6/29/15

Tackling Local Development in Peru

Students on the Peru service learning trip worked with three different service partner organizations in Cuzco: AbrePuertas, Corazon de Dahlia, and the comedor.

AbrePuertas was started by a SUNY alumna and is situated in the district of Coya, Peru, in the Sacred Valley outside of the city of Cusco. The organization works to improve community literacy, empower teens through leadership and public speaking trainings, engage families who may undervalue traditional education, and bolster the value of learning and art.

Corazón de Dahlia was started by a Binghamton University alumna. The organization provides afterschool programming for children, a bi-lingual and media library, and an educational toy and game library.

El Comedor Popular is an organization made up of local women and provides a source of food for families who would otherwise lack an adequate food supply in the form of a soup kitchen.

Students were asked to compare the similarities and differences between how each service partner tackles local development.
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"All of these programs fill in the gap between communities and local governments by providing services to their communities that otherwise would not be available." - Karly Armstrong
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"Abre Puertas uses their goal of improving literacy and education while empowering the children within the community as a way of fighting the issue of poverty. While Corazon De Dahlia provides services for children like Abre Puertas I think they also focus on family development through education." - Charlecia Chung
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"From what I observed at AbrePuertas, Ellyn looked at local development from the bottom up. That is, she saw children as a great way to introduce positive change into the community. At Corazon de Dahlia, local development also started with children. However, the work at Corazon de Dahlia was more specifically focused on providing educational and emotional support to children." - Sarah Glose
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"At Corozon de Dahlia, the mission, as stated by Laura, the head of the organization, was to foster the growth of the children of the community primarily with affection and love. By emphasizing kindness and solidarity this organization aids in changing the general mindset of the local family." - Alison Gryzlo
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"Of the three service partners the Comedor is the most different in terms of purpose. It is specifically to feed local women and children in Tika Tika a large lunch, which they otherwise would not be able to afford. On average they serve 50 meals a day. The Comedor approaches local development from the stance of fighting hunger and malnutrition. " - Bridget Kunz
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"AbrePuertas and Corazon de Dahlia have different communities.  Some families are more willing to follow through with education as a step to higher success, while others believe more on work and providing money for the family." - Helen Li
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"At [AbrePuertas] it seemed like they were very integrated into the community and had interaction with parents and kids daily. They seemed to have a bond with many of the families of Coya as most the children came back each day and parents felt it was a safe place for their kids." - Diana Reyes
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"Corazon de Dahlia also has volunteers that specialize as psychologists to offer the children with additional support, an aspect unavailable at Abrepuertas." - Ally Sanchez
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"El commodore provided meals to those in the community whom needed food or meals. This brought the community together and made them close knit and caring. This program was very small but powerful in the basic sense of family and support." - Elizabeth Pisani-Woodruff
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"Virgen de Fatima is similar to a soup kitchen, they offer very cheap meals to up to fifty people a day. By providing people cheap meals and giving them nutrition it helps local development but trying to keep people healthy and taking some stress off their shoulders. By offering meals, they don't have to worry about starving and can focus their energy on working or doing other constructive things for the community." - Elizabeth Saturnino
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"While both Abre Puertas and Corazón de Dahlia focus on providing additional education services to children from poorer communities in the hope that education will help these children break the cycle of poverty, they differ greatly in their resources, funding, relationship with the municipal government, and relationship with the local community." - Mohini Sharma
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"Corózon de Dahlia is strongly supportive of providing a loving environment to enhance learning capacity.  They also have a separate program that focuses solely on girls to empower them for their future.  Programs are also held that aim to educate parents." - Meredith Summers
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"When members of a community are well fed and do not have to worry about where they will find their next meal, they can better focus their energy on bettering their society and helping others." - Dina Truncali
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"Abrepuertas and Corazon de Dahlia focus on shaping productive and educated citizens. These service sites try to create a bright future for children by ensuring that what they need for such a future is fulfilled." - Anton Vlahek
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"Corazon de Dahlia is a bigger NGO with more resources than the site of AbrePuertas. It provides workshops for parents. It has an empowerment program for women. There are also psychologists for children who have emotional problems." - Jianhang Xiao
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"The comedor may have issues in the future, as they continue to help the poor and malnourished in the community, but what their community needs even more is programs to help improve the lives of the poor so that in the future they would not need to go to a soup kitchen for food. These sorts of programs would contribute much more to local development – but, what they are doing now is vital in this moment, so they must continue to be supported monetarily and with other service contributions." - David Zatyko

6/19/15

Service in Peru--Partners and Projects

Students on the Peru service learning trip worked with three different service partner organizations in Cuzco: AbrePuertas, Corazon de Dahlia, and the comedor.

AbrePuertas was started by a SUNY alumna and is situated in the district of Coya, Peru, in the Sacred Valley outside of the city of Cusco. The organization works to improve community literacy, empower teens through leadership and public speaking trainings, engage families who may undervalue traditional education, and bolster the value of learning and art.

