By Alice Ebeyer (NC Intern – McGill University)
Currently, the main focus of Nexos Comunitarios is the Malnutrition issue in the community. The Nutrition program is focusing on the children but in reality, we are lacking in the knowledge concerning the feeding process, as we are working as external actors in this assistance procedure. The work that has been done so far is valuable but we need to get more intimate details about the daily lives of the inhabitants of Cuncani to be genuinely efficient. This would include the input from as many members of the community as possible.
That is why recently, we are trying to develop a research approach inspired by the Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology. We have been adapting several ideas taken from various academic sources to create a useful research method for Cuncani. Indeed, nothing would be perfectly applicable to the community as it is an interesting case with a peculiar culture coming from the Incan people. Therefore, we had to create a framework with precise steps and accurate templates to build a PAR method that would fit the needs of Cuncani.
Why choosing participatory research would you ask? This quite new method is generally used by anthropologists, and it has been demonstrated to be more effective than using the traditional interviews or focus groups methodologies. The whole goal is to empower the participants by working with them to find solutions and solve various issues in a non-hierarchical way. As in every PAR method, we consider an important step dedicated to the establishment of a relationship and trust between all parties.
For the project, the first step that we will do is we will continue with the Photovoice project, but this time with the entire family. We will provide cameras for a couple days and ask each member of the family to take pictures of what they are doing for food-related activities. The second activity will be a walk in Cuncani, accompanied by the fathers of the community. They could show us the places where they are keeping their animals, where they are planting the potatoes or vegetables, and hopefully, casually explain to us through the walk about the feeding process from their perspective, more in details.
Again, the goal of this research would be to understand as completely as possible how the people of Cuncani feed themselves. The final step of this made up PAR method will be a closing discussion, where we can go over the whole project and figure out what we have found, what is missing, but also discuss with the participants: how do they feel, what are their thoughts, and ask if they are still comfortable with the process. The term participatory is key and it demonstrates how important it is that all the parties can feel comfortable enough to be part of the project. It truly is a team work.
Besides, we have had the opportunity to talk with Saturnina about this idea; she is an important link between NC and Cuncani. From there, she knows her community and understands it more than we will ever do. And if we know that gathering enough families to be part of the project can be complicated, she seemed triggered by the idea and told us she could help us found enough persons to conduct Photovoice and accompany us with the walk. However, she also told us that we can have many ideas, many projects, and many researches; but it will probably take a lot of time before we can see real changes happening in the community.
During our working days in Cuncani, we were able to observe how the parents take care of the children. But, surely our short observations during our trips could not make us comprehend the whole situation as most parts are still hidden from our eyes. There is still so much more that we need to learn from this community; their culture and their tradition. The ‘sad truth about my community’ as Saturnina said, ‘is that people are not so motivated to make drastic changes in their lives.’ But, we should not be too quick to judge, as we have to consider that the culture of this community depends on maintaining their traditions and their values.
Therefore, this demonstrates an example of the complications that can come into play in trying to bring support to impoverished and isolated communities despite the health and economic challenges that they face. Still, it will never mean that Nexos Comunitarios will give up; no matter the complications, we will always be here to work with the community of Cuncani, and together we will always try to address various problems and more specifically now, to solve the malnutrition issue, even if it takes years before it will be eradicated. This is our job: and it requires persistence and patience.