By Alice Ebeyer (NC Intern 2016 – McGill University)
“Spending two months in Peru with Nexos Comunitarios has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Being immersed in a different culture and being able to witness particular traditions and customs was stirring. The organization offers an amazing context to achieve efficient work, but also personal growth. The job itself allows us to further open our minds by seeing, discovering, learning so many new things. Peru is a unique place and working with local people is the best way to experience the country. This internship was the occasion to learn more about primary research and more particularly Participatory Action Research methods. Thus, it has been enriching on a personal and professional level but also on an academic perspective.
International development and development in general is a long and complex process; it needs patience and persistence and this is what I learned at NC by trying to help and making a social impact.
What this internship also taught me is to never give up, because only small groups of people who attempted to change the world actually reached their goals.”
“If I could recommend anything to a university student looking to expand their cultural knowledge and make a significant societal impact, it would be working with Nexos Communitarios. The Nexos staffs not only ensured we had everything we needed pre-departure, but were also constantly in contact with us during our trip to ensure a flawless execution and unforgettable experience.
The project I had the privilege of working on, PhotoVoice, was an amazing initiative designed to change the mindset of children in impoverished areas in order to help them believe they can do anything they set their mind to. Partaking in this project was an eye-opening and wonderful experience as I made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.”
By Monika Volz (Alternative Spring Break 2015) – #BeTheChange
“ASB was the most rewarding, fun, and life changing experience I’ve ever had! I will never forget the amazing memories I made in Peru with all of the wonderful people I became so close with. It opened up my university experience to so many new opportunities and meaningful friendships. Everyone should be able to have an experience like this at least once in their lives, and ASB is the perfect chance! This program is highly organized with incredible projects and wonderful objectives to help people around the world. ASB has an assortment of different objectives such as health and nutrition, community involvement, and education among many. I went to Peru to work with an organization called Nexos Voluntarios (now called Nexos Comunitarios) where I volunteered in many of their projects. I was involved in building a bathroom for a young girl with Cerebral Palsy, volunteering at an orphanage, working with children with disabilities, teaching English, and much more. ASB is also a great program because they carefully choose really great locations and organizations to work with. When I went to Peru, I thought that I would be making a big difference in the world. I do believe that I made a difference while I was there, however, what I wasn’t prepared for was that the people in Peru made an even bigger impact on my own life. I learned so much about compassion and selflessness; everyone around me was always so loving. They taught me to be genuinely kind to everyone and treat everyone with love and respect. They made me realize that we are all connected, even if it’s not by blood. They taught me to be unselfish and to help other people. If everyone in the world would embrace the people around them like the people I met in Peru have, the world would be a much happier place. This experience has truly shaped who I am and what I believe in. Everyone should have a chance to experience a program like ASB!”
By Kenji Misawa (NC Intern – Ottawa, Canada. Carleton University)
This internship opportunity was one of the most amazing experience of my life. The internship is itself is well organized and the members of the organization were very warm and welcoming. The activities were related to the human rights issues and promoting sustainable development in the small Andes communities. The most valuable experience for me was to visit the communities and interacts with communities’ members. I believe in any development works, understanding the reality of the people’s life and building the trust among communities’ members are the most important elements. I believe working for NC is an amazing opportunity since it provides us with chances to conduct field works, as well as practical skills of planning and analyzing the developing program. Also, besides the actual work, NC provided us with various trips and workshops where we could learn interesting Peruvian culture, traditions and histories.
Our community first began to form in 2008, when we began working in Urubamba under Nexos Voluntarios. The years of hard work and constant dedication enabled us to better understand the reality of the region, their culture, their geography; to recognize our limitations and fixed our mistakes along the way.
In mid-2013, along with my colleagues we started to discuss arduously of how to improve our work, how to mitigate any negative impact, and little by little truly accompany the communities in their process of development. Following lengthy discussions, we concluded that it is best to implement a new development model.
In 2014, with the intention to express the lengthy planning process in an efficient manner, and after many failed attempts to work within our existing institutional structure, in 2013, we agreed it was best to form a new organization. A new organization that would continue the work started in 2008, which is why we created Nexos Comunitarios.
This is our organization’s first newsletter and we would like to inform you briefly of what we are doing, who participates in our work and how we want to fulfill our missionwhich only seeks to promote freedom and exercising of one’s rights through Responsible Human Development joined with populations that live in poverty and are socially excluded.
We are taking our time in placing a strong foundation to ensure the best for the fruits of our labor. However, we have no doubt that this is the best thing for our community.
As the director of Nexos Comunitarios and having worked in our community since 2009, I have witnessed the efforts of my fellow colleagues and the setbacks and successes that have been achieved, for example, recently with our Lunch Program in Cuncani.
However this year, I have very pleasantly been surprised and very happy after reading the articles and testimonials of our new community members, where I discovered something that little by little we began to forget: that we need to BE the change.
Each person that has worked with us this year not only expressed, but demonstrated their desire to be better, working together to better serve others. The outcomes so far have been a product of: constant teamwork and discussions among members, seeking to learn from one another understanding different views, all with one goal in mind: promoting Responsible Human Development.
