Imagine living at an altitude between 12,000-14,500 feet above sea level high in the Peruvian Andes. The closest market sits at least three hours away by bus on a one-lane dirt road that winds precariously along steep mountainside drop-offs. The harsh climate, fragmented government aid, and dearth of infrastructure render your community relatively inaccessible to any outside visitors. The men tend the fields (chakras) while women take on much of the additional, equally necessary, livelihood activities. Women supplement household income by weaving high quality textiles that they sell at markets on an intermittent basis. Children attend school until they are needed to help in the field or in other household activities.
This picture describes the lifestyle of the indigenous communities with which we work. They reside in the Lares district of the Andes above the Sacred Valley. The closest communities in the Lares region are about 4 hours outside of Cusco by bus. Despite the limited resources and harsh livelihoods, the individuals in the Lares region persevere. We aim to work together with communities to identify the most appropriate approach to addressing their livelihood challenges.
Our general organizational focus is in agriculture and sustainable community development. The agriculture initiative aims to decrease malnutrition and improve food security for high-altitude communities of Peru. In addition to combating the more serious issues in the Sacred Valley, the AASD also has initiative projects of community empowerment.
The Social Enterprise project aims to improve the lives of indigenous artisans and their families by developing products that bridge old world artistry and modern utility. This project encourages cultural preservation and aims to generate income (studies show that when women and girls earn income, they spend 90% of it on their families). We currently work with one women’s weaving group in the Lares Valley creating “INKAcases”, a protective laptop case traditionally woven using local iconography and natural dyes. Ipad sleeves coming soon!
The Sacred Valley is inundated with non-profit organizations (approximately 200 currently work in the valley). While all have good intentions, the lack of coordination and collaboration among them limits impact, and in some cases, even has negative results on the communities. This is a new initiative that we are spearheading. We hope through the establishment of a governing board and providing semi-annual conferences, an increase in knowledge sharing, collaboration, and accountability will occur.
The Children of Inti project began by teaching art classes in the indigenous village of Pampacorral, in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Over the past years, the AASD has raised funds to purchase digital cameras for the students – most of whom have never been exposed to technology before. AASD’s Eric Ebner taught photography to more than 30 students between the ages of 10 and 18. This initiative includes the Photo Mural Project on March 21st, 2015 – we want to take 30 students to the city of Cuzco to post a large photo mural right in the Historic Center in the main Plaza de Armas. We want to provide this opportunity for the students because we believe in their creativity and the empowerment it triggers. The photo mural project enables the students to have a fun experience and to tell their story.
These projects have led to some of our Achievements.