My ASB Peru Experience – Alec Popa


My name is Alec Popa. I’m a third year Medical Sciences student from Western University and I participated on ASB Peru in May of 2018.


MIGUEL ANGEL ARREATEGUI RODRIGUEZ            From the beginning it became very clear that the overall theme of this trip was community. On our first day we met the amazing team at Nexos Comunitarios, who immediately made us feel part of their family. They also became our teachers, providing workshops throughout the trip and turning this ASB into an excellent cultural learning experience as well. Our adventure took place in the small town of Cuncani. Cuncani is a very isolated and underprivileged town. Their survival is dependent on the strong community they’ve created. And we were welcomed into this community the moment we arrived. When we arrived at the school where we would be staying for the week all of the children were lined up waiting to welcome us. They ASB May 2018-11introduced themselves and we made a high-five tunnel. It was a very fun way to break the ice and introduce us to the community. What I believe sets this ASB experience apart from the rest is how close we grew to the community. In a typical day I would wake up early, and the first thing I would do is hike one of the many incredible mountain peaks surrounding the village. Then we would start our day in the kindergarten class playing games and making art with the young children. Next, we ate a lunch that was prepared for us by the mothers of the community, made using ingredients pooled together by all the families in Cuncani. Many of these mothers had to walk an hour or more to make lunch for their children and for us, and they do it every day. I was very moved by the difficult lengths these mothers go through to ensure their child has a healthy lunch and I was very touched to be included in their lunch time preparations. This experience was ASB May 2018-4an excellent lesson in humanity. These people who have so little still work so hard and spend every last resource they have to improve the lives of their children. After lunch we moved to either a grade 3/4 or grade 5/6 classroom where we worked with the children on a science project. Funding for these schools is relatively low and as such science is a difficult subject to teach. We were able to bring with us inexpensive paper microscopes called “foldscopes.” With our foldscopes we taught the children about germs and they were even able to visualize them for the first time in their lives.



Our trip was defined by a sense of community unlike any I had ever experienced before and an unrelenting work ethic in the face of adversity. A week in isolation and seeing how much these parents do for their children put so much in perspective. Throughout the trip we had excellent group reflections on technology, privilege, wealth, education, health and so many other topics that we take for granted living in Canada. Overall, the trip was incredibly rewarding and we felt part of a larger project that makes a real difference in the lives of these children. If you wish to learn about another part of the world and volunteer for a truly community-driven organization then this is the trip for you.


Alternative Spring Break with Nexos Comunitarios – Colleen Martin

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My name is Colleen from Western University and I was a participant of Western University’s Alternate Spring Break (ASB) in May 2018. During that time, we travelled to Peru and had the privilege of working with Nexos Comunitarios! Alternate Spring Break is a program that travels worldwide and aims to teach participants about the community’s’ ways of life, common challenges, understanding their long-term goals and engaging with community members. This means each experience is different and uniquely rewarding.



During my time in Peru, we spent a week in Cuncani working with children as young as 2 up to age 12 to teach the importance of washing your hands. We did this by teaching the kids about germs through a play, asking them to draw what they thought germs looked like and using foldscopes (paper microscopes) to show what germs actually look like for them to compare results. Once we had samples under the foldscopes the kids were eagerly looking over each other’s shoulders to get a turn and see the germs. It was a relief to see the project go over well because this was the first time it had been done in the community. After this project, our ASB group went to community members homes to see how they live. Both projects had reports written to communicate our findings that Nexos will use as they continue with their initiatives. Our community partner, Nexos also provided us with cultural workshops to understand Peruvian culture and society better. This really amplified the cultural significance of the trip.

ASB May 2018-7This trip allows participants to gain invaluable learning opportunities from beingoutside the classroom and in a new community, being immersed in a different culture and working with a community partner to be a helping hand in the initiatives. Each initiative is based on current community needs which makes this trip so beneficial to the community.


Cuncani 2018 – Suhaima Tunio

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I want to sincerely thank Nexos Comunitarios for allowing me to participate in life-changing service-learning opportunity in Peru. This experience was a challenging one, but it was extremely rewarding. Thanks to the enduring partnership that Nexos has with the community and the community-driven nature of the organization, we were able to assist this community in promoting health among their school-aged children.

Students from Western University, including me, volunteered at a school in Cuncani. Cuncani is an extremely impoverished, isolated, and rural area without hot-water access and the nearest town being a 2-hour trek away. Through working with the children living in this region, I got the chance to apply my learning about global health, health promotion, and the social determinants of health from my lectures at Western University. I watched all of my textbook learning come to life and I understood the importance of so many different health concepts.

peru - 1 (58)This program was developed using certain facets of the health promotion framework including process documentation and effective program development. I was thrilled to have taken part in promoting health education and teaching the children about germs, health, and hygiene. Without the long-standing partnerships between Western University and Nexos Comunitarios, I would have never realized that such a beautiful community like Cuncani existed and that I could play a role, albeit small, in the health promotion of this community.

