By Addie Catchall (McGill University)
Choquecancha, Lares, Calca, Cusco, Peru
Relationships are the foundation of everything. Until coming to Peru, I never truly understood the importance of something seemingly so innate. I’ve had the pleasure of working in the remote Andean communities of Cuncani and Choquecancha, where the people’s relationships with one another and the land are so powerful they permeate every conversation, every manner of being. Without this understanding, development in these microcosms has no hope for sustainability. As the Healthy Meals Program (HMP) is just beginning, the relationships we are forming now in Choquecancha will allow us to grow and learn alongside the community while we work towards our goal of promoting Responsible Human Development.
Therefore, the first steps Nexos Comunitarios has taken in Choquecancha are focused on building alliances with actors such as employees of the Health Center, farmers, and local authorities. A few weeks ago, Carlos and I attended a town assembly, where we sat among the council and introduced the HMP and ourselves. As the program aims to improve the nutrition of pregnant mothers and children from 0-2 years of age, I assumed our presence would be directed towards the mothers of the community. However, I have found that one can never simply “assume” in development, as they are frequently proved wrong. While the men expressed their concerns regarding town matters, the women were sitting isolated across the square, hardly ever providing input. Being a woman, this image has left me with some questions.
This project is vital for aiding early childhood development in a community where 50% of the children are living with anemia and parasites, stunting their physical and mental development. However, it is also an opportunity for gender empowerment. As we have the funds to complete the agricultural component of the program, we plan to include women in the construction and maintenance of greenhouses that will serve to fill their nutritional gaps by providing products previously inaccessible to the region. In order to see this through, we must have an in depth knowledge of the women themselves and the structural forces they face to accessing proper nutrition. The development of our program, also includes learning activities about the community, not just about their income but also about all the aspects that have an influence on their lives. Our organization will be using the Multidimensional Poverty Index to get a complete picture of their current position.
Carlos and I recently had a discussion with a local doctor about this multidimensional approach to development. At the end of our conversation he told us a story about someone learning Quechua. He said learning to speak Quechua is only part of the effort. That learning to think Quechua is the real intention. I don’t know this doctor very well but his statement embodies everything about my time with Nexos and in Choquecancha. These highland communities are such spirited places with immense systems of knowledge one can never fully grasp unless one is born into them. However, my aim is to learn as much as I can from their ways of thinking and reflect what I learn back into my work on the Healthy Meals Program.
Do you want to know about our Program? Click on this link and help us fund for the medical tests needed to start the program. We are not asking for a lot of money but the impact will be big on the evaluation of the Program, moreover, will contribute to the lives of pregnant women and children of the Program.