This week has been wild. I survived my first time traveling solo in Latin America and made it to my hostel in Cusco without any problems.  I even made some friends in the hostel! I met up with my fellow intern Viviana for dinner (Alpaca steak and pizza) in Cusco. I went to bed feeling a little nervous for the next day but proud of my accomplishments so far.

Adjusting to a new family

The next day I met with Viviana and Chris to go pick up Anna from the airport. I was nervous that it would be awkward but luckily we all got along really well. Driving into the Sacred Valley I was struck by the lucia dishesinsane beauty of the mountains surrounding us. The dramatic landscape helped to calm my nerves. One of my biggest concerns going into the program was the living situation. I knew that amenities would be basic and that I would be living with a host family, but after my experience in Chile living in a host family consisting of one older woman, I was worried that I would be lonely. I was really excited to learn that I would be living with the other interns and in such a large host family. The experience so far has been wonderful- Maritza and Lucho are very sweet and accommodating. They love learning about our lives and telling us the history that surrounds the Sacred Valley. I loved playing Spot It with them and seeing their playful sides. This house is never quiet- Lucia is always yelling about something and the radio is always playing weird oldies or Peruvian music, but I love the energy and the friendly vibes from this family.

Lucia’s favorite pastime- doing the dishes.


Old insecurities

chard days work

All in a chard day’s work.

After my nerves about the living conditions were assuaged, my old fears about my own physical capabilities started to return. Before Calca I had no experience farming- let alone at this high of an altitude. I knew that the program would be physically demanding but I was nervous about my own abilities. I was a chubby kid growing up, and to this day a small part of me still feels as though I don’t have the physical capabilities to handle intense work like this. I know that the only way I can overcome this insecurity is to prove it wrong again and again. Overall I’m really proud of the work I’ve done so far in Calca.





I am bad with children but good with dogs

dogsOne of the things that I’ve been loving about this program is the insane abundance of cute, friendly dogs. It seems so trivial- here I am having this great cultural experience and I’m happy that there’s a dog on the farm? But honestly having Leroy and the pack of dogs that greet us when we come to the office and the puppies living in our backyard just makes me feel more at ease here in Calca. Kids are another story. Going into the lesson plan I was nervous- not only because I had no teaching experience but because I had no kid experience. However, all of my nerves were calmed once we left Rayampata and immediately five or six children flocked to me to hold my hand for the entire walk up to the farm. Friday morning was super fun for me – more fun than I ever thought teaching a bunch of 8-year olds how to compost could be. I felt seriously overjoyed afterwards because I felt as though the kids had accepted me and looked up to me. It made me feel on top of the world.



Quinoa harvesting

quinoa harvest

Kati is a 14-year old girl who came to teach us how to separate quinoa seeds from the chafe- that unwanted plant material that still sticks around after harvesting.  I was shocked when one afternoon she stayed with us to sift quinoa even though it was pouring rain outside and we were stuck in the dark, cold shed. She helped us sift for a few hours without a single complaint. 14-year-old Nikki never would have been so patient. This photo is awesome and encapsulates everything I hoped that this experience would be. That gorgeous, golden quinoa made us so happy because we had worked so hard to harvest it and were left with a truly beautiful product.  I hope that this theme – the happiness that comes when you create something amazing- continues throughout the duration of my time here.



My love affair with América Latina

                I’ll be honest- a lot of the reason why I chose to do this internship was so that I could stay in Latin America and continue to allow the disorganized chaos of this entire continent teach me new things about myself. I loved my time in Chile, but am trying very hard to keep this a separate experience. I have a feeling that I’m about to grow a lot over the next 9 weeks. I thought I would come out of this internship with stronger arm muscles, better Spanish and more knowledge about farming, but now I’m realizing that this is going to be a mental and spiritual journey about challenging myself and throwing myself into uncomfortable situations and allowing myself to swim rather than being scared that I’ll sink. I have a feeling that some really special things are going to happen for me in the Sacred Valley and, although not without some nervousness, I’m ready to embrace all of it.


My new home.

Guest Post by Anja Mondragon, Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

Community development: what does it mean to me?  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and really I’m not the community in question.  I’ll be quite frank, I’ve operated under the assumption that the communities I want to work with will want money and a sustainable income.  It is strange that I never really thought of this as an assumption before but I guess that’s how assumptions work.

