El reto Chasqui: aceptado y cumplido

Por Nicholas Bruce (Periodista, Miembro del Consejo Consultivo de Nexos Comunitarios)

Andrew, Kenji y Sr. Nico, socio de la comunidad de Cuncani quien muy amablemente los acompañó durante la caminata.

Un reto pretende ser simplemente eso, un reto. Algo extra ordinario. Algo que demanda extra esfuerzo. Al final, algo que puede otorgar extra satisfacción. Hacer una caminata por 13 horas seguidas a más de 4,000 metros no es  una tarea fácil. Manejar bicicleta por 11 horas consecutivas es una hazaña a cualquier altura. Los esfuerzos de Kenji y Andrew son fenomenales y los aplaudimos. No solo por estos números, sino también por su persistencia para continuar a pesar de haber hecho una visita al centro de salud durante el camino. Incluso después de tener un problema con la rodilla.  Incluso después de manejar con una bicicleta que solo permitía avanzar en un cambio.  Aun después de algunas demoras y de más horas de las planificadas. Aun este duo, persistió y supo sudarla.

Además de esto, el propósito del reto, no fue el enfocarse en los valientes extranjeros. Nada para vanagloriarse. El propósito fue traer algo de luz y atraer la atención porque a pesar del esfuerzo, éste fue por días, un fin de semana. Esfuerzos extra ordinarios son hechos a diario por la gente que vive en Cuncani.  Residentes de Cuncani. Los descendientes de los chasquis. Muchas generaciones, por muchos años,  han hechos caminatas en las aisladas comunidades de los Andes, en y alrededor de Cuncani.  Así como aplaudimos a Kenji y Andrew por la no pequeña hazaña, esperamos atraer la atención y reconocimiento sobre aquellos que hacen este esfuerzo cada día. De todas maneras, muy bien hecho.

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.

Agape

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.

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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: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/power-lunch/

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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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¿Qué comen las niñas y niños de Cuncani todos los días?

La comida es esencial para nuestra vida diaria y la refleja a la cultura local. He vivido en varios países como Japón, Alemania (anuque no recuerdo mucho), Canadá, y Perú, y es bastante sorprendente ver cómo los platos servidos en una mesa de comedor varían entre los países. Al mismo tiempo, la comida es un determinante crucial de una vida saludable. Debido a que la desnutrición es un gran problema en Cuncani, es muy importante continuar con nuestro esfuerzo para obtener una mejor comprensión de lo que los niños y niñas en la comunidad comen todos los días. Por ello, Nexos Comunitarios adoptó FotoVoz (una de las actividades basada en la metodología de Investigación Acción Participativa) con 8 niños de la comunidad para responder a esta pregunta.

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En lugar de aplicar un método de investigación tradicional, mediante el cual los investigadores visitan a las familias para entrevistas o encuestas en relación con su consumo de alimentos; la metodología FotoVoz nos permite buscar el mismo resultado con participación de los niños y niñas en la captura de fotogradías de sus comidas diarias. El resultado es mucho más significativo ya que exhibe imágenes de las comidas servidas en sus hogares (a diferencia de las repuestas obtenidas a través de entrevistas o encuestas, que luego escribimos en el papel). Además, el diseño de FotoVoz construye una relación horizontal entre el facilitador y los paricipantes (los niños) a través del proceso. Por otro parte, esta metodología provee libertad para que los participantes pueden tomar fotos y disfruten del uso de las cámaras.

De 8 niños en la escuela, 7 niños han completado sus diarios de alimentos con las fotos de sus comidas. Cada diario ilustra una variedad de fotos de comidas, los niños y niñas muestran lo que comen en su vida diario. Veamos algunas de las imágenes tomadas por ellos.

La mayoría de las personas de la comunidad consume té con leche y papas con pan, maíz tostado (cancha) y, ocasionalmente, alguna fruta en la mañana. Por la tarde, las familias preparan sopa preparada con papas, arroz, en ocasiones, algún tipo de carne y algunas verduras.

IMG_3610Este es uno de los platos favoritos de Andrés que se sirve en su casa. Él la explica de esta manera: “esta es una sopa hecha de papas, carne arroz y verduras. Las papas son de nuestra tierra, y la carne es de las ovejas qye criamos.”People in the community consume milk tea and potatoes with bread, canchas (known as Andean toasted chullpi corn) or fruits. Due to lack of access to the potable water in the community, the families boil the water and drink tea or milk tea every day.

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Todos los días, Verónica ayuda a su madre a preparar comida para su familia. En Cuncani es muy común que las niñas ayuden sus padres a cocinar diariamente. Verónica dice: “Este es papas con fideos. Yo cociné esto en mi casa. En fácil prepararlo, pero sabe bien.”.

Las papas son las más consumidas ya que son los cultivos predominantes que la comunidad cultica en su campo (otras verduras, arroz y frutas se compran en el mercado de Lares, los lunes de cada semana).

En general, las fotos tomadas por los estudiantes demuestran que las papas y el arroz son los alimentos básicos diarios. Una veriedad de vegetales es limitada y menos frecuente en la mesa del comedor.

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Al mismo tiempo, los niños y niñas no solo tomaron fotos de sus comidas, pero también capturaron paisajes, amigos y animales en la comunidad.

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Esta es una foto de Francis con su padre. ºel dice “estoy ayudando a mi papa a cultivar la tierra. Estamos haciendo esto para ayudar a cultivar papas el próximo año. Mi ermanita tomó la foto por mi.” Todas las familias de la comunidad cultivan sus tierras de octubre a noviembre y cosechan las papas en la próxima temporada.

