[Testimonials] Connecting

Ronny Bao, Western University

Tourism, similar to a coin, has two sides. One of its faces showcases beautifully alluring imagery of a foreign destination that attracts travellers from all over the globe whereas its second face hides a darker side of tourism that is rarely seen by tourists on vacation. While travelling can be enjoyable, enlightening, and life changing, it can also have a huge negative impact on the residents of the host country where vacationers travel to. Therefore, I have always been cynical towards travelling without a beneficial cause to others; however, this year I came across the opportunity of a lifetime when I applied to the Alternative Spring Break program at my university. My school had a pre-established partnership with Nexos Comunitarios, a Peruvian non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses on assisting isolated populations in Cusco, Peru. Our week-long trip was spent through engaged learning while working with the NGO in one of the projects. The focused population of our trip were the residents of the high altitude community of Cuncani.

Traveling to Cuncani to build chicken coops with Cuncani residents while learning from them and building connections has opened my eyes in ways that I could have never expected. The residents of Cuncani live in a harsh but stunningly beautiful environment amongst the mountains at 4,000 meters in the air. To reach the homes of our hosts we were required to hike up part of a mountain after a bus ride that took us to the end of the highest paved roads in that region. Our entire group took three times as long as it would have taken our host  to make the climb; furthermore we all had sturdily manufactured shoes whereas she wore simple, open-toed, leather sandals with poor grip. Despite her footwear, our host and guide nimbly navigated her way up the mountains while pausing frequently so that we could both catch up to her and our breaths. Although the hike was hard, it was certainly worth it. The view outside the home of our hosts were absolutely captivating, the majestic peaks of the mountains were starkly contrasted against their precipitous sides that plummeted to the base of the mountains. Cuncani was truly a hidden gem that was masked by the poverty in its region, as a matter of fact it was even on the way to the world renown tourist destination Machu Picchu.

One of the short and long term goals of Nexos Comunitarios is to stimulate tourism in Cuncani. Given the depths of poverty and exclusion that many of its residents live in any amount of economic stimulation can vastly improve their standard of living. The biggest barrier in the way of tourism growth in Cuncani is its isolation and misinformation and lack thereof. Many people have never heard of Cuncani, therefore increasing traffic through those mountains require travellers who have experienced the beauty of Cuncani to spread the word. This is where my team and myself come in, we are energetic and curious young adults who seek to travel the world in an ethically appropriate manner. After travelling to Cuncani we are keen to introduce others to its charm and elegance.

Creating international information links to Cuncani and Peru to help its excluded citizens is only one of the various projects that Nexos Communitaros is working on. The NGO brilliantly combines tourism and programs such as #BeTheChange and InternLink and work into a perfect consolidation that appeals to post-secondary students such as myself. My trip to Peru has certainly changed my life by opening my eyes to the power that small actions have in the lives others. If given the opportunity I truly implore you to visit Cuncani under the guidance of Nexos Communitaros.




[Testimonial] #BeTheChange

Mathias Nilges, St. Francis Xavier University

Even after half a dozen very thorough showers, there is still Cuncani dirt in my callouses and underneath my fingernails. Cuncani refuses to let go. The same is true of my feelings and thoughts. Here, too, Cuncani, its people, its animals, and its landscape have left traces that, I hope in this case, will remain with me for a long time. And in some ways, I sense that some parts of me are still there. It is impossible not to be deeply moved by this part of the world and its people, people who live and work in a region that is both stunningly beautiful but also harsh and unforgiving. In conditions that had us shivering and huddling together for warmth in our cushy down sleeping bags at night, the people of Cuncani work to support their families and communities with few resources and little outside support.

Life in Cuncani is hard. And yet Señor Martin and his family welcomed us with such great warmth and with constant smiles and kind assistance that we felt not just humbled but often also embarrassed–embarrassed about how little we could do to help, embarrassed by the strength, resilience and resourcefulness of our host that showed in every action how easy and antiseptic our own lives ordinarily are. We left deeply touched and impressed by the people of this region, people who want and need support, but people who are also immensely proud of their heritage and culture, their region and way of life and who fight to preserve these aspects of their existence. We went to Peru to visit and work with people in some of the most remote areas of the country, those people who have been forgotten by the nation’s otherwise so successful poverty relief efforts. After having spent some time with some of these families, I wonder how I, or anyone, could ever forget them.

