Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development
My experience working with the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD) in the Sacred Valley of Peru turned out to be more of an opportunity for personal growth than for academic skill-building. The research practicum set out by AASD staff was loosely structured around “market access” for small-scale local farmers in the Cusco region. However, the program did not offer much in building my knowledge of research methods and good data collection and instead highlighted the challenges often associated with international development work.
As a student at MIIS, I have heard the critiques of international development projects and the pitfalls that organizations can fall into; in Peru, I was able to witness these challenges firsthand. Some of the challenges included the slow pace of progress, the lack of structure in projects, and the ever-present biases of both the population you are working with, as well as what, we as foreigners, think should be implemented. During my interactions with farmers, it was difficult to not draw generalizations on the population or make decisions for them, thinking that I know best about their situation. I was also often frustrated with the pace of the work and the “lack of results” we were seeing in our work.
My experience has shown me that working for an international NGO may not be the best fit for me, in terms of the work schedule and organizational structure. Improving my Spanish language skills, immersing myself in another culture, and living abroad were all positive aspects of my experience.