Corazón de Dahlia was started by a Binghamton University alumna. The organization provides
afterschool programming for children, a bi-lingual and media library, and an educational toy and game library.

El Comedor Popular is an organization made up of local women and provides a source of food for families who would otherwise lack an adequate food supply in the form of a soup kitchen.

Students were asked to reflect on their impressions of each service partner after spending time working on projects at each location, as well as what they have enjoyed the most. Here are some of their thoughts:


"Abrepuertas has only 2 instructors: Ellen and another teacher working with her. The space was kid-friendly, but there was no electricity or running water. Abrepuertas caters to about 40 kids at a time and it seemed that if there were more staff there, it would be easier to accomodate all of the kids." - Karly Armstrong
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"Out of all the service projects I really enjoyed working at the Comedores. This project was the most exciting for me because we had the chance to really work with building the things they needed in order to make the Comedores better for its guests." - Charlecia Chung
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"The most telling moment came when I went to Ellyn, the director of AbrePuertas, at the end of the third day and asked if we had done enough to help her. She laughed and hugged me, and she told me she was so glad we had come. At first I thought maybe we had disappointed her with our subpar painting skills and Spanish, but her appreciation made it clear we had done work that she really needed, and enabled me to feel better about our time there." - Sarah Glose
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"I, a 20 year old, can admit that I do not have the confidence and appreciation for life that I've felt in the girls here. Corazon de Dahlia is such a special place, and I am proud to have worked there for just the 2 days that I was present." - Alison Gryzlo
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"AbrePuertas is nestled into the mountains of Peru in a town called Coya. This rural area presents a challenge for the founders of the program because of funding difficulties. We, as volunteers, were able to offer our support by helping to convert old recycling bins into shelves for the kids' toys and supplies." - Bridget Kunz

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"My initial thoughts about our service partners were: “We’re doing so little for them! Why aren’t we doing more? Is this all we’re doing?” At AbrePuertas, I struggled to do more for the children there. I was wondering how we could even further help them---and if they even needed our help for many of the things we would like to provide them." - Helen Li
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"My impression of Laura, the director [of Corazon de Dahlia] was that she was a very strong woman who was not afraid to voice her opinion and stand up for the organization and their needs in order to grow and move forward." - Diana Reyes
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"At Abrepuertas, Corazon de Dahlia and the comedor I have realized that all three non profit organizations have the same thing in common: they need year round volunteers and help rather than just a couple of days a year." - Ally Sanchez
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"AbrePuertas was definitely my favorite though thus far. Ellyn, the director, was such an amazing person and gave so much positive energy and great vibes. Also the kids were so adorable and fun and it was nice to get to know them. I also liked helping fix up their building and help organize the new classroom location." - Elizabeth Saturnino
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"Out of our three service sites, Corazón de Dahlia is the one I´m most critical of. Laura [the director] talked about how they have no support from the community, but did so with a sense of resentment and moral superiority, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that attitude alienates the community and is part of the reason the community is not supportive. Grounding with a community means putting your motives for the success of your organization aside and interacting with locals on a human-to-human level: asking them questions, seeing what you can do to alleviate some of their apprehensions, working with them, and being empathetic towards their limitations. I also realize that my impression of Laura may be a result of a misunderstanding due to translation and a lack of time with her." - Mohini Sharma
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"I was surprised by AbrePuertas because they seem to be able to impact the community so strongly with the little resources they have. It was easy to see how passionate and caring Ellyn and the other staff are for the work they do. They truly exist for helping the families of Coya grow stronger through education." - Meredith Summers
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"The second site, Corazon de Dahlia, was slightly less beneficial for both parties. I really liked working with the girls in the young women's empowerment initiative, but it seemed to me that having 18 foreign students come in and play with the kids in the program was more of a nuisance to the teachers and long term volunteers than anything." - Dina Truncali
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"The workers at the comedores expressed how very thankful they were that we came to do service. Our service partners also made it easier for us to do our work. Whether it was translating languages or instructing us how to do something, they were very helpful." - Anton Vlahek
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"The most enjoyable moment is during the time I spent time with the children. I played games with them, such as the hopscotch, scavenger hunt, and soccer. I also tutored children in learning English. Even though I can only use few Spanish words to talk to them, I still feel proud that I am able to teach them English." - Jianhang Xiao
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"My three days at AbrePuertas and two at Corazon de Dahlia taught me several impactful lessons on communication that I will carry with me whether I continue to work with children, or if I am burned out until I have my own kids. First, I discovered that enthusiasm goes far beyond words. Energy and excitement can be a source of entertainment and brighten a day even without words. Alongside this, I learned that simple physical forms of communication and body language - a high five, a thumbs up, a pat on the back, even just a smile - can serve as sufficient forms of communication and can brighten anyone's day, mine included." - David Zatyko

6/9/15

Reflections on Week 1 in Peru!

