[Work In Progress] Adjusting project design

Every failure is a stepping stone that leads to success.

Although we are pleased with the progress of the project, not everything goes as planned. It is important for us to be flexible in designing the project from lessons we learn while doing the field work. Our photovoice project* with children in Cuncani is a perfect example of this. In this blog, I would like to share some lessons we have learned with the photovoice project.

Lesson 1: Planning a time to teach the children how to use the equipmentPhotovoice Nexos

We found it necessary to schedule a time and place to meet with the children and show them how to use the equipment. The original plan was for the coordinator to visit the school every week and show the children at that time. However, the teachers strike in the Cusco region, which lasted for more than two months, prevented us from carrying out this plan. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to reschedule the workshops, since the community has limited communication methods (Cuncani does not have phone service or internet). To fix this problem, and ensure the progression of the project, we coordinated with the students to create a schedule of training workshops based on their availability. Also, with the help of the community, we decided to carry out an hour-long after-school workshop in the community centre.


Lesson 2: Greater emphasis explaining the purpose of the project

During the workshops, we had instructed the kids to take pictures of all of their meals for 7 days. Even though the students have followed the guideline to take the photos of their meals, they did not take pictures of everything they ate. Our local coordinator, Saturnina, has indicated the need of NC to focus on explaining the project to the parents in order to have their cooperation. It was clear that we needed to explain in greater detail the importance of the project and enlist help from the parents. I will be sure in the future to allocate time in explaining to the children the purpose of the project and provide appropriate guidelines on how to make a food journal so that they will not miss a single meal of the week.

Lesson 3: Process of selecting participants

Embarking on a project as this requires flexibility, but we learned our original method of selecting participants was too flexible. We have worked with children ranging from 7 to 11 years old. Each one is curious about the use of camera and wants to be involved in the project. However, a 7-year-old boy, who was competent with the camera during the workshop, but could not take the pictures while at his home. Therefore, we decided to focus on students in grade 5, who are old enough to understand the project’s purpose, and be capable of using a camera to take pictures of their meals. At the same time, working with a small number of kids (there are 9 students in grade 5 at Cuncani’s primary school) allows us to complete the project more easily in the planned timeframe versus involving all children who are interested.

Based on the challenges from the original project design, we were able to adjust it easily. It’s a learning process, but the great part of working as a project coordinator for NC is that I have the ability to make these modifications. With the responsibility to carry out the project, and I have experienced the first-hand issues at the ground level. I believe a good field-worker is a someone who makes the most out of their mistakes and uses them to improve the situation. Our photovoice project is still a work in the process of finding a method that works best in Cuncani. Despite all the challenges, we believe this project has the potential to help measure the nutrition level of the community, while establishing a working relationship with all people involved.


* NC uses the photovoice as one indicator to measure the nutrition level of the community. The objective of the project is to capture with photography what family’s daily meals are really like in the community.

From Cuncani: Saturnina’s first post!

By Saturnina Sallo, Nexos Comunitarios Local Coordinator (*)

I’m Saturnina Sallo Cruz. I live in the region of Cusco, in the province and district of Urubamba and in the community of Cuncani. I’m married and I have two daughters: my first daughter was born  on December 18th, 2003 and the second one on April 18th, 2017. The father of my daughters is Victoriano and he adores them. We work in ECOLOGICAL agriculture producing  NATIVE potatoes. We have more than 150 varieties in our chacra. We also process potatoes to make ‘chuño‘ and moraya. Moreover, in our chacra there are 50 varieties of  mashua something like sweet potato, oca or apiña. We also make textiles with pure wool of sheep and alpaca.

I, Saturnina, work with NEXOS COMUNITARIOS, coordinating and organizing all activities in my community. Each Monday, I go to Lares district to coordinate the work week with Mari. For me, this job is the most important of my life because is of great benefit to my community and the children that need help.

(*) Saturnina wrote her first post after a week of work in Lima with us. We are very happy to see our colleague from Cuncani, sharing her life, her community and her responsibilities with our organization.



