The ‘unattractive’ problem of malnutrition

Maricarmen Valdivieso (NC Founder)

Malnutrition is an unattractive subject for everybody and more than that, its impact on everyone’s life determines everyone’s future. While we all know how important it is to be nourished, sometimes, due to the list of many important issues we need to take care of, we place the support to initiatives against malnutrition towards the last position on a list of priorities. Or maybe, when we have food in abundance for ourselves, we can forget that there are others who don’t have any.

The NGO/Start-up world demands the following trait as a requirement from anyone who wants to be successful: creativity. Many times, this has been focused on as the necessity to come up with an idea that is so good that it could sell itself. Don’t get me wrong. I wish our organization would be in a position to start something that is so innovative and creative that would eradicate the poverty in Cuncani. But we are not there yet, there are few steps we need to do first, in order to assure a sustainable Responsible Human Development. One of those first steps is to eradicate malnutrition – not just reduce it- but this takes time.

Nexos Comunitarios' Development Model
Nexos Comunitarios’ Development Model


When we ‘moved’ to work in Cuncani, I believe that none of my former colleagues, neither I, knew that it was going to be this challenging. The challenges are various, including the budget we have for every activity and every visit. As experts in poverty reduction say, communities as Cuncani, which still remain poor in Peru, are those that have a type of poverty that is very hard to combat. However, all these challenges have an amazing reward: the peace we find in the community and the special happiness that seems to permeate there when we finish with our working day with them. After several hard days and lots of effort, working in Cuncani provides its own unique and special compensation. I have made this very simple ‘snapchat’ video that chronicles a typical for us when we go to Cuncani. We start at 4:30 a.m, going from Urubamba to Calca. Watch the whole video here, to learn more about a typical day.

Our ZERO Hunger- Nutrition Program in Cuncani is just the beginning of our work with the community, but we need your help so that we can continue the program in collaboration with the community. On June 3rd, 9 of us, including NC staff, students from McGill University and Carleton University will be walking from Cuncani to Urubamba. We will be, literally, crossing mountains until we reach our lovely home in Urubamba. I have done the trek before and even though had the best memories, it remains quite a daunting task. But why are we doing this? As important as it is to raise money (our goal is US$ 3,000) it is to promote the idea that isolation shouldn’t be synonymous with a poor community. Neither should the existence of a high mountain range with all of its geographically imposing limitations it places on people mean that they shouldn’t be able to be involved in Human Development for themselves. Please, take the time to get more information about our campaign and we hope that you can support it. Find all the details here.

When I see how far we are from achieving our ultimate goal: To promote the exercise of rights and civil liberties through Responsible Human Development, in Cuncani, I need to remember to focus on small steps. Since we started working in the community, there are no children with anaemia, and from this year, we are starting to add a sustainable component to our Lunch Program in Cuncani through developing the school greenhouse and starting up the fish farm and initiating the family greenhouses with the parents of the children. I feel proud of what we have achieved so far but it will be nothing in comparison to the celebration in some years from now: when we all are able to realise our vision as reality and the implementation of our model, done with the support of the community. Help us to celebrate more accomplishments this year and make a donation. Every cent does count.

Let’s remind everyone that we all deserve the right to good nutrition and that in this century, and in a middle income country, like Peru, it is unacceptable that there exist communities that do not have their own access to their own better nutrition and food.

Wilma, Yulisa and Pavel (adorable Kindergarten children)
Children in Cuncani are often shy BUT always adorable: Wilma, Yulisa and Pavel 



Isolation in Cuncani

By Daniel Baptiste (Nexos Comunitarios)

What is isolation, and why does it so often have a negative connotation? Why in development circles is isolation so often synonymous with impoverishment. It is a question that I have found myself pondering in the past few days.

Llegada a Cuncani

This past Tuesday, myself, our director Maricarmen, and 7 interns from McGill and Carleton travelled to the community of Cuncani. To get to Cuncani we woke up at 5am and took two different buses for about 3 hours from our home base in Urubamba, (the village in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where we are based), to Lares, a remote village high up in the Andes. From Lares we walked for 4 hours, largely uphill, higher and higher into the High Andes at altitudes often exceeding 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level. The hike was far from easy, despite the extreme beauty of the rugged mountain peaks, and green fields teaming with wistful llamas and alpacas, most of our team was panting within 10 minutes of beginning the hike. Those who know me know that I am no stranger to hyperbole, so I will avoid characterising this hike as the most physically strenuous challenge I’ve ever put on my body. That said at those altitudes the thinness of the air makes even a short stroll feel more like a triathlon. Nevertheless, in the end we made it to Cuncani.

Llamas in CuncaniIt was my first visit to Cuncani. As a coordinator with Nexos Comunitarios I was pleased to know that it certainly wouldn’t be my last. It was first time seeing the splendid green peaks that tower above the community. My first time hearing the locals proudly speaking their ancient and complex Andean Quechua language. It is difficult for me to understand how people can look down on these proud descendants of the Incas. How racism and inequality can still be so present not only in Peru, but all over our beautiful diverse world. I was fascinated by the traditional clothing, so well adapted to Cuncani’s unique high altitude environment. I was also enchanted by the energy of the children, some shy and reserved others embodying the effervescence of youth, if tempered somewhat by malnourishment.