After spending their first full week in Cusco, Peru, MPA students from Binghamton University reflect on their initial impressions—specifically:


What is the most surprising thing thus far? 
What have you seen that is different than you are accustomed to? 
What have you seen that is similar?

Here are some of their thoughts:

"They eat a lot of starch here, like potatoes, and that is also common in America. There's not a lot of vegetables served and Americans are also not too keen on veggies, but in Cuzco it's because it's hard to grow vegetables at this altitude and much easier to grow potatoes." –Karly Armstrong
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"There are many elderly people on the streets selling a variety things. I also see many of them carrying heavy items on their backs. I couldn't imagine seeing my grandparents doing the same thing. But I can say that in spite of the struggles that I've seen, every person I have encountered in Peru has never hesitated to smile in my direction which has given me a sense of security and love." –Charlecia Chung
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"My host family is so affectionate—even their extended family is affectionate, regardless of having met us only once! Most people here seem to genuinely care about each other and want to have conversation and offer love and affection; it is just part of who they are. Coming from the United States and being used to a cold and fast paced environment, it is pretty shocking to encounter a culture of such warmth and love. It makes being here for three weeks so much easier, honestly. I cannot even tell that I am away from home because I already feel at home!" –Carolina Garcia
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"One thing that really surprises me about Cusco is how much tourist influence there is in the main areas of the city. It is certainly tempting to stay in the touristy areas and order pizza and hamburgers from waiters who speak my language. However, I have found that my most enriching, valuable, and humbling experiences have come when I had to figure out how to say a phrase in Spanish or order a food I had never heard of." –Sarah Glose
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"Something that I experience to be different from life in New York is the lack of urgency from people on the streets. While cars and taxis whiz through the streets, barley avoiding pedestrians, the people walking the busy streets are in no rush. Compared to New York City, Cusco has a similar rushed ambiance, however I have noticed this only with vehicles and not people." –Alison Gryzlo
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"During an evening walk back to my host family with my three roommates we observed a full moon. What was striking about the moon was how low in the sky it seemed to be. It looked as though it was skimming the nearby mountaintops. I had to stop to remind myself that the moon is no lower here in Cusco than in New York, I am simply that high up." –Bridget Kunz
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"Getting altitude sickness is no joke. It is one of the worst experiences I’ve been through—ever. Since landing in Cuzco, I can easily say that trying to overcome the dizziness and motion sickness is something I would never want to go through again."  –Helen Li
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"From working at the NGO Abre Puertas to speaking with locals and my host family, it seems that there is high inequality in education for children living in poverty and they would like for that to change. I see the same sentiment in the US and many working towards fixing that social problem." –Diana Reyes
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"My most surprising experience thus far has been the celebration of Corpus Christi. The festival included a parade carrying statues of saints and religious objects throughout the streets and also included a mass outside the cathedral of La Plaza de Armas. I am most surprised by this holiday because of its religious focus and how everyone in Cusco partook in the celebration, whereas in the States religious holidays aren't as widely celebrated." –Ally Sanchez
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"I think the most surprising thing to me is how uncomfortable I feel constantly. Like I'm waiting for my body to relax so I can take that deep breathe but it still hasn't happened. It could be a combination of not knowing the language well enough or the fact that my pale skin complexion really makes me stick out, along with living in a stranger's house. Nothing could have prepared me for this experience." –Elizabeth Saturnino
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"I didn´t expect Cusco to be as defined by tourism as it is. I wonder if this is because it´s the peak season of tourism at the moment, and I wonder if the culture is very different in other seasons. At this time, the shops, the people, the nightlife, and the restaurants all seem to heavily cater to both tourists and locals, or at the very least keep the tourists in mind. At times it seems like there are just as many tourists as locals." –Mohini Sharma
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"I'm surprised that people here seem so much healthier and stronger than the people in the United States. Despite having a climate that doesn't allow many vegetables to grow here, there seems to be a far less number of obese people here in Peru." –Meredith Summers
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"Something that I have seen that is different than I am accustomed to is the amount of women in the workforce. Most of the police officers we see in the streets of Cusco are women, and so many of the vendors and store workers are women, often working while they carry their children on their back." –Dina Truncali
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"What surprises me is the great number of street vendors and stores that appear to be selling very similar items. I have never seen this in any other country. I don't understand how all of these vendors can sustain their businesses when there appears to be so much competition." –Anton Vlahek
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"One thing I am familiar with is the tourists. I am from New York City. It is similar for me to see many tourists visiting in Peru. Now I can better understand the experience as a tourist myself." –Jefferson Xiao 
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"[Our driver] doesn’t show us the poorest parts or town, where many people are likely squatting or just scraping by, selling their goods from the countryside to tourists in the city. But these things aren’t that different from any other city—my hometown of Rochester, NY has the exact same issues that Cusco has, it’s just that we in the United States seem better at hiding away our most impoverished and least cared-for areas." –David Zatyko