Addendum: I must add that no aspect of our amazing trip would have been possible without the help and support of the wonderful people of Nexos Comunitarios. Their organization deserves our attention and support, and I encourage everyone to look them up, support them, to work and collaborate with them. What a wonderful, inspiring, generous, and all around impressive group of people. Thank you, Maricarmen, in particular. You’re an inspiration.

Second addendum: though I will say this repeatedly at future public events, already at this point: I had the privilege to go on this ISL trip with the best group of students imaginable. They are all impressive young academics and some of the most kind, thoughtful, and caring people that I have met since coming to StFX. It was a joy to travel and work with this group, especially because they made everything so easy on me. Really, they didn’t need me around at all. And that’s probably the ideal impression a group leader should get: that no group leader is needed because the group members are so good at what they do and have grown into a unit of friends in ways that were heart warming to watch. Thanks for letting me witness the growth of your friendship, your work, and your analytical thought process over the course of this trip, Natasha, Laura, Emma, Elizabeth, Magie, Katie, and Carmen!

[Ambassador] What is good?

Alice Ebeyer, McGill University

Being a student, I have to go through a series of hopes, uncertainties and disappointments regarding the future of our planet (and mine). I am halfway through my international development studies as an undergraduate, and if I have solved some of the questions that the academy has posed to me, I confess to always being confused about the professional prospects that the development field has to offer. This tenacious feeling of having to help the so-called developing countries, tinged with a persistent post-colonial shadow. Today, the education we receive through this program urges us not to reproduce past mistakes. Yet new ones are committed; a clumsiness that reflects an ideology falsely focused on the common interest.

The realities within the university are contradictory, promoting an ideal of development that remains, in my opinion, a projection of capitalism in its entirety and its implementation. These economic ideologies are contingent to the power imbalance across the world: they imply an exponential enrichment which I believe can only be achieved by the relative impoverishment of an opposite. University then becomes a place where the distinction between professional aspirations and the idea of development aid fades. The personal interest is merged with the common interest, for better and for worse. Ideas are fusing: would I be a leader, what can I undertake, how can I participate in achieving the new goals of the United Nations? In a sense, this program conditions us and makes us want to achieve goals, to do good because we have been taught to do so. It is an automated form of applying knowledge that is not necessarily motivated by a genuine sense of spreading good around oneself. What is good? In my opinion, everything that minimizes the malaise of others. Everything is relative of course, but if these inter-relational fundamentals were re-examined in teaching, perhaps our vision of interculturality and co-working would be thorough and the need to be attentive to the people’s input would be further highlighted.

The result of these observations leads me to some form of confusion on the field. There is a somewhat hypocritical sentiment that knots my stomach when I think of the enthusiasm provoked by international studies. It has become so easy to volunteer, to travel with a purpose, to do Voluntourism or simply apply abroad for any kind of job. As a fashion, an ephemeral passion for the meaning of life that the journey grants. Opportunities to work in an organization that offers dialogue and connaissance as key principles are becoming scarce. They stress the complexity of reality: one that takes time, perseverance, strength but also a lot of love and humility to realize every new step. The ability of students to go around the world and/or work for this or that organization – for sometimes exorbitant amounts – in order to gain experience contradicts itself. We are offered a form of privilege of helping, to meet our personal needs. I finally come back to this vision of international development as a hand of post-colonialism, a rejuvenated version of the white man’s burden. To stem the yoke that the countries of the ‘South’ suffer subjectively, I think it would be a good idea to authentically support local organizations that encourage the participation of all groups concerned; no more no less. Clearly, if international studies are today quite trendy, I do not think they are reprehensible: simply flawed.