The more I travel the more I realise that not only is every culture interesting, but every culture has something to offer to the world. Every human is fundamentally the same. That wealth is an artificial construct, which separates humans from each other. Unfortunately, racism, and economic inequality often make stalwart barrier to the realisation of a better world.

Child in CuncaniOn June 3rd, our community will be walking from Urubamba to Cuncani. This will take up to 12 hours and will bring us to altitudes nearing 5,000 meters above sea level (well over 16,000 feet). We are doing this for two reasons: to show the community, and that world that the Ain’t no mountain high enough to stop us from fulfilling our commitment to partnering with communities like Cuncani, as equals to help promote Responsible Human Development, and meaningful cultural exchanges. We do not work in Cuncani to ‘fix the community’, or to ‘teach the locals’. In reality they have far more to teach us then we can teach them. Nevertheless, the issue of malnutrition persists. I proposed the idea of crowdfunding this project because I see it as a way to both bridge and conserve what I see to be Cuncani’s splendid isolation. To help the community with out imposing mass tourism our rapid uncontrollable change. Please take a look at our campaign, here. Just reading about the issues in Cuncani can help spread awareness about the Andean microcosms we work it. If you feel like contributing, even the tiniest contribution can help us to reach our fundraising goal.


Cuncani: beauty and courage rising from isolation

By Alice Ebeyer (NC Intern – McGill University)

The sun is not up yet, but we are already outside and can feel the fresh air on our faces. Surrounded by tomatoes, pumpkins, eggs, onions, cauliflowers and more food items, we are at the Nexos Comunitarios house in Urubamba, ready to visit the village of Cuncani. This will be my first time up there.De Cuncani a Urubamba

My name is Alice, I am French and I am currently studying at McGill University, Canada. My studies involve economics and international development, where I try to understand the global distribution of power and how power relationships affect different regions of the world. It is my first stay in Peru, but also the first time I get to being immersed in a country so concretely. NC allows me to observe the situation from a local perspective, where I can understand more easily the realities of the region. For this, I need to be knowledgeable about the country and this specific area. Through different readings added to my personal experiences here, I can see how this country is complex; first by its political context, resulting from the heavy historical past of Peru. I am also learning how the social relationships are varying from a place to another, how people interact between each other considering their origins and social positions, and how each perspective is deeply linked to the others. Beauty rises from this complexity, making Peru one of the most unique country I have visited. However, it is a reality that inequalities and discriminations are part of this process of Peru’s reality. Discrimination is strongly present in some regions and time has isolated some people more than others.

NC3This is where Nexos Comunitarios plays a role : the main goals are the enhancing of health, education and economic empowerment through different projects and Participatory Action Research. Also and very important, NC promotes two principles along all its work: interculturality and the protection of human rights.


NC is working to implement Responsible Human Development in communities that are marginalized from society. Cuncani is one of these and for the next 2 months I will be part of the 2nd chapter of the PhotoVoice initiative in the community. As NC claims, this research project is made “for the children, with the children, and by the children”. Within the next weeks, I will share more about this methodology and my role in this 2nd chapter.

1-13Honestly, I was already nervous about my role in this project, and when we arrived in the village, I think it got worse. I was feeling like a brown spot in the middle of a white sheet. Maricarmen, our director, introduced me to the children with whom I am going to spend time. I have noticed some of them were really excited but others seemed shyer. Later I got to speak with a few of them and also with Saturnina, a great woman and the local coordinator for NC initiatives in the community. After these conversations, I felt ten times lighter and when we had to get back home, I was really emotional. This place possesses an aura and a sort of energy you don’t want to get away from. The small river, the animals, the vegetation… It all converges into something peculiar that you couldn’t find elsewhere, merging with the mountains. There, we will start the trek that Nexos Comunitarios is organizing as a fundraiser for their Nutrition Program project. By following this link you will have all the information about our campaign: Ain’t no mountain high enough.

1-11The team, Saturnina, and all the interns will be walking from the village of Cuncani to Urubamba. We will be walking between 8 to 12 hours depending on our fitness. We hope it will help our organization to receive more money for our amazing development projects.  I would like to encourage you to take the time to read about our campaign, support our efforts and share it among your friends and family. ALL donations are welcome! On May 27th, will be the day for the trek and we are already training to be ready for it! Today, we hiked to the cross in Urubamba and we got to the Top!

Overall, I am really excited for the time that I will have to spend here so far, but above all, I feel really grateful to be part of this project. I know that if I am supposed to be the adult amongst the children with whom I will be working, they will teach me way more than that I will teach them. Also, Nexos Comunitarios is genuinely caring for the people they are helping, they are never giving up and I find this really brave, amazing and wonderful.