By Alice Ebeyer (NC Intern 2016 – McGill University)
“Spending two months in Peru with Nexos Comunitarios has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Being immersed in a different culture and being able to witness particular traditions and customs was stirring. The organization offers an amazing context to achieve efficient work, but also personal growth. The job itself allows us to further open our minds by seeing, discovering, learning so many new things. Peru is a unique place and working with local people is the best way to experience the country. This internship was the occasion to learn more about primary research and more particularly Participatory Action Research methods. Thus, it has been enriching on a personal and professional level but also on an academic perspective.
International development and development in general is a long and complex process; it needs patience and persistence and this is what I learned at NC by trying to help and making a social impact.
What this internship also taught me is to never give up, because only small groups of people who attempted to change the world actually reached their goals.”
“If I could recommend anything to a university student looking to expand their cultural knowledge and make a significant societal impact, it would be working with Nexos Communitarios. The Nexos staffs not only ensured we had everything we needed pre-departure, but were also constantly in contact with us during our trip to ensure a flawless execution and unforgettable experience.
The project I had the privilege of working on, PhotoVoice, was an amazing initiative designed to change the mindset of children in impoverished areas in order to help them believe they can do anything they set their mind to. Partaking in this project was an eye-opening and wonderful experience as I made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.”
By Monika Volz (Alternative Spring Break 2015) – #BeTheChange
“ASB was the most rewarding, fun, and life changing experience I’ve ever had! I will never forget the amazing memories I made in Peru with all of the wonderful people I became so close with. It opened up my university experience to so many new opportunities and meaningful friendships. Everyone should be able to have an experience like this at least once in their lives, and ASB is the perfect chance! This program is highly organized with incredible projects and wonderful objectives to help people around the world. ASB has an assortment of different objectives such as health and nutrition, community involvement, and education among many. I went to Peru to work with an organization called Nexos Voluntarios (now called Nexos Comunitarios) where I volunteered in many of their projects. I was involved in building a bathroom for a young girl with Cerebral Palsy, volunteering at an orphanage, working with children with disabilities, teaching English, and much more. ASB is also a great program because they carefully choose really great locations and organizations to work with. When I went to Peru, I thought that I would be making a big difference in the world. I do believe that I made a difference while I was there, however, what I wasn’t prepared for was that the people in Peru made an even bigger impact on my own life. I learned so much about compassion and selflessness; everyone around me was always so loving. They taught me to be genuinely kind to everyone and treat everyone with love and respect. They made me realize that we are all connected, even if it’s not by blood. They taught me to be unselfish and to help other people. If everyone in the world would embrace the people around them like the people I met in Peru have, the world would be a much happier place. This experience has truly shaped who I am and what I believe in. Everyone should have a chance to experience a program like ASB!”
By Kenji Misawa (NC Intern – Ottawa, Canada. Carleton University)
This internship opportunity was one of the most amazing experience of my life. The internship is itself is well organized and the members of the organization were very warm and welcoming. The activities were related to the human rights issues and promoting sustainable development in the small Andes communities. The most valuable experience for me was to visit the communities and interacts with communities’ members. I believe in any development works, understanding the reality of the people’s life and building the trust among communities’ members are the most important elements. I believe working for NC is an amazing opportunity since it provides us with chances to conduct field works, as well as practical skills of planning and analyzing the developing program. Also, besides the actual work, NC provided us with various trips and workshops where we could learn interesting Peruvian culture, traditions and histories.
Currently, the main focus of Nexos Comunitarios is the Malnutrition issue in the community. The Nutrition program is focusing on the children but in reality, we are lacking in the knowledge concerning the feeding process, as we are working as external actors in this assistance procedure. The work that has been done so far is valuable but we need to get more intimate details about the daily lives of the inhabitants of Cuncani to be genuinely efficient. This would include the input from as many members of the community as possible.
That is why recently, we are trying to develop a research approach inspired by the Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology. We have been adapting several ideas taken from various academic sources to create a useful research method for Cuncani. Indeed, nothing would be perfectly applicable to the community as it is an interesting case with a peculiar culture coming from the Incan people. Therefore, we had to create a framework with precise steps and accurate templates to build a PAR method that would fit the needs of Cuncani.
Why choosing participatory research would you ask? This quite new method is generally used by anthropologists, and it has been demonstrated to be more effective than using the traditional interviews or focus groups methodologies. The whole goal is to empower the participants by working with them to find solutions and solve various issues in a non-hierarchical way. As in every PAR method, we consider an important step dedicated to the establishment of a relationship and trust between all parties.