When we were there, we improved certain hygienic practices such as hand-washing and introduced low-cost microscopes, called Foldscopes, to allow children to explore the microscopic mechanisms of germ-spread. We were also involved in the pedagogical documentation of these children in order to track their development and learning. Finally, we developed marketing materials (such as photographs and testimonials) to promote tourism in Cuncani so that hikers and other adventurers who are exploring the Andes can stay in the houses of these families to help generate income within the families.

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Furthermore, I realized how difficult it was for me to live in the mountains, yet how accustomed such young children were to this area. It was truly inspiring to see their resilience towards the altitude and the lack of hot water. This experience taught me that so many different factors can play such a huge role in the health of a community such as the living environment, community social support, isolation, food-availability, and education. All these components must come together and be considered when aiming for health promotion.
Another notable feature of this community was that these families were almost entirely self-sufficient. Living in such an isolated and rural area, they had adapted to their environment by making their own clothes and farming their own food, in which many traditions were passed on since the spectacular culture of the Incan empire. Most of them had even made their own houses! They all owned animals including alpacas, chicken, and sheep and they utilized their resources in any way that they could. Manure was repurposed as fuel for the fire and also fertilizer for farming. The community in Cuncani taught me that the human-spirit is incredibly strong, and that people can tame the mountains to make it their home.


After returning to Lima and going to a memorial regarding Peru’s recent political history, we learned about the horrific genocides from terrorist groups against Peruvian aboriginal communities. Coming out, I felt that this paralleled some of the aboriginal issues that Canada deals with. This experience further highlighted the importance to support Cuncani due to its aboriginal roots and the systematic isolation. In this way, I feel that I learned more about Canadian history and realized that human history is extremely similar worldwide.
This service-learning opportunity was truly remarkable and has allowed me to grow both academically and personally. Not only was I able to use what I had learned in class to assist in a community-driven project, ASB Peru helped me to learn valuable lessons about gratitude, resilience, and cultural competence.


Chasqui challenge: accepted and applauded

By Nicholas Bruce (Journalist, Nexos Comunitarios Advisory Board)
In this picture: Andrew, Nico & Kenji. Nico is one of our partners from Cuncani, who kindly joined the challenge on the first day.

A challenge is meant to be just that. Extra ordinary. Extra demanding. In the end, extra rewarding. Hiking 13 straight hours at over 10,000 feet above sea level is no easy task. Cycling 11 consecutive hours is a feat at any altitude. The efforts of Kenji and Andrew were phenomenal and we applaud them. Not just because of these numbers, but the persistence to continue even after a trip to the health center. Even after a nagging knee injury. Even after a bicycle with a single working gear. Even after a long delay and hours past the projected finish. Still the duo continued, persisted, sweated it out.

Beyond that, and the whole purpose of this challenge, was not to focus on the foolhardy foreigner. Not to show off and showcase. The purpose was to bring some light, shed some awareness that when all is said and done, this was two days, one weekend. Extra ordinary efforts of energy are being made and consumed and created and challenged and met every day by very ordinary people. Residents of Cuncani. Their chasqui descendants. Their enthusiastic offspring. Generations have made treks high in the isolated communities of the Andes, in and around Cuncani, for ages. As we applaud Kenji and Andrew for no small feat of their own, we aim to bring attention and praise on those who do this most every day in slightly different manners. Well done all around.


It has been a month since I’ve moved to Peru and started working with Nexos Comunitarios and I can confidently say that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.


A year ago, I was struggling with an existential crisis during my final year of university until I came upon one word. ‘Agape’. ‘Agape’ means unconditional love in Greek and the word has become a foundation to who I am. Friends who know me are aware that I have a tattoo of the word to symbolize a lifestyle I strive to base my life upon. To show love to those unloved and neglected.

In this past month, I have been repeatedly challenged on how hard unconditional love really is. I have been constantly exposed to the extent of brokenness, division, and injustice that exists in this world. At times it seems that all our efforts are hopeless; that no matter how hard we try these ugly things will continue to persist. In my time here, I was struggling with the question of how dire a situation needs to be to be considered hopeless; and that if I knew it was hopeless, would I still try. I realized that the fact I even tried to rationalize this meant I’ve already failed at unconditional love. Loving others shouldn’t be dependent upon whether others will receive or appreciate it, rather you love regardless of the results.

