A Different Perspective

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.


Add comment Posted in  Agriculture Projects ,BLOG ,Guest Posts From Students ,Immersive Education ,NGO Network May 4, 2013

Online Application Up!

The online application for the summer  2013 Team Peru is now up! Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. DPMI+ applications must apply here in addition to their required program application. Interviews will be conducted by the AASD from April 20-28th. If you have any questions, please contact the AASD at adamcstieglitz@gmail.com or Team Peru at mkelsh@miis.edu.

Click here for the application.

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized March 28, 2013

Team Peru & The Real Experience

“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.

Pik 1

Pik 2

~Monica Kelsh


Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized February 28, 2013

Reflections on Peru

Whenever I travel, as I’m sure is the case with most travelers, I use the time away from the routine of “normal” life to do a bit of reflection.  This time around in the Sacred Valley of Peru was even more so a time of reflection.  You see, for me this time in Peru was the realization of a dream that not so long ago, I was ready to give up on.

For as long as I can remember, my professional goal was to do “something international”, which I gradually narrowed down to “helping people” internationally, which I eventually specified as “international development”.  (Which, I know, is still not super specific.  But bear with me.)  I carried this dream with me probably from the end of high school/beginning of college on, but by the time I reached college graduation last year, I was ready to give up on it.  Among other reasons, I didn’t think my dream was realistic.  I didn’t see how I could do what I wanted to do and still have it be, to throw out our favorite buzz word at MIIS, sustainable for myself in the long run.  So, pursuing a graduate degree in the field of international development was me taking one last chance on this dream—in a way that I felt was more realistic and sustainable, both for myself and the individuals I would be working alongside should the goal pan out.

I came to Peru after one semester at MIIS, and while I definitely felt that I had made the right decision in pursuing my goal of working in international development, this time in Peru reaffirmed my initial sentiments.  There is a smart approach to development, both for oneself and for the people affected by one’s career in development.  I suppose what I’m getting at is that, even though I said at the beginning of this post that travel can be a time to get away from “normal” life, this trip only reminded me that my new idea of “normal”—my reality—is pretty awesome. ~Nadine Custis

1 comment Posted in  Uncategorized August 22, 2012

Moving Toward an NGO Network Website

When it comes to being tech-savvy, I’d place myself at the “not tech-savvy” end of the spectrum.  So, managing a website was the last thing I expected to be doing when I came down to Peru.  In speaking to member organizations in the NGO Network over the summer, we consistently found that people wanted a better means of communication.  Furthermore, people thought that the best way to do this was to create (or expand on) an online platform.  The previous Team Peru group had already created a Ning site to connect network members; our group decided to get to work amping up this site to catalyze communication and information sharing among network members.

The rough version of the NGO Network website.

I spent a good part of this week giving the site a makeover, if you will, familiarizing myself with the different features, drafting profile questions for new members, and doing general administrative tasks. So when I say that I’m “managing” a website, it’s not like I’ll return to the U.S. an html expert.  But it’s a step in that direction!  I’m really excited to be behind the scenes on this one and to see how it all comes together (¡ojalá!) to accomplish the goals we’ve set for the NGO Network. ~Nadine Custis

2 comments Posted in  Uncategorized August 14, 2012

An update from the Children of Inti photo project

Week five of teaching in Pampacorral is almost over, and it seems like time is flying. Especially because we found out yesterday that we only have one more week of teaching before the students have a two-week long vacation!
The last few weeks we have been teaching three different classes; which means almost 40 students! With the two younger groups we have been working on a family project where the students are supposed to take portraits and write a little bit about one member of their family. Some of these kids have never used a camera before and they are very eager to learn. Despite little experience we have been very impressed by the quality of the photos they come back with. The older students are now in their second year of learning photography, so we have been working on more advanced topics with them. The last few weeks they have been learning about how to use the panoramic function on their cameras to take really cool landscape shots, how to use macro to take close up photos that show the objects from a different perspective and how to include objects in a portrait that tells the viewer something about the person. Their final project is to create a mini photo essay about their topic of choice, and we are excited to see the results!
Some of the student’s best photos:
Outside of teaching we are currently working on getting a fundraising website set up through MIIS. The money we raise will go to setting up exhibitions in the United States. We have also looked into making postcards of the photos, but this will have to wait until we have more money. Right now our priority is to print some of the best photos to have a small exhibition in Pampacorral next week and to make booklets for each student to showcase their best photos. We have a hectic week ahead of us! ~Benedicte Gyllensten

