This conversation occurs frequently when I am meeting with people here in Peru for the first time. Kenji Fujimori is a business man/politician who has been serving as a congressman. His name is well known because of his father Alberto Fujimori, who was the 62nd Peruvian president from 1990 to 2000. It is nice, in a way, how Peruvians are familiar with the name ‘Kenji’, but I am also a little hesitant to be associated with the image of another individual. Indeed, my name is 健次(Kenji) in Japanese, whereas Mr. Fujimori’s first name is written as 健二(Kenji). I hope you can spot the difference between these two characters.
Graduating from Carleton University in June 2017, I am now working for a Peruvian based non-profit organization, NC. This very first blog post of mine (indeed, first ever in my life) will be used to introduce a little bit about myself, and the reasons behind me joining this organization.
I was born in Tokyo, the capital city in Japan. Just like one can imagine, Tokyo is one of the most famous, developed, and congested cities in the world. Most of my childhood memories gathered around this city. In 2006, when my dad was posted to Ottawa in Canada, I believe there was a turning point in my life. For the 11 year old kid, without any knowledge about foreign cultures nor languages, I remember feeling a surge of anxiety. However, the years in Canada turned out to be some of the most exciting and unforgettable memories of my life.
Being exposed to people with different backgrounds in a multicultural city was an especially eye-opening experience for an ignorant boy like myself. In my ESL (English Second Language) class, I became very good friends with some of the students who had come from countries with various social and political issues. The hardships they had gone through in their home towns during childhood were completely different from my comfortable life in Tokyo. Some of them had worked their whole life to make their living and never had a chance to attend school. One of them told me his story of hunting wild birds with his slingshot in his village. Through Japanese public education, I was aware of some difficulties that people were confronting in other parts of the world. Nonetheless, hearing such stories from my friends were thought-provoking. Since then, I had become interested in the field of international development.
“If we help, no one will suffer.” I first held this optimistic view towards development in other countries in my middle school. However, through my Bachelor program specializing in the international development studies, I have learnt about many development initiatives that have failed. Good intentions are not always enough to make positive change. There are a variety of skills and abilities needed to produce positive impacts. In my opinion, however, the relationship with local communities is the most important consideration in achieving sustainable development. As development workers, we must understand and respect the local culture, and design development programs in collaboration with local people in order to meet the true needs of these communities.
This skill of building trust with communities can only be acquired through experience in the field, and cannot be replaced by any form of education in school. This is the main reason why I am here in Urubamba, with NC who shares this same belief and value. Furthermore, I strongly believe this opportunity will significantly contribute to my professional and personal growth.
Nexos Comunitarios is currently a team of four permanent staff members, which may seem very small. However, we have substantial potential in facilitating sustainable development projects within the Urubamba region. In our living room, there is a quote by Margaret Mead saying: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
From now on, I will be writing posts in our blog about the activities of our organization These posts will be mainly focus on our main projects, such as Sustainable Home Project, Sustainable Tourism (Media Luna & Cuncani), and the Photovoice Project in the remote Andean community of Cuncani. At the same time, I am looking forward to sharing various interesting aspects of my life in Peru!
Thank you for reading my first post and I hope you enjoy my weekly posts!