By no means is this an easy task. I’ll admit that I am nowhere close to perfecting it, nor do I think I ever fully will. So why am I trying so hard?

Because among all that ugliness lies so much hope. I’ve seen people with self-sacrificial compassion go to boundless lengths to reach the unloved. I’ve seen people come together, in spite of their differences, to fight for what’s right. I’ve seen the worst of people make 180- degree transformations once someone took the time to show them their true worth and potential. I believe that everyone deserves to be loved and has the capacity to love. I try because I believe that a better world is possible, and I want to do whatever I can to get a little closer to it. Yes, sometimes it can be tough and our efforts may seem useless, but sometimes a single smile can make it all worth it.

16 days to go…

Hi everyone!

We are raising money for our POWER Lunch Program and two of our members have a challenge: 37 km hike and 100 km bike ride from Urubamba to Cuncani.

This is one of the post written by Kenji! Please, read it, share it and support our cause:


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Aside from me being an international development worker, and willing to promote community development, there is another very strong reason why I want to raise money to implement this POWER Lunch. That is my personal connection with children. I have always enjoyed being with children and from some point, working with and for kids became one of my Ikigai, a Japanese term that has been recently been recognized internationally. It is often translated as “meaning of being” but more accurately, it is the combination of “your values”, “things you like to do”, and “things you are good at”.

This picture was when I visited one of the families in the community Nilda (older sister) and Grizelda (little sister). I gain great pleasure when I am with them (and I hope they enjoy time with me as well…. crossed fingers). Being a field worker and working with a group of people…

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The 2030+ Agenda: Peru’s Opportunity to (Truly) Achieve Zero Hunger

Carly Hayes, University of Waterloo (Nexos Comunitarios intern)

2030 seems to be the year that everyone can’t stop talking about. The year, far enough in the future, when we can eliminate poverty, achieve zero hunger, and reduce inequality, among a number of other important, lofty goals. The 2030+ Agenda, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals, took over where the Millennium Development goals somewhat disappointingly left off. The stakes are high, especially for nutrition: the stated goal is to achieve zero hunger in 15 years, and we’re already a year into the challenge.


When looking at the country level, it certainly seems that Peru is up to that challenge. The government of Peru has been praised in a multitude of forums for its commitment to reducing rates of stunting (low height for age) and wasting (low weight for age). Currently, Peru holds the top spot on the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), primarily due to the political commitment espoused by leaders to tackling this problem through multi-sectoral, multi-departmental approaches. This achievement was based on Peru’s relative commitment to the other countries in the index, measured through Borda scores of commitment to access, availability, and utilization of food and key nutrients. Peru is also listed in the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Nutrition Report as the country with the fourth-greatest budget allocation to nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions, at 4.64 percent of general government expenditures, of those 24 countries that provided data.

While these international measurements demonstrate positive progress, geographic inequalities persist, especially for those living in the jungle and High Andean communities such as Cuncani. Data on the malnutrition problem of Cuncani is not easily available, nor consistently collected by municipal of regional governments for reporting. This omission of the poorest communities can skew results positively, and reduce the amount of social resources available for these communities. Further, while Peru has demonstrated such high levels of both political and financial commitment, it is unclear as to whether these commitments are translating into outcomes for the poorest communities. The HANCI  itself is a measure based on the decoupling of commitments from results-based measurements. When we look more closely at the data on budget allocations, we can see that the majority of budget spending focuses on nutrition-sensitive programming, rather than nutrition-specific. These problems highlight a critical factor for achieving true advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals – the development of appropriate and holistic measures of progress. This will require indicators that go beyond increasing Gross Domestic Product to indicators that are culturally relevant and measure impact at the community level. In order to make meaningful strides towards achievement of the SDGs, Peru will need to look inward towards addressing these inequalities and adapting social programs to prevent remote communities from being left behind.


Source: International Food Policy Research Institute Global Nutrition Report, 2016

However, the SDGs represent an important feature that the MDGs lacked – an understanding about the inter-linkages between a multitude of development goals, including those between nutrition, clean water and sanitation, good health and well-being, sustainable cities and communities, and quality education. This feature has long been something that Nexos Comunitarios has built into our hypothesis of change, recognizing how quality education and economic growth depend on achieving good health for all community members, and vice versa. That is why NC has chosen to focus on identifying the root causes of malnutrition, in order to uphold the human right of Cuncani citizens to safe, adequate, and nutritious food that will pave the way for the achievement of future goals, while keeping principles of interculturality and human rights at the forefront of everything we do. It is our hope that with the driving motivation of the SDGs, Peru will continue to be an international example by extending their efforts to the most vulnerable communities.