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized August 13, 2012

A Unique Adventure in the Sacred Valley

Recently Ben, Nadine, and I took the opportunity to visit a remote community that evades some of the “touristy” experience of Pisaq and Cuzco. Much like Choquecancha, the community of Chahuaytire houses an association of traditional textile weavers. This remarkable place is about 40 minutes away from Pisaq, high in the mountains. When we arrived, we were the only visitors at the weaving center, called the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Chahuaytire; this village only receives visitors once or twice a month. The weavers gave us a tour of their working center, and we watched closely as men continued weaving their beautiful and unique textiles on their looms. A large manta or poncho takes nearly 1 month to create, and these artisans work from dawn to dusk. We were then shown the oveja and alpaca wool, the different natural dyes, and the various plants and rocks used for deriving the dye colors. All the men and women weavers then brought out their products to display and sell to us; this was the most difficult part to go through because we were the only three visitors, and the pressure to buy was on! All works of art were beautiful

and deserving of being bought, so we made sure to spread ourselves out and buy products from almost all artisans. Being influenced by the work we do with the Choquecancha women, I personally find it important to buy products directly from the maker, and I loved witnessing how the men and women created their textile art firsthand. I encourage all travelers to try this alternative to Pisaq markets, as it directly supports indigenous weavers, who face huge barriers to selling their art in the dominant markets. ~Monica Kelsh


1 comment Posted in  Uncategorized August 9, 2012

Ag Initiative 2.0

Recently the Ag team, Aaron, Kat, and I, traveled to Mau Cau, a small village high in theAndes, to help put the finishing touches on 14 family greenhouses.  We were cautiously optimistic, as these family greenhouses represent an important step in impacting food sovereignty.  At the same time, however, we weren’t sure what to expect moving forward.  After all, we had only talked the government into supplying the wood and plastic, the families had done the rest.  We wanted to be there to support them in whatever capacity, but didn’t want to impose, we cherished the autonomy that their hard labor represented.









By mid-day all of my worries were gone.  Within minutes we were all gathered for an open discussion about next steps, which ended with the perfect combination of support and autonomy.  Shortly thereafter we sorted all the wood and began working one by one on roofing the greenhouses.  After two were done we broke for a meal, mainly of potatoes (a recurring theme that the greenhouses look to balance).











As more greenhouses were roofed (7 on the first day), it was apparent that the ag team was mostly in the way.  We took a back seat role for the last few, although were still fed one last time before our long walk home.









~Chris Miller

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized August 8, 2012

Conectando con los Apus de los Andes

The rain, fog and people cleared just for this photo.

Here’s my question: how did such small people move such huge stones?!  Seriously.

On a recent weekend in Peru, a group of us took the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu, an experience that ranks among the most inspiring of my life.  For those of you who have not yet visited this World Heritage Site, here’s a little background:

To begin, in Quechua, Machu Picchu is actually pronounced /machu pikchu/, and it means “old mountain”.  It is a pre-Columbian Inca site in the Cuzco region of Peru.  It sits at a majestic 8,000 feet above sea level, and is considered one of the most sophisticated Inca sites known today.  Its original use is uncertain; however, here are a couple of the common theories.  First, because of the detailing and sophistication of the stonework, it is thought by some to have been a site of great significance such as a royal palace or retreat, housing only Incan royalty and their servants and caregivers.  A second theory is that it may have been a major trade hub between the mountainous highlands and the more tropical jungle.

As we hiked around the site all day, it was incredible to think of the hands that crafted and placed the carefully laid stones, the people who walked the paths we now walked, and the sophisticated engineering and forethought that went into a site of such intricacy. ~Katie Holmberg

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized August 7, 2012

For the Love of Choquecancha

Picking up from where Katie left off in the last blog, we are moving forward with the Social Enterprise project. For me personally, working for the first several weeks from the house in Calca on the supply chain and marketing side of the INKAcase project came to a new level during our first visit to Choquecancha, where we organized a children’s school carnival, started the foundations for the new greenhouse, and met the women weavers for the first time. I was finally able to put faces to the INKAcase project; the women weavers of the Wiñay Warmi Association greeted us warmly and happily discussed their culture and traditions with us. It was reassuring to see and hear that they are empowered by the independence they get through the sales of their textiles. For most of the women, their earnings from textile sales are their only source of income apart from their husbands’ incomes. This money is then spent back on the education and health of their families, in addition to a portion going to a community savings pot, which is put aside in hopes of purchasing sheep for wool or a plot of land to build a small weaving house. Stepping out of the mindset of marketing and getting back to the point of this project – promoting a way for the indigenous women of Choquecancha to empower themselves and alleviate the level of poverty that they live in – makes me all the more excited to move this enterprise project forward and sustain it with the most impact possible. I’ve come to love this small town of Choquecancha and what it means to Team Peru and the Andean Alliance. ~Monica Kelsh


Add comment Posted in  Community Health Team  Tagged:  , , , , , July 31, 2012

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Our mission is to provide and implement sustainable programs and projects in collaboration with the indigenous people of the Sacred Valley of Perú in an effort to improve their lives and reduce poverty in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Furthermore, we work to support local NGOs with whom we have shared values using the skills and tools we possess.