I find my international development program very complete in that it draws from various subjects and different disciplines. This allows us to learn a great deal and to absorb varied perspectives on development. Subjects such as sociology or anthropology offer a holistic view of global thought while economics or geography, among others, represent the development sector and the power gaps between countries in a more pragmatic way. We feel a deep criticism of Western ethnocentrism, the white man’s burden, or late twentieth-century development models that have contributed to the spread of neoliberalism. Theoretically, the focus is on our ability to know more about what is best for others or condemn invasive methods observed in research  as well as in development projects themselves.

The aim of future generations would be to find a balance, which will be done with time, education and the strengthening of collective consciousness. Do not misunderstand my criticism: I deeply believe that the involvement of institutions in promoting international development is a good thing. It shows that people are pacifying themselves, that new generations are adopting a different definition of happiness, including its global aspect. We must continue to spread the desire to improve human kind, in spite of its intricacy. I simply question the conflict of interest that development missions and the role of institutions bring to light: I am uncertain of their significant scope. We must continue to move forward and perpetually challenge ourselves so as to soften past tensions and, perhaps one day, offer a fair present.


Getting ready to work in the field of International Development (I)

Maricarmen Valdivieso 
Founder and CEO
Nexos Comunitarios

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 post 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’[1] 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 plying 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:

–       Mutuality and transparency in the relationships: the university and NC are in charge of organizing short-term programs. Typically, programs are organized and confirm 6 – 9 months before the start. The organization of a program requires a great deal of logistics and discussions about the projects, including conversations on expectations, limitations, and the overall duration of each aspect of a given program. Built on mutual trust, we are able to communicate our concerns, and after the program, we provide feedback to each other, to improve the next experience. Working in this environment, is beneficial for all parties – the community, the participants, the university and us at NC. More people are supporting our projects like the Sustainable Homes in Cuncani, started by two wonderful groups of Alternative Spring Break last February in Cuncani.

       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.

Who knew that saying so little… could say so much (Urubamba 2015)

By Bailey LeBlanc (Western University)

Learning Service with Nexos ComunitariosAs I reflect back on my trip to Peru, I become overwhelmed with emotion. It has been the single greatest experience of my life so far. Prior to submitting my application to represent Western University abroad, I thought I had a good understanding of what to expect on a trip of this kind. I had some experience traveling to developing countries and volunteering with other organizations. I decided to apply for this trip because I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to change someone’s life. Thankfully, I was accepted. So caught up and determined to make change for others, I was completely unaware of the impact this trip would have on my own life.

Before leaving for Peru, I was filled with excitement. I couldn’t wait to embark on what would be an incredible journey. Upon arrival in Urubamba (a small town in Peru), our group was welcomed graciously into the home we were going to be staying in for the next two weeks. Gabriela and Maricarmen (Nexos Comunitarios) opened their doors and showed us a kindness that was truly remarkable. At this point I was completely unaware of how much these sisters were going to mean to me in such a short period of time. Gabi and Mari, along with  others,work for Nexos Comunitarios, a non-profit organization founded in 2014 in Lima, Peru. Their mission is to promote the exercise of rights and civil liberties though Responsible Human Development, alongside the populations that live in poverty and social exclusion.

Learning Service with Nexos ComunitariosWe arrived in Urubamba in May 2015 and the organization was supporting Kiya Survivors Rainbow House, an organization that supports children, some of which have mental or physical disabilities. Most of the children living there were not related, and through various circumstances, had been separated from their parents. A woman named Luisa lives with the children and takes care of them every day, treating them like her own. The house was small for the amount of people living in it, but it was decorated with drawings and crafts the children had made and contained many donated toys and school supplies. Comparing this to my childhood, these children had a fraction of the luxuries that I had grown up with. Despite all of this, I saw a family. Everyone offered to help without complaint and worked together in the ways a family should. I saw huge amounts of love, kindness, and true happiness. Everyone was interacting with each other, there was no television, video games, or cell phones to distract anyone from being together. The kids would play together and with us, we would all help cook and reorganize the school supplies. They would help us learn some Spanish, and in return we would teach English. My favorite part was painting the outside of the home yellow and orange, so it was as bright as the people inside.