For the project, the first step that we will do is we will continue with the Photovoice project, but this time with the entire family. We will provide cameras for a couple days and ask each member of the family to take pictures of what they are doing for food-related activities. The second activity will be a walk in Cuncani, accompanied by the fathers of the community. They could show us the places where they are keeping their animals, where they are planting the potatoes or vegetables, and hopefully, casually explain to us through the walk about the feeding process from their perspective, more in details.
Again, the goal of this research would be to understand as completely as possible how the people of Cuncani feed themselves. The final step of this made up PAR method will be a closing discussion, where we can go over the whole project and figure out what we have found, what is missing, but also discuss with the participants: how do they feel, what are their thoughts, and ask if they are still comfortable with the process. The term participatory is key and it demonstrates how important it is that all the parties can feel comfortable enough to be part of the project. It truly is a team work.
Besides, we have had the opportunity to talk with Saturnina about this idea; she is an important link between NC and Cuncani. From there, she knows her community and understands it more than we will ever do. And if we know that gathering enough families to be part of the project can be complicated, she seemed triggered by the idea and told us she could help us found enough persons to conduct Photovoice and accompany us with the walk. However, she also told us that we can have many ideas, many projects, and many researches; but it will probably take a lot of time before we can see real changes happening in the community.
During our working days in Cuncani, we were able to observe how the parents take care of the children. But, surely our short observations during our trips could not make us comprehend the whole situation as most parts are still hidden from our eyes. There is still so much more that we need to learn from this community; their culture and their tradition. The ‘sad truth about my community’ as Saturnina said, ‘is that people are not so motivated to make drastic changes in their lives.’ But, we should not be too quick to judge, as we have to consider that the culture of this community depends on maintaining their traditions and their values.
Therefore, this demonstrates an example of the complications that can come into play in trying to bring support to impoverished and isolated communities despite the health and economic challenges that they face. Still, it will never mean that Nexos Comunitarios will give up; no matter the complications, we will always be here to work with the community of Cuncani, and together we will always try to address various problems and more specifically now, to solve the malnutrition issue, even if it takes years before it will be eradicated. This is our job: and it requires persistence and patience.
Time flies in the High Andes… It has already been four weeks since I have arrived in the Sacred Valley, meaning that I have also had the occasion to visit Cuncani three times. So far, it has been a wonderful experience, where I could spend unique and intense moments with the people I have met there, but more specifically, the children.
I have mentioned it in my last post; my participation in Nexos Comunitarios initiative will be focused on the 2nd chapter of the Photovoice project. This tool is part of Participatory Action Research methodology and is based on storytelling method that aims to illustrate firsthand representation and perceptions of the community.
This Photovoice chapter is focused on the children, and my role is to assist on develop or strengthen the ties with them, so they can feel more comfortable with us. The whole project is supposed to be fun for them : the more they are comfortable and enjoying the process, the best they will express themselves in a natural manner. The process of the project clearly states that they have to be considered as equals and peers. All forms of superiority expressed by the age difference must be avoided. As NC claims, this research project is made “for the children, with the children, and by the children”. Thus, the more I am accepted, the more I can be efficient in my work. Indeed, the High Andean people as a whole may be considered more introvert than people from the North. This characteristic can be reflected through the kids’ behaviour toward strangers. Consequently, I have to pay more attention to some of the children who are shyer than others. In the end, I hope that they will consider me trustworthy.
As part of my responsibilities , I have to help with the design of the class activities, which include creative workshops. For instance, for the first class, they had to draw what they liked the most in Cuncani. I was touched and surprised because all of them drew animals, the mountains or the river in priority. Where I live, I feel like the children would have paid a lot less attention to this basic thing that is yet so beautiful and essential : nature. For the second workshop, we made them play with frames; the goal was for them to act like it was a camera. They had to capture what they liked the most in their community. Almost all of them took ‘pictures’ of the river; they then had to decorate their frames as they liked.
At the end of each activity, we have to gather their work and at home, write a general report about the workday but also a child by child report. Recording the Photovoice project process like this allows us to verify if the children are getting more confident, if they are ready to share more feelings and thoughts; essentially, to analyze the evolution of our work
By the end of my time here, we will have to help them create their own camera made out of cardboards so they can get familiar with real ones. In August, a group of psychology students will come and work with Nexos Comunitarios. At this moment, the kids will be given actual cameras and they will have to take them home so that they can take pictures of items and places that are relevant for them.
I am in the early stage of this relationship with the children, but I already feel really connected to them and I cannot wait to establish genuine links with them, hopefully beyond the internship work context, in a way that is good for both of us.