Desde Cuncani: Primera publicación de Saturnina

Por Saturnina Sallo, Coordinadora Local de Nexos Comunitarios (*)

Kenji Misawa para Nexos Comunitarios

Yo soy Saturnina Sallo Cruz, vivo en la región del Cusco provincia y distrito Urubamba, comunidad campesina de Cuncani. Estoy casada y son mamá de 2 niñas: mi primera hija nació el 18 de diciembre del 2003 y mi segunda hija el 18 de abril del 2017. El papá de mis hijas se llama Victoriano, y adora a sus 2 hijas. Nosotros nos dedicamos a la agricultura ECOLÓGICA  de  papas NATIVAS,  tenemos más de 150 variedades de papa en nuestra chacra. También hacemos procesados de la papa como el chuño y la moraya. En la chacra también hay 50 variedades de mashua que es como el camote, oca o apiña. Además, hacemos  ARTESANíA de pura lana NATURAL de oveja, alpaca.

Yo, Saturnina, trabajo con NEXOS COMUNITARIOS y me encargo de  coordinar y organizar en mi comunidad nuestras actividades. Cada lunes bajo al  distrito de Lares para coordinar con Mari, el trabajo de la semana. Para mí, este trabajo es el más importe de mi vida porque es en beneficio de mi comunidad y de los niños que lo necesitan.


(*) Saturnina escribió su primera publicación hace unos días, justamente después de una semana de trabajo en Lima. Nos alegra muchísimo que nuestra compañera de Cuncani, tenga ganas de compartir con todos y todas sobre su vida, su comunidad y sus responsabilidades dentro de nuestra organización. Esperamos que éste sea la primera de muchas publicaciones de Satur. Ésta es probablemente la primera publicación en internet de un poblador/a de la comunidad de Cuncani. ¡Qué orgullos@s nos sentimos!

[Work in Progress] New Initiative! The Travelling Soap!

TBy Kenji Misawa (NC Project Coordinator)

This Monday, I had a very interesting conversation with our former Norwegian intern, Madeline Moe about a simple but great initiative ‘travelling soap’, which she has come up with. It aims to connect children in Cuncani and children in Oslo (Norway) by a pure international exchanging of handmade soaps. Amongst many benefits of this ‘travelling soap’, I would like to share four advantages of this plan in this blog post.

1: Increase the level of sanitation and hygiene in the community

The greatest benefit of this initiative is that it allows for the children to be engaged with the use of soaps, which plays a pivotal role in hygiene. In our current society, we pay little attention to soap as we take it for granted. However, the use of soap has a significant effect in improving the sanitation and hygiene situation, especially in a community such as Cuncani where people regularly eat food with their hands. For example, according to the USAID ‘Water and Sanitation Indicators Measurements Guide’, improved hygiene behaviour can decrease the exposure to pathogens, which leads to the reduction of diarrheal diseases and intestinal parasites. At the same time, it can increase the nutrient absorption and improve disease resistance. One of the indicators in measuring hygiene levels in the guide was “the percentage of the appropriate handwashing behavior”. Therefore, this traveling soap has significant potential in prompting children to wash their hands while simultaneously teaching kids in Cuncani and Oslo proper handwashing techniques through action-based learning. Such activities can ultimately have a positive impact on improving the overall health status amongst students.

2: Promotes the interculturality amongst the children.

This activity also facilitates international interactions between children in Oslo and the children in Cuncani. Two groups of children will have the opportunity to learn about one another’s culture through fun activities. This type of cultural interaction is mutually beneficial for both groups as it allows them to understand and respect the similarities and differences between them, and to expand their knowledge and perspectives. Children in Oslo can learn about the community in a remote Andean community, while students in Cuncani will have the chance to observe the lives of children in Northern Europe, which they have never seen before. Their abundant curiosity can be geared towards learning about a different race, practices, history, geography, or food by interactions with children that are the same age.