Initially working with the Andean Alliance, I felt unsure that I understood their methods.  “Why is it taking so long to get anything done?” I thought, however, I understand now that they operate much differently than most internationally organizations do which is quite refreshing, and a bit confusing.

I won’t say that I think the Andean Alliance is assumption-free, however, I do think that their method of slow development helps to remedy some assumptions they might make on behalf of the community.  They also use the adaptive management approach, and shift their focus as the communities’ needs change.  Taking the CSC workshop from two prominent founding members of the AASD (as professors) allowed us to question our assumptions together and gave me a great deal of respect for their method and how I could incorporate it into my own work.

Guest Post by Sean Huber (Team Peru January 2013), Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

Developing a framework for understanding how to repeat the process of community social change is incredibly difficult and involves far too many factors and variables that need to be addressed.  The most apparent observation is that there is ambiguity, so adaptability is essential.

Team Peru began as a January term project lasting less than three weeks.   This January, I spent three weeks with two current students and three former students of MIIS (half of the current AASD staff).  We traveled to remote villages and at one point became fully-fledged members in an annual corn harvest celebration. Our main Team Peru objective was to develop a partnership model between a honey bee sanctuary and AASD in order to establish community growth through educational programs.  These programs focused on the natural benefits of honey bee populations for agriculture, as well as the possible economic benefits of products coming from an active honey bee colony, a super-organism vital to healthy ecosystems.  The relevance of our project was immediate as the community saw great value in honey bees and what they offer.  The education and inclusion/contribution of locals was a paramount goal.

A community project that involved two organizations run by Americans working in Peru is a broad concept with an outcome that is not inherently obvious.  What is obvious is how these communities have come to embrace the AASD at a level that eludes many NGOs, regional governments, and a myriad of other actors.  AASD has strong community ties to a variegated group of villages that are relatively isolated but still welcome visitors and people that they consider part of their community.

Guest Post by Benedicte Gyllensten (Team Peru Summer 2012), Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

I spent two months as a part of Team Peru last summer, working on a photo project in the small village of Pampacorral. I wanted to take part in the Community Social Change workshop because I thought it would be a great opportunity to reflect upon my experience in Peru in relation to community development. As we were discussing the Sacred Valley context and the different communities, I could picture it all in my head. I could see the colorful weaving products, the smiling kids with red cheeks and even the llamas and alpacas. Having the experience in Peru was definitely a big bonus for me, and it made the workshop more interesting and understandable. At the same time I think the things we discussed can be applied all over the world, including in our own backyards.

I really enjoyed critically examining the concept of community development over the weekend. Community is everywhere, and while we tend to discuss it as if it was a set entity, community is so much more than that. Our discussion about coffee on Saturday morning made me realize how many communities I am a part of; my “friends from high school” community at home, my family, Oslo, Norway, the MIIS community, the community of people that love coffee and so on. Community is about having something in common. In the development context, it is useful to define communities as set collections of people, but when we do this, we fail to recognize the many different communities within this community.

I am not always comfortable with the idea that I can enter a community I am not a part of to “create” social change. What this workshop made me realize is that there are many ways to become part of a community. I might not speak the same language or believe in the same religion, but I might have other things in common with the community. I think it is important to look for similarities rather than differences when trying to create a common ground. That way we can understand each other better and together create social change.

Guest Post by Kate DiMercurio, Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

Over the course of the semester, I worked with a group to write a case study of the Andean Alliance’s work with the Wiñay Warmy weaving group in Choquecancha. We were tasked with learning about the project, the primary stakeholders, what was working, what wasn’t, and what changes could potentially be made to improve the project. Over the last weekend, our Community Social Change class met to discuss 6 different case studies focused around the work of the AASD and other NGOs working in the area.  The experience was incredibly useful for me to contextualize my understanding of the process of community social change.  I was also very surprised by how much the AASD was able to accomplish over the period of a few years, and how much they had learned and grown as an organization in that time.  In all of their projects, they are always putting the interests of the community first.  This organization truly lives by the value of “do no harm,” and I greatly admire that, because it is a value which is lacking in so many other non-profits working in the area.

