Following my interest of learning of
the world’s isolated indigenous cultures, my passion for business development
as a means of sustainable social progress, and my desire to formalize a
relationship with an expert in the field of non-governmental organizations, I
traveled to the Incan indigenous communities of Chaullacocha, Rumida, and
Chupani, Peru, as a volunteer for the Rural Family Development Association of
Peru. My ambitious goals that I strove
to complete were multi-faceted, and included 1) teaching English and health
classes each day to students, school teachers, and women weavers in the
indigenous communities, 2) interviewing and living with the isolated residents
of Chaullacocha, Peru, to learn about the indigenous Incan culture and their
primitive way of live, 3) using my understanding of economics and operations
research to help establish a business plan for the Indigenous Women’s
Cooperative of Textiles to form a successful small business for the women of
Chaullacocha, Rumida, and Chupani, 4) establishing a personal relationship with
President Helder Gutierrez of RUFADA-Peru to learn from an expert in the field
of NGO work about starting and maintaining an NGO, and 5) working to help
formalize relations between RUFADA-Peru and the University of North Carolina so
as to secure internship opportunities for future students wishing to work with
RUFADA should they wish to pursue work with the organization, allowing others
to have the rare opportunity to reach such an isolated population of the world
while supporting the humanitarian missions of RUFADA.
Overall, several conclusions developed
from my time in Chaullacocha. I will
focus of 1) my impact on the community, 2) my increased knowledge of indigenous
culture, 3) my relationship with RUFADA and network connections, 4) future
opportunities for others, and 5) my impact on the Women’s Cooperative of
Chaullacocha and future opportunities that I may pursue.
First, I feel that I made
contributions in the areas of education and health in the community. I taught daily English and Health classes to
the students, women weavers, and teachers in the school system. It was rewarding work, and I hope that some
of the students remember a few words of English so as to give them motivation
to learn more. The work ethic that I
tried to teach the students was just as important as the English language
itself. In addition to learning English,
I always tried to incorporate teamwork and the importance of learning into my
classes. I also feel that I made
significant contributions to the area of health, stressing to the teachers the
importance of brushing teeth, washing hands, and cleans simple cuts and wounds
very well before covering it with a band-aid.
Second, on an individual level, I
accomplished my goal of learning more about the endangered indigenous cultures
of Peru. Living with them in a place few
outsiders ever see was an amazing experience.
I documented my time in the community with over 800 photos and
videos. I talked with the President of
the Chaullacocha community, attended a meeting of the Assembly of Men, slept
like they slept, and taught in their school system. I saw their farmwork with alpacas, sheep,
pigs, horses, and guinea pigs, their sustainable methods fertilization and crop
rotation, their political and economic system of taxation and revenue, as well
as their divided social system that largely separated men from women. Living with the community introduced me to
the cultural value that the community possesses and has given me an even
greater appreciation for indigenous life that I will draw on as I pursue a
career in international law. The
experience is one that I will never forget, and one that I will use to motivate
myself for a career in international law.
Third, I have learned so much from my
time with RUFADA, and many opportunities have become available because of
it. I was the very first volunteer
RUFADA has ever hosted, being that RUFADA works in one of the most isolated
parts of the world. I wanted to develop
a close relationship with a professional in the NGO field, and I did just
that. I am in frequent contact with Mr.
Gutierrez, and I have learned the operational system of an NGO within Peru. I also networked with the President of the
NGO Chakana in Peru, as well as its associates.
I feel that I have a solid network of people that can offer a variety of
Fourth, Many opportunities have arisen
because of my relationship with RUFADA.
I now find myself in a unique position to offer advice to other scholars
about what RUFADA offers, and I can help them formulate an internship in Peru
if needed. RUFADA was excited to hear
about the Morehead-Cain Scholars Program, and Mr. Gutierrez has a variety of
connections in schools, hospitals, and indigenous communities that offer
awesome internships to students in the area of health, education, sustainable
agriculture, and business development. I
am planning to host an information session for scholars about the opportunities
RUFADA offers. It is a unique NGO in
that it offers the legitimacy of a large-scale NGO while offering students the
personal connections and flexibility that one needs to formulate an internship
to fit one’s needs.
Lastly, I feel that I have made small
contributions to the business development of the Women’s Cooperative of
Chaullacocha. The women know have a very
basic introductory understanding of a few phrases of English, and I have helped
Mr. Gutierrez start to think about a plan for carrying out an initiative to
expand the Cooperative. I feel that my
basic understanding of operational management and economics helped in
formulating the potential costs for the business, as well as what is needed to
earn a profit.
My work in Chaullacocha is not
over. I will be doing work for the
Women’s Cooperative here at UNC by further talking with professors about small
business development and what is needed to start up a small entrepreneurial
initiative. I have the understanding and
background to be able to apply for grants here in the United States to support
the Cooperative in Peru. I have the
genuine understanding to act as an English-speaking advocate on behalf of the
indigenous populations of Peru.
I had the chance to volunteer
with Rufada for 3 days in the rural communities of Chupani, Chaullacocha, and
Rumira Sondormayo. While in these communities
I taught English to school children and worked to publicize the textile work of
the women of the villages. I learned
while working there just how important these textiles can be for the women of
the communities. As tourism is starting
to enter the communities these
textiles, mostly woven goods, are giving the women of the communities
their first chance to earn an income for their family. For them, this is extremely important to gain
some control in a very male dominated culture.
Currently Rufada is working on a project to improve the quality of these
woven sheep and alpaca goods including purses, hats, ponchos, and blankets.
They are achieving this goal and the goal of restoring the ancestral
culture of weaving in the communities by creating a new building in which the
women of the communities can weave together sharing ideas, sheltered from the elements. They are also hosting workshops to introduce
more complex weaving patterns to these goods.
Throughout my time in the communities, I was always amazed at how
friendly, and giving the villagers were.
Even those that appeared as though they had nothing to give usually
invited me into their home to share a meal and thank me for the work I was
doing. For me the high mountain glacier views
and the experience to live alongside villagers who have been living in the same
way for thousands of years was enough incentive to visit. To give a little bit of help to these poor
communities was even more rewarding.
Rufada accepts both students and professionals in its volunteer
program. If you have the chance to go on
this Andean adventure, I highly recommend it!
If you have any questions about my experience you can contact me at
Student, The University of
had the opportunity to volunteer with Rufada for a month in the fall of 2009. I
came with three goals in mind: to help further rural Andean development, to
experience authentic Peruvian culture, and to improve my Spanish. My Rufada
experience exceeded my expectations for all three goals and left me with
memories that will last a lifetime.
Though I was only volunteering for
one month, I felt like I could truly make a difference everyday I was there.
Because Rufada is a small, truly not-for-profit organization, I was able to
work directly with the communities that I was trying to help and could
therefore witness our progress first-hand. While I know that my work will help
to make lasting changes in the communities, my experiences with Rufada were
life changing for me as well. While working in the small high-Andean
communities of Chaullacocha, Chupani, and Wacawasi, I was able to see a side of
Peru that is hidden from most tourists. The communities are extremely rural and
isolated, and thus their traditional Andean culture has been perfectly
preserved. While eating, sleeping, and working with the members of the
community, I witnessed ancient customs and a completely different way of life.
It was a truly authentic and powerful experience.
Finally, working and living in a
Spanish-only environment did wonders for my Spanish skills. I arrived with very
basic knowledge of the language, and, after a month, I could confidently hold a
conversation and even drive a hard bargain! In short, for anyone looking to
deeply immerse themselves in a completely different culture and lifestyle, and
make a difference at the same time, the Rufada volunteer experience is a