3: Demonstrate the community through their own voice

This initiative does not only include travel soap but also travel children’s voice. During my discussion with Madeline, we have agreed to create soaps that are unique to their local community. For example, one of the ideas was to make a soap by mixing the available local plants, herbs, or flowers. We are also thinking about making a video of children explaining their handmade products and its relationship to their community. This is especially important for the children in Cuncani because the kids often lack the opportunities to present their community to others due to its severe isolation. By making a video, children can provide answers to questions like; what does your community look like? What do you do every day? What are the things you like about your community? These simple questions can be very important for the Peruvian and Norwegian children to reflect on, perhaps encouraging them to broaden their own perspective and view of the world.

4: Fun and exciting art and craft activity

Last but not least, children love to do a variety of arts and crafts. These types of activities are a useful tool for enhancing kid’s imagination and artistic abilities. Depending on the shape, ingredients, or color, a simple soap making activity can be a great opportunity for the children to express themselves and to develop their creativity skills. An additional benefit exists through the joy the children get from being involved in the production of soaps while also receiving a gift from that of another culture. From my point of view, one of the most important elements of the kind of initiative that it be appealing to the kids.  I believe this ‘travelling soap’ has clearly satisfied this requirement.

Such efforts represent the first planning phase of this new initiative. There are still many steps to go such as logistical processes, framework, timeline, indicators, evaluation methods and etc. We look forward to developing this initiative in an engaging way that contributes to the betterment of the children’s hygiene habits, while also learning about a different culture.


Aprender a caminar (otra vez)

Dámaris Herrera Salazar (Estudiante de Facultad de Sociología, PUCP)

Cuncani fue una experiencia retadora y transformadora en mi vida. Significó la oportunidad de vivir con las familias en las alturas de Cuncani, de compartir su día a día, conociendo de cerca sus costumbres, sus carencias y sus sueños.

Soy Dámaris, estudiante de Sociología y voluntaria del IDEHPUCP. Junto a un grupo de estudiantes de diferentes carreras y en coordinación con Nexos Comunitarios,  fuimos a realizar un diagnóstico comunitario y talleres de identidad para los niños y niñas y adultos de la comunidad

Durante mi estadía en Cuncani,  viví en la casa de Damiana, ella es madre y padre de su hija, Michelle. Damiana quiere que Michelle vaya a la universidad, ella solo terminó secundaria. Damiana y muchos pobladores tienen el mismo grado de instrucción y los mismos sueños para sus hijos e hijas.

La falta de buena educación no es el único problema en Cuncani, sus pobladores carecen de muchos servicios básicos y están trabajando arduamente por transformar esa realidad.  Con relación a la mejora en educación, actualmente, están trabajando en la implementación de un colegio de secundaria cercano, en la actualidad el colegio más cercano se encuentra en Lares, a 40 minutos en transporte (cuando está disponible) o 2-3 horas de caminata. Durante nuestro tiempo en Cuncani, aprendimos también que el servicio de salud es de muy mala calidad, no solo por las medicinas y atención médica sino por el maltrato de parte del personal de salud.

Asimismo, el cambio climático ha afectado sus principales actividades económicas: la agricultura y la ganadería. Ahora hace más frío y el sol sale antes, ocasionando que el pasto se seque y los animales no tengan que comer. Por otro lado, ellos cocinan con leña y el humo se encuentra en toda la atmosfera de la cocina. Este humo contamina a los pobladores como si fumaran 20 cajetillas de cigarrillos al día.

Sin embargo, a pesar de estos problemas, los pobladores de Cuncani valoran el lugar donde viven, su territorio forma parte integral de su cultura e identidad: la naturaleza y la tranquilidad de las alturas, sus productos oriundos y su vestimenta y lengua, todo ello heredado de sus ancestros.

Mis días en Cuncani se resumen en el reto de aprender a bajar y subir pendientes rocosas, respirar aire fuerte y puro, el mate de coca y las papas de siempre, participar en talleres y jugar con los niños y niñas, entender y aprender quechua; sobre todo entender que el afecto y el respeto pueden comunicar más que las palabras.

Como estudiante de sociología puedo afirmar que Cuncani te plantea la verdadera y transformadora experiencia del trabajo de campo. Mi trabajo fue más allá que una investigación cualitativa, fue un intercambio real. Así como Damiana me cuidó esos 5 días, quisiera hacer lo mismo por ella en un futuro.