The main concept I took away from this weekend workshop was the idea that sometimes development and community social change should focus more on the process rather than simply the outcomes. Lasting and sustainable change happens slowly, we can’t rush the process, and this is an important lesson to keep in mind as so many “western” development organizations place so much emphasis on efficiency and getting things done quickly. Get in and get out. But that kind of mindset can do much more harm than good, and leave communities facing the greater issues of dependency. If we allow ourselves to truly listen to and work with the members of these developing communities, the outcomes can inherently be much more sustainable and have a greater impact. The AASD still faces many challenges in being able to do the work they wish to do, but they are on the right path, and they have the support of the MIIS community behind them.

Guest Post by Noah Brod, Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

One of the takeaways from the past weekend for me has been the usefulness of even ad-hoc, informal frameworks. Our class ended up seeing “community social change” as a process that touches upon 9 natural categories: Power, participatory development and ownership, process versus outcome indicators, networking, solidarity and agency, accountability and legitimacy, community identity and its origins, social justice, and a focus on continuity, patience, and process. Over the course of our discussions following the creation of this framework, we were able to make use of it in coming back and improving content that had been generated from discussions without any framework to guide it.

Looking over the categories above I feel like our class developed a good start at approaching the idea of community social change, but that we really only ended up with a first draft by the end of the weekend. Our framework, in order to be something transportable beyond the discussions that were held around its creation, needs clarification in many areas. Many of the categories are double or even triple barreled, and almost all of them have the same level of specificity as an I Ching category.  It’s one thing to divide the world at a set of joints that a group has collectively decided to bring into existence, it is another to actually locate those joints in the world.

Guest Post by Judy Mavroleon, Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

Conducting research and preparing case studies prior to actually participating in the Community Social Change workshop really helped clarify the situation in the Peruvian Sacred Valley (PSV). It allowed us to observe the many activities and key issues surrounding the numerous stakeholders in that region. During the workshop itself, we delved deeper and gained insights into the development philosophies and behaviors of the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD) and other NGO’s in the PSV.

The AASD has taken a different approach to community development than other NGOs in that region by placing greater focus on the development process and emphasizing the importance and significance of building long-term relationships with the PSV locals. This community development approach is in contrast to the current and generally accepted outcome approach which heavily emphasizes concrete assessments, metrics, and evaluations over some prescribed timeline. The AASD approach can be more clearly described as a kind of intentional “hands-off” intervention (if it could even be classified as an intervention), where the process of development evolves from a community over an undetermined period of time. In this scenario, AASD strives only to provide ‘aid’ in a very un-intrusive way by waiting for a local community to approach them and request AASD’s assistance to accomplish a particular project (i.e. build a greenhouse). Only then, does AASD provide assistance to that community by providing training and mentoring, and occasionally accompanying a community leader to visit the Peruvian government offices. AASD’s methodology is in sync with the rhythm of each individual community. It works in conjunction with the drive and desires of that unique community – when it is ready to accept something new into its culture. In this sense, AASD “follows the energy” and responds to or compliments that energy with ‘aid’.

The Community Social Change workshop provided an opportunity for students and AASD to share and receive a wide array of ideas surrounding current community development, future community development, and the potential for social enterprise specifically in the PSV. It was extremely thought provoking and laid the ground work for potential transformations within current community development philosophies for all of us.


Team Peru’s Monica Kelsh tells it how it is in her below post, originally posted on the Team Peru blog.

“Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” –John Keats

Lately I’ve been thinking about the way that AASD defines the concept of “immersive education.” What I’ve come to realize since being in Calca is that Team Peru isn’t just something you pick up for January or summer term and then just drop; it’s continuous and fluid. I think Adam really drove that thought home to me last summer when he said that Team Peru isn’t really a traditional immersive experience. It can’t really be categorized and lumped together with the other options offered for J-term and summer; other programs are 4- or 8-week practicums that start and stop, but the goal for Team Peru is that it doesn’t stop once we’re done in-country. The entire point of this practicum is to intertwine the work in Peru to the classroom for real use, and to return as many times as you can to continue the work on-the-ground. This is how the immersive model was envisioned, created, and carried out by Adam, Aaron, and other highly involved Team Peru students, and they hope that others can see it that way, too. Team Peru shouldn’t even be defined as a “practicum” because it’s not practice, it’s real; all the work done by students is utilized by a real organization that has a heavy stake in the communities and real issues to constantly tackle. Students are given an opportunity to work on complex projects alongside an organization that is working towards creating impactful and sustainable solutions for indigenous Peruvians facing debilitating effects of poverty every day. ~Monica Kelsh

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