There was an obvious language barrier between us. However, I was amazed at how easy it was to communicate without using words. A smile, a laugh or a hug is universal and understood in any language. We were able to play games for hours without understanding what anyone was saying. We got to know each of the children on such a personal level. Who knew that saying so little could say so much. I would have never expected to make such tight bonds, or care so much about someone I couldn’t communicate with. It was incredible.

In addition to the work we did at the rainbow house, we were invited to Amilkar’s (one of the older children at the rainbow house) home in the mountains to meet his family and also to Mafers home to build an accessible bathroom. Both of these experiences were extremely moving in very different ways. Amilkars family prepared a traditional meal for us, only made on special occasions. We learned that Amilkar could not live with his family anymore because of his low mobility; he was unable to complete the two-hour walk into the city each day with his siblings. We also learned Amilkars sister was the only source of income in family and had to support everyone’s needs. This was the first time on the trip I had become visibly emotional. I’m not entirely sure what it was about that day, but when it was time to get on the bus to go back down the mountain I began to cry. I was so unbelievably grateful for that experience and Amilkars family’s hospitality and kindness.

Nexos Comunitarios en UrubambaMafer and her family will always hold a special place in my heart.     We were sent there to build an accessible bathroom for her (she had cerebral palsy) and her family. At the time they were only using a hole in the ground. With everyone doing their part this project was completed, and the family now had a functioning bathroom for their children to use. Sadly, A few months ago, we were informed about Mafer’s death. It was extremely heart breaking and tragic. Her family and those in the community all loved her so much; she will never be forgotten by any of us.

My life in Canada compared to my experience in Peru was very different in many ways. However, one is not better than the other. In Peru I saw so much more interaction, kindness and love between people. There was no technology or social media splitting people apart, there were no video games keeping children from experiencing what the environment has to offer, there was no TV at the dinner table preventing families from communicating. There were genuine conversations, people were interested in what others had to say, people went above and beyond to help others and were not thinking solely about themselves. There was true happiness and kindness. We often have the impression that those in the Western world need to help the “less fortunate”, when in my opinion it is equally the other way around. We have A LOT to learn from people like the ones I met in Peru. They may not have as much in a materialistic sense, but in many ways they are much, much richer.

Coming back from the trip, I can honestly say that the people I met in Peru had a bigger impact on me than I did on them. On the last day at the rainbow house and while saying goodbye to Mari and Gabi at the airport there were tears streaming down my face. I was terrified I would never see these incredibly amazing people again. The time went by much to quickly and I wish I did not have to leave. All of the people I met in Peru made such a large impact on my life it will be impossible to forget them or what they taught me about life. I am forever grateful for what they did and I know that one day, I will see them again.


Humility, research and challenges: My first experience in the Andes of Peru

By Chloe Halpenny (Carleton University)

Aniceta & Victoriano (Cuncani members) and Roberto, Sharon, Ailan & me (Carleton University)
              Visiting the Community of Cuncani

In May of 2015, myself and five other students from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada boarded an airplane with little idea of what our summer had in store. Our end destination? Urubamba, a small Peruvian town nestled snugly in the Andean landscape, and the proud home of a Peruvian non-governmental organization Nexos Comunitarios. When I applied to this internship months earlier out of sheer curiosity, I had no idea what to expect. What I had certainly not known was that these six weeks in Peru would prove to be life-changing.

Nexos Comunitarios (NC) is a Peruvian non-profit organization that was created to continue the work initiated by Nexos Voluntarios in Urubamba (2008-2014). NC works closely with rural communities in the Microcosms of the Andes, with the goal of facilitating Responsible Human Development. Nexos Comunitarios accompanies the communities and helps them in building Human (health and education) and Social Capital Capital (institutions, relations, and more) in search of long-term sustainable solutions. As students of public policy, we were eager for the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in the field collecting qualitative data. While the deliverable of our internship was to be a final report outlining the status of human rights in Cuncani – a village NC works closely with – we were required to support NC in many significant aspects of the exploration work within the community.

Upon arriving to Peru, our group of six was divided into three pairs. Each set of partners was assigned an organization to research and present a report on, with the aim of gauging which of the three would be best suited for a collaboration with NC.  While the other groups researched and interviewed Amnesty International and Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas, myself and my partner took a closer look at the initiatives offered in the region by Defensoría del Pueblo (the Peruvian Ombudsman).