Estudio sociología porque quiero ser parte del desarrollo de las numerosas comunidades nativas en el Perú, aquellas que se encuentran viviendo en situación de pobreza. La oportunidad de trabajar en la comunidad ha sido el primer paso de este sueño. Aprendí a caminar otra vez, y mis ganas de ser parte del desarrollo de comunidades andinas, hoy son más reales que nunca.

Spare change… It can change the world!

Kenji Misawa (NC Project Coordinator)

If you were to ask to draw a mind mapping of how non-profit organizations work, what ideas would come up instantly? Perhaps, you would think about concepts such as humanitarian aid, grassroots, local community, interculturality. Probably, the word ‘money’ would not appear in your drawing.

We often disconnect the idea of ‘money’ from non-profit organizations, at least when we compare them with businesses. However, without adequate financial resources for the projects, they  could not be successful even with lots of good intentions or compassion. Thus, while dedicating multitude efforts in coordinating the projects with our local partners, NC also spends the same amount of work in generating and raising funds to support our initiatives and our organization.

Since its creation, NC covers all operational expenses and as much as possible of the projects expenses with  the fees receive from participants of our programs. Nonetheless, despite all changes we made since we started working in Cuncani, for example:  reducing the number of our staff in half, our operational expenses have increased tremendously. In comparison to our work from 2008-2013, one day transportation to our community partners is now 40 times more expensive than before. Yes, 40 times more expensive.

Before Cuncani, we were able to cover all aspects of NC institutional expenses and all projects ones with the fees we receive from the programs. Since Cuncani, donations have have been crucial to accomplish our goals. These donations have been used, exclusively, for the projects (salaries and all overheads are not covered by them). Although it has been challenging, we cannot be more grateful for all the donations we have received. For example, after the floods in Piura, we successfully raised more than US$4,000  to support the victims by providing first aid packages and food, with your donations, we were able to successfully implement the Lunch Program in Cuncani! Do you know that in few opportunities, government officers have asked us for help to reach the community? They did not have the money to pay for their own transportation.

Currently, we are finishing the details of another initiative that will allow us to be able, again, to cover all of our projects expenses and support our organization as well. Nevertheless, for now, we still need your support. As you know we are currently raising money for our Sustainable Homes in Cuncani project and the goal is US$ 5,000. Promoting this campaign has not been an easy task but, at the same time, we are convinced that our partners from Cuncani, especially their children, deserve all of our efforts and your donations as well. We know that one of our roles is to  to connect people outside the community to the reality in Cuncani and look for support so they, specially the children, can have real opportunities for their lives.

If we reach the targeted amount for this campaign, we will be able to buy all the materials needed to implement the three technologies for each of our partners within the community: a greenhouse, a chicken coop and a composting toilet.  All donations will exclusively be used to purchase the materials for them. The materials include roofs, windows, doors, toilet seats, bags of cement, wood planks, plastic for the greenhouse roof and others. Not all materials are extremely expensive. For example, a $8 donation would help us buy 1 of the 2 bags of cement for the composting toilet. Would you consider making exchanging a beer this week for a $8 donation to help reach our goal? A composting toilet would help them to have a better hygiene, hence, less parasites and that means, better chances to combat malnutrition! You don’t have US$8, what about US$2? That amount of money would allow us to buy the nails to build a chicken coop for one family! Your generosity would help NC extensively to implement life transforming projects which ultimately support the vulnerable children in the community and improve their health standards.

Unfortunately, significant inequality still exists in today’s world. The family you are part of and the place you are born in are decisive to determine your future opportunities. Have you ever imaged to be born in a beautiful but isolated community like Cuncani? This is my second time in Peru and since my first, I  realized how privileged I am. I’m able to receive proper education, live a healthy life and have the freedom to pursue my career aligned with my interests. But this privileges should not be privileges anymore, every child in the world should have equal opportunities for their lives. Please, help us so we can continue with our work in Cuncani. I cannot lie to you, it is hard to work there but I love to be there, to work in this country, to play with the kids, and that’s more than enough for me to do some shameless work promotion, to ask you to make a donation for our project.