A lo largo del proceso de FotoVoz (lee el artículo anterior “Ajuste del diseño del proyecto”) los niños y niñas se mostraron entusiasmados con la idea de tomar fotos y crear sus propios diarios de alimientos. Como facilitador, diría que no fue una metodología fácil para adoptar Requiere mucho timepo, recursos, planificación y compromisos para llevar a cabo el proyecto. El plan necesitaba algunos ajustes en su proceso. Dos cámaras dejaron de funcionar, y algunos de los niños estaban tan emocionados de usarlas, pero olividaron tomar las fotos de sus alimentos de forma regular, o incluso perdieron las fotos que habían tomado. Además, la lejanía de la comunidad y la falta de acceso a las herramientas de comunicación (sin Internet ni servicio telefónico) permitieron coordinar con la clase solo una vez a la semana.

A pesar de estos desafíos, la realización de los diarios de alimentos, hechos puramente por las manos de los niños y niñas, es importante para nosotros. yea que refleja el trabajo hecho con valores de libertad y reciprocidad. Nexos Comunitarios valora la participación local y la relación horizontal con la comunidad como un elemento indispensable para promover el Desarrollo Humano Responsable. No estamos allí para actuar como simples invesitgadores o ayudantes de la comunidad. Estamos allí para promover el desarrollo junto con los miembors de la comunidad en cada paso del camino.

Este es la aplicación de la metodología de Investigación de Acción Paricipativa. Ahora vemos una mayor posibilidad para Nexos Comuniatrios de continuar utilizándola para aprender más sobre la comunidad y, al mismo tiempo, empoderar a las niñas y niños.

What do children in Cuncani eat every day?

Food is essential for our everyday life and it reflects a local culture. I have lived in Japan, Germany (although I do not remember much), Canada, and Peru and it is quite amazing to see how plates served on a dining table vary among the countries. At the same time, food is a crucial determinant of a healthy life. Because malnutrition is a problem in Cuncani, it is important to continue our effort to gain a better understanding of what children in Cuncani eat every day. Thus, in 2017,  Nexos Comunitarios, adopted the Photovoice (one of the methodologies of Participatory Action Research)  to work with 8 children in Cuncani to answer this simple question.

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Instead of applying a traditional research method, where researchers visit the families to conduct interviews/surveys in relation to their food consumption, the Photovoice methodology allows us to seek the same result by engaging student through the activity of capturing their daily meals using cameras. The outcome is much more meaningful as it exhibits physical images of the meals served in their homes (and as researchers, we are not simply give the answers gained through interviews which we then write down). In addition, the design of Photovoice constructs a horizontal relationship between the facilitator and the participants (the children) through the process. Furthermore, the methodology provides the freedom for the participants to take photos and enjoy the use of cameras.

Of 8 children in the school, 7 children have completed their food journals with the photos of their meals. Each journal illustrates a variety of photos showing the children’s daily food intake and their life in Cuncani. Let’s take a look at some of the pictures taken by them.

People in the community consume milk tea and potatoes with bread, canchas (known as Andean toasted chullpi corn) or fruits. Due to lack of access to the potable water in the community, the families boil the water and drink tea or milk tea every day.

IMG_3610In the afternoon, soups made with potatoes, rice, meats and some vegetables were most commonly prepared by the families. This is one of Andres’s favorite dishes served at his house. He explains: “this is a soup made of potatoes, rice meat, and vegetables. The potatoes are from our land. Also, the meat is from the sheep that we raise.”

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Veronica helps her mother every day to prepare food for her family. In Cuncani it is very common for the girls to help their parents by cooking on a daily basis. “This is potatoes and fried pasta. I made this at home. It is easy to make but it tastes good.”

Potatoes are eaten the most as it is the predominant crops that community grows in their field (other vegetables, rice, and fruits are purchased from the market next town). Livestock is also very common in Cuncani. According to the children, although they like all type of meats, they prefer the Guinea pig the most (families also raise pigs, chicken, alpaca, llama, and sheep). Guinea pigs are reserved for special occasions such as birthday, wedding, or celebration.
In general, the photos taken by students demonstrate that potatoes and rice are the daily staples. A variety of vegetables is limited and less frequently on the dining table.

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Children not only took photos of their food, they also captured scenery, friends, and animals in the community.

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This is a photo of Francis with his father. He says, “I am helping my father cultivating the land. We are doing this to help grow potatoes. My little sister took the photo for me.” Every house in the community cultivates their land during October to November and harvest potatoes in the next season.

Throughout the process of Photovoice (see the previous article “[Work in Progress] Adjusting project design“), children have been excited about taking photos as well as creating their own food journals. As a facilitator, I would say it was not an easy methodology to adopt. It requires much time, resources, planning and commitment to carry out the project working hand in hand with the children. The plan needed some adjustments in its process. Two of our four cameras stopped working. Some of the children were so excited to use the cameras but forgot to take the pictures of their food on a regular basis, or even lost the photos they had taken. Also, the remoteness of the community and lack of access to communication tools (no internet or phone service) made it possible to coordinate with the class only once a week.

Despite these challenges, the accomplishment of the food journals, purely made by the hands of children, is significant for us as it reflects working with our values of freedom and reciprocity. Nexos Comunitarios values participation and horizontal relationship with the community as an indispensable element to promote responsible human development. We are not there to act as a mere researcher or helper for the community. We are there to promote development together with the community members every step of the way.
This is just a first step of our application of the Photovoice methodology. We now see a greater possibility for Nexos Comunitarios to further use this methodology in order to learn more about the community while empowering the children at the same time.

[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.