The next step was the visits to Cuncani, where the organization has been working since 2013 implementing a Lunch Program to combat malnutrition. We wanted to know about many different aspects about the lives in Cuncani  – asking everything from the type of flooring in respondents’ homes to what they ate in a typical day – but ultimately aimed to measure the prevalence of basic human rights in the area and identify roots of discrimination. With the support of local Spanish – Quechua translators, four us were conducting interviews and surveys, while myself and another began the actual writing of the report back in Urubamba. On the final day of interviews, the six of us were reunited in Cuncani so we would all have the chance to experience interviewing. It was a challenging experience! If you want to know more about what we learned, I invite you to read the report: The Future of Cuncani. The importance of Human Rights & Interculturality. 

As interns, a common sentiment was that in our intention of helping others, we often ended up helping ourselves at the same time. “I went into Cuncani hoping to help the community through my knowledge and skills, as well as to learn some professional skills,” emphasized Roberto Chavez, one of Carleton’s six interns. “My experience in Cuncani was well beyond that.” Ultimately, our time in Cuncani consisted of a lot of work…but play was by no means forgotten. Kenji Misawa, another intern, holds fond memories of the children of Cuncani: “Although we did not share the same language, we had an amazing time laughing and playing at the schoolyard for hours. Smiles on their faces were priceless.”

On our way back to Urubamba
              On our way back to Urubamba

Our “Peruvian experience,” so to speak, provided us with ample skills in research, report-writing, designing surveys and questionnaires, and interviewing both professionals and community members, which will no doubt prove incredibly useful in the years to come. Even more importantly, however, might have been the skills nourished that are harder to explain on a resume. “This was truly an experience in humility, hard work, and community enterprise,” explained Amy Lentini, another of Carleton’s interns. “I will be forever grateful for what I’ve learned.” I’m with you on that one, Amy.






PhotoVoice: The power of non-verbal communication

By Carmen Leung (Western University)

If I could describe my trip with one single word, it would be life-changing.

This was my first trip to South America, and though I initially felt nervous, I was also very excited about what was ahead. From the moment we landed (at 3 a.m.!!!), all the way to the end of our trip, the wonderful individuals at Nexos Comunitarios showed us an abundance of love. I will never forget their kindness and intense amount of energy from the moment we met. Gabo, Maricarmen, Eliana & Carlos did a wonderful job in helping us understand our surroundings, and integrating us into the culture. Not only were we able to hear stories about the history of Lima, but we were also taken to the Lugar de la Memoria and on a city excursion to see it all as well.

From my short week working with NC, I was able to see how dedicated and driven the minds behind the organization are. Though NC is a small organization, it is one that strives to make a huge difference. My time with NC was incredible; I was able to immerse myself within the organization, and felt as if I was truly making a difference in the community. I was able to spend time with the Peruvians directly, and got to see a side of Lima that most foreigners don’t. While it wasn’t always clear what we were doing next and I didn’t always have direction, I always knew I was safe and in good hands with NC.

Group activities were a great part of the PhotoVoice initiative.
       Group activities were part of PhotoVoice

While this trip was unquestionably wonderful overall, there was one particular challenge along the way; the language barrier was a hurdle I know myself and many others had trouble with. Thankfully, this PhotoVoice project emphasized a lot of non-verbal communication, and I know all of the participants were still able to make connections and jokes with the kids. Though they may not be very wealthy in terms of money, the children we worked with were some of the happiest and most loving I have ever met. They helped me see happiness in a different light, and reminded me what it feels like to be a child again.

My trip may have ended a week ago, but I will carry what I learned in Peru with me for the rest of my life. Whether it is lessons about giving more and taking less, or about the power of communication, compassion, and love, I feel empowered to make a difference in my own community and possibly abroad one day. I’m very glad to have experienced Peru the way I did. Peru, and the wonderful individuals I met will always have a place in my heart.

Words are not the only form of communication
                  The power of communication