I sit here reflecting on my time in Peru and tears start leaking from my eyes. I’m smiling, but I’m crying. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be an intern representing Carleton University in Peru. I knew about the internship when I started my program but I never thought I would be chosen. Before going to Peru, I hadn’t really left Canada, and now… I can’t wait to leave again. My experience in Peru opened my eyes to many things, sometimes even when I thought they were open. Growing up with stories from family that has traveled and worked for various NGO’s, I thought I had some understanding of what life was life in poorer countries and of the difficulties they faced. I knew the way of life would be different in Peru and I thought I knew what to expect. I quickly learned that hearing about something, reading about something or researching something can never fully prepare you for the reality of living it and seeing it first hand.
It is more than safe to say that I changed from the start to the end of my time in Peru. Looking back, it’s funny how completely normal the “different” things were to me at the end of my short six weeks. At the beginning I looked at how some of the locals in Urubamba lived, in little houses with tin roofs, hand-washing clothes, only a little market, minimal hot water, so simplistically… and I didn’t think I could permanently live like that. I had trouble with not being about to drink the water and hated cold showers. I shamefully missed silly luxuries like that and sometimes wanted to go home. By the end of the trip… I really didn’t want to leave. I would have been more than happy owning and living in my own little one room sized house/apartment room in Peru, having only what I really needed. I realized how much of a materialistic life I live in Canadian society and I felt guilty for the way I lived and felt ridiculous that I missed it at the beginning. After a few weeks I didn’t mind the hot water issues or the non-potable tap water. Furthermore, I could care less if I ever had the foods I once missed again, and I realized that clothes and material goods should not have anything to do with real happiness. The people in Peru may run on “Peruvian time”, but they enjoy life! It is in others, in friends and families and making memories that happiness lies. In being thankful for what you have and sharing it with others. I find Canadians are so busy, always in a hurry, going from one thing to a next, too tired at the end of the day to anything but watch T.V. They often buy happiness. But happiness should not be bought, I saw the happiest people living life like it should be lived, and these people hardly had anything. It is something that has to be experienced to be fully understood and I am so thankful I got the chance to experience it.
The human rights research we conducted in the Cusco region made me realize how difficult it actually is to make a difference. The world has become so globalized, so innovated and connected yet poverty and discrimination are still very prevalent. When a large portion of a society holds one belief, such as that indigenous are lesser for example, it is very hard to change their view. Perhaps the best solution I saw was to start changing societal views by targeting the children who become the future generations. Nevertheless, many NGO’s do not have large resources and can only focus on promoting human rights and discouraging discrimination in one small town or village. I furthermore realized that processes of development are very complicated and take a lot of time to unfold. I wanted to be able go to Peru and to make a change but I realized it was not that easy. Knowing I possess human rights and knowing discrimination is very wrong is like knowing the sky is blue… it is just accepted and known to me. Therefore, I sometimes felt like I was trying to explain why the sky was blue, or that the sky was blue and why.
I fell in love with Peru. I love the culture, the music, the dancing, the people, the celebrations and the festivals. I love the mountains, the scenery, their way of life, and the happiness and the generosity I experienced. For me, Peru was unlike any place I had ever been. I realized how big the world is, and how there is so much left for me to discover. I know I can’t change the world, but I know I’m going to try my hardest to make the biggest difference I can. Peru was a life changing experience and I will be forever thankful and in its debt.
There are big moments in life that come and challenge you without your express decision to engage in them. They sneak up, push you, and help you grow without much of a second thought. Then there are opportunities for challenge that require your express consent and even work to engage in. You must apply, register, or make contact just to begin a challenging experience. While both are valuable, the second type requires us to realize that the difficult option is worth it–that the trouble it takes to get there is worth the trouble there will be actually there. My internship with Nexos Communitarios was one of these challenges. More than the language challenge, more than cultural differences, more than the actual researching and writing, I was challenged to grow on a more personal level. I learned skills for interacting professionally and personally with individuals my age,older, and younger. I learned the importance of advocating for myself. I also learned thatI have limits–they can be pushed and moved but this takes time and effort.
My time in Peru was one of the first times I was truly challenged to make difficult decisions that balanced my own needs against others. I came home with more confidence in my decisions and also my own moral compass. When people ask me about Peru I can show them pictures, talk about my work, discuss human rights in Peru, and name places I visited but none of is feels like it fully sums up the experience. What made it so special, important, and even life-changing for me were the relationships I made with others and the relationship I made with myself. For me, to fully express the essence of the trip I need to delve into my own feelings and thoughts while I was there, good and bad. However, I cannot do this concisely because to shorten the experience to a few key lessons undervalues the importance of the journey to reach these values. It reduces the experience to a few trite proverbs that do little to encompass the magnitude of the experience. It ignores the steps that I took and the process because the journey truly is more important than the destination (to use such a proverb.)
Thus, any reflection requires a look to the entire 6 weeks, which is more than I have the time or mental preparedness to do at the moment. All I can say is that when I applied, I had no idea of the tremendous journey I would complete, from believing I was fully ready to realizing my limitations and working to overcome them. I am grateful for the time I spent in Peru with NC, the person it made me become, and the people I had the honor to get to know. Muchas gracias.