culture of a community and its interrelations. Ayllu also means what we understand as ‘kinship’, essentially, the ayllu extends out from the community and includes the complex web of all social, cultural, economic relationships that exist. In this sense, ‘ayllu‘ includes all extended family that have some relationship with that community but living elsewhere Importantly, it also includes all those who have created those key relationships with families from the community and individual members, be they teachers, trades people, and NGO workers.
What I discovered is the importance of the sense of the ‘ayllu‘, represented much more than the individual families of the community. ‘Ayllu‘ is the living embodiment of one single, community identity that is reflected in its interconnectedness with the land, and the sense of kinship that is consistently evolving and extended outside of the physical boundaries of the community. The late, great Peruvian anthropologist, Carlos Ivan Degregori famously stated that, “there is no country more diverse”, when writing about the history of Peru. I don’t believe this was a flippant comment with an arrogant intent. In reality, Degregori revealed the inherent nature of that interconnectedness between all Peruvian peoples as reflected in the sense of ‘ayllu‘. That whether we have been to Cuncani, or not, we are tied together by those bonds of kinship – we are interconnected to one another. What we do in our own part of the world, however small our actions, does have an impact on someone on the other side.
What these current challenging times has reminded me of, is that we are all interconnected and part of a greater ayllu; that our action or inaction does not exist in a vacuum. During this time our sense of interconnectedness naturally brings about reassurance and comfort that we are not alone, but it should also encourage us to move to action.
Finally, if you’re looking for a way to support our organization, please do check out the wonderful digital artwork created by my colleague, Kenji Misawa. Please do feel free to purchase one of his great pieces of art! All money raised from the sale of Kenji’s work will go towards supporting our work in Cuncani. Contact us for more information.
Jean-Gabriel is a member of our Advisory Board. He spent almost five years working for Nexos Comunitarios, principally in the town and area of Urubamba. JG was the General Coordinator for Nexos Voluntarios (NeVo) between 2011 – 2013, and then the Program Director (2014 – 2015).
After returning to his native UK and studying for an MSc in Globalization & Latin American Development at University College London, he currently works for one of the UK’s largest charities.