Hablar de desnutrición es hablar de un tema nada atractivo para todos, sin embargo, no podemos negar que el impacto de éste en la vida de cada uno de nosotros, determina nuestro futuro. A pesar que todos sabemos acerca de la importancia de estar bien nutridos, a veces, y debido a la extensa lista de problemas que debemos resolver, colocamos el apoyo a iniciativas contra la desnutrición, muchas veces, en la última posición. O quizá, se debe a que cuando tenemos comida suficiente (en varios casos: abundante), nos olvidamos que existen otras personas que tienen muy poco, o, incluso, nada.
Además de la extensa lista de problemas, debemos ser conscientes que el mundo de las ONG/Start-up exige el siguiente componente como un requisito para cualquier institución que quiera ser exitosa: la creatividad. Por favor, no me malinterpreten, me encantaría que nuestra organización estuviera en la posición de empezar con una iniciativa tan innovadora y creativa que pudiera erradicar la pobreza en Cuncani. Pero no hemos llegado a este punto, AÚN; para ello necesitamos seguir ciertos pasos, primero, para poder asegurar un Desarrollo Humano Responsable sostenible, en nuestro caso, poder implementar nuestro modelo de desarrollo. Uno de esos primeros pasos es erradicar la desnutrición – no sólo reducirla.
Cuando nos ‘mudamos’ a Cuncani, creo que ninguno de nosotros, supimos qué tan retante iba a ser este trabajo. Los desafíos son muchos, incluyendo el presupuesto que necesitamos para cada actividad, para cada visita. Como los expertos en desarrollo han dicho, las comunidades como Cuncani, que aún se mantienen pobres en Perú, son aquellas que sufren de un tipo de pobreza que es muy duro de combatir. Sin embargo, todos estos retos tienen una recompensa incomparable: la paz que encontramos en la comunidad y la felicidad especial que tenemos al terminar el día de trabajo, son únicas. Después de varios días duros de esfuerzo, el trabajo en Cuncani, las personas de la comunidad y los niños y niñas nos proveen una compensación sumamente especial. He hecho este vídeo muy simple en ‘Snapchat’ que resume un día típico de visita a Cuncani. Empezamos a las 4:30 a.m., yendo de Urubamba a Calca. Pueden ver el vídeo aquí.
Nuestro Programa de Nutrición en Cuncani: HAMBRE CERO, es el comienzo de nuestro trabajo en la comunidad y mientras los realizamos también trabajamos fuertemente para mostrar, más de la comunidad, para que las personas conozcan de ella y su realidad. El día 3 de junio, 10 de nosotros, incluyendo a pasantes de McGill University y Carleton University caminaremos desde Cuncani hasta Urubamba. Literalmente, estaremos cruzando montañas hasta que llegamos a nuestro lindo hogar en Urubamba. He hecho este camino antes y a pesar que tengo los mejores recuerdos de esta experiencia, recuerdo también que fue un día muy duro. Pero, ¿por qué hacemos esto? Así como es importante recaudar dinero (nuestra meta es de US$ 3,000) también lo es, la promoción de la idea que el aislamiento de una comunidad no debe ser sinónimo de pobreza. La existencia de montañas de gran altura como las que envuelven a Cuncani (entre 3,800 y 4,800 m.s.n.m.) no deben ser limitaciones para que sus habitantes disfruten de los beneficios que incluye el Desarrollo Humano Responsable. Para conocer sobre nuestra campaña, y compartirla, pueden seguir este enlace.
Cuando veo lo lejos que estamos de alcanzar nuestra meta: Promover el ejercicio de los derechos y libertades civiles a través del Desarrollo Humano Responsable en Cuncani, necesito recordar que debo enfocarme en pequeños pasos. Desde que hemos empezado a trabajar en la comunidad, ya no hay niños con anemia y, desde este año, el plan es añadir un componente de sostenibilidad al Programa de Almuerzos en Cuncani, a través de la implementation de biohuertos familiares, además de continuar con el trabajo en el biohuerto y la piscigranja escolares. Estoy muy orgullosa de lo que juntos (la comunidad, nuestros queridos padrinos y madrinas, los estudiantes y nuestro equipo) hemos alcanzado, pero este logro, será muy pequeño en comparación a lo que alcanzaremos en unos años: cuando todos podamos ver que nuestra meta se convirtió en realidad y que la implementación de nuestro modelo se pudo alcanzar a través de un trabajo de toda nuestra comunidad. Por favor, no dejen de ayudarnos para poder seguir celebrando juntos todos los logros que tendremos este año y los siguientes.
Ayúdanos a recordarle al mundo, que todos merecemos el derecho a tener una buena nutrición y que en este siglo, en un país de ingresos medios como el nuestro, es inaceptable que aún existan comunidades sin acceso a una mejor comida, a una mejor nutrición.