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.
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.”
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.
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.
Along with the implementation of our development model focusing on building human development through the support of health, education, and economic empowerment, it is necessary to have complementary monitoring and evaluative processes which will help Nexos Comunitarios measure progress and changes due to the presence of our organization and our efforts within the communities.
The dynamics of a community are ever-changing, especially considering inter-culturality and human rights are the foundations enabling sustainability.
In the 2010 Human Development Report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) published the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The MPI acknowledges that an individual or community can experience multiple deprivations at the same time, which demonstrates the varying realities of households in a community. Poverty is further contextualized through the MPI than monetary-based measures such as the income gap and the headcount ratio fail to do. While the data collected through these measures is important, the MPI allows us to alter and include indicators that are most relevant to communities in the Andes.
The Multidimensional Index is calculated using information on the intensity and prevalence of deprivations across health, education, and standard of living. The indicators are reflective of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), further tying together global indicators and objectives to combat poverty.
In regards to the communities, Nexos Comunitarios’ works in, MPI is especially beneficial because it allows for policy makers to target resources more effectively and design policies address the needs of communities, specific to ethnic groups, urban/rural locations and other community-based characteristics. For example, Cuncani is located in the Province of Urubamba, but the access and services available to the community are extremely limited in comparison to the other cities within the same jurisdiction. Furthermore the statistical data available for the province does not reflect the actual realities of the region because of the extreme situations on both ends of the scale of development.
Since its introduction in 2010, the MPI has undergone changes and has been positively received by the international community. Countries such as Colombia and Mexico have adopted the MPI and altered it to be incorporated as part of their national poverty measures.
The adoption of MPI in monitoring and evaluating our programs will help to identify the impact and progress of Nexos Comunitarios’ work in advocating and supporting sustainable community development. It is our belief that poverty is multidimensional and we aim to demonstrate the unique realities experienced by microcosms in the Andes.
*You can learn more about Multidimensional Poverty Index at: