Archives - ‘Peru’

Hello… from Canada !

August 15, 2018 | Adrienne, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, UNITERRA, Alianza Cacao Peru, Communication and Documentation Officer

Coming home from my time in Peru has been an incredible, if not somewhat overwhelming, experience. In retrospect, now that I’ve completed my placement, what strikes me is how much I learned about gender relations, the organization and about myself. Throughout most of my internship I felt that I was not using my time well. Too much time sitting in the office, not enough opportunities to spend time out in the field learning from those who are actively working on the organizations’ mandate. Even though I would have liked to visit the field more often, I was able to learn by observing workshops, interviewing women for the ‘Success Stories’ project, and just integrating into the organization’s community.

These learning experiences will give me valuable insight throughout my academic future, and the rest of my career. I’ve learned a considerable amount about the type of job I would like to have. In addition, I’ve thought carefully about my soft and hard skills I have and hope to develop further and put to good use, such as problem solving, networking, knowledge of development organizational structures, gender relations and women’s empowerment in rural Peru. Not to forget, and to be learned from, the difficulties of working in developing countries as a foreigner stand out as well.

I chose to participate in this program not just to add more qualifications to my resume, but for personal development. Through all of the ups and downs, the experience did not disappoint in that respect. I learned about being resourceful and persevering, digging deep and pulling out every bit of emotional energy I could muster. Getting out of my comfort zone helped reinforce knowledge I already know about who I am; the skills I have, the kind of work I find satisfying and what helps me get through challenging circumstances. Five years from now, when I look back on this internship, I know I will still feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to learn so much about myself so early on in my life.

Alianza Cacao Peru, Tingo Maria

July 25, 2018 | Adrienne, Specialization - International Development and Globalization, UNITERRA, Alianza Cacao Peru, Communication and Documentation Officer

Alianza Cacao Peru is an organization built on public-private partnerships, with businesses and cooperatives in the cacao industry. Since most of the cacao produced in Peru is produced on small farms of less than one hectare, with old trees, very low yields do not allow cocoa farming households to raise enough income to overcome extreme poverty. These low yields, inefficient intermediaries, and poor access to markets and finance, crops such as cocoa cannot compete economically with coca and other illegal activities.

With funding from USAID and DEVIDA (La Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo y Vida sin Drogas), among many other partners, Alianza Cacao Peru works to make cacao production a viable option to earn a livelihood. Their work revolves around creating direct market linkages, and access to financial assistance, and providing education of agricultural technology and an integrated agro-forestry system to improve the yields and quality cacao crops under cultivation. The organizations specific long term goals include: increased amount of hectares of land producing cacao across three regions of Peru, farmer’s incomes reaching up to $4,000 per hectare, peace and stability promoted in regions previously burdened by drug-trafficking and increased gender equality and youth engagement.

I am working in the Huánuco region, in the capital city of Tingo Maria. Here, Alianza Cacao’s efforts have been well received. In fact, organizations like Alianza Cacao and DEVIDA command a lot of respect in the region, because people want change. The regions history with the narcoterrorism group ‘The Shining Path’ is a dark one. Most people over the age of 30 have experienced horrible tragedies at the hands of the terrorists.

As an intern, I’ve been working as a documentation and communications officer on behalf of Uniterra, the Canadian organization that has facilitated my placement. For the next 2 months, my mandate is to assist with the editing of communications documents, videos, and managing the social media profiles. Aside from these duties, I am working on developing a ‘Gender Guide’ for technicians who run the educational workshops for farmers. This will serve as an outline, to give the technicians context of the challenges women in Peru face in the cacao industry, gender gaps in Peru, and good practices that can improve gender equality.

Once this is complete, I will be working on a ‘Success Stories’ project, which will require me to interview women in the cacao industry who have participated in Alianza Cacao’s trainings and improved their cacao yields, while being leaders in their respective communities. This is the part of my mandate that I am most excited about, and was one of the deciding factors in choosing this placement; I love being out in the field and interacting with people, especially those whom the organization is trying to help.

So far, things have been going well! Uniterra has given me a warm welcome, and assisted me in getting accustomed to Tingo Maria. I’ve been lucky enough to find a room above a restaurant owned by a wonderful family, who have almost taken me in as a third child. Now, I’m settling in to life at the office! I’m very grateful to have a counterpart working in communications, who has been showing me the ropes. While working in Spanish (my second language) has presented some challenges, I’ve already noticed how quickly my language skills are improving with practice. While 3 months isn’t much time, I’m looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone and making the most of this experience!”

Home Is Where the Heart Is

April 3, 2018 | Emilia, DVM, Uniterra, Peru, Alianza Cacao, Gender Communication Officer

A few months went by very quickly for me: in a 3-month internship, every day and every week counts. I became accustomed to a different lifestyle and I got to develop close relationships with colleagues, friends and neighbors. I think relationship-building has played a crucial role in my integration to the city. For me, it was part of the learning process to spend time with colleagues in the office, agronomists in the field and farming families on their land to understand the sociocultural context of the region and my role within the organization.

Data Collection with Technological Agents
I ventured into the beautiful Peruvian jungle during field visits to cocoa farms in the regions of San Martín and Huánuco. My main goal was to collect data for communication products with a gender focus. Starting with a video project, I interviewed women leaders in the cocoa industry to learn about their challenges, their successes and their overall experience in agriculture. I also wanted to know what benefits they received from Peru Cocoa Alliance (PCA) as cocoa farmers. I mainly learned that they appreciate the knowledge they acquired through the Schools of Excellence, the field days and personal visits from the organization’s agronomists to increase their productivity and quality in cocoa. Another assignment was to assess women farmers on their soft skills such as verbal communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. The data collected from these qualitative surveys will be used to adapt PCA activities and workshops to the farmers’ needs. The video project and surveys were targeted towards PCA technological agents which are a select group of cocoa farmers. They assist PCA Schools of Excellence during an 8-month period to learn about innovative farming techniques and technology such as integrated pest management, pruning, soil nutrition, and much more. PCA also works with technological agents to develop their soft skills and transfers knowledge on small business management. Additionally, the organization added a personal development component including self-confidence and a gender approach in the schools’ curriculum. The main role of technological agents is to generate a positive impact in their community by disseminating knowledge on farming techniques and technology. PCA also partners with businesses that sell farm machinery and nutrients to improve the quality of soil and increase cocoa production. Through the Schools of Excellence, the participants learn how to create their own businesses and become local distributors of the private partners’ products according to the market’s demand.

Cocoa in Regions Affected by Political Violence
I visited many cocoa farms in regions that were once strongly affected by political violence and terrorism. Through conversations with farmers, I was shocked to hear horror stories that happened in their communities. In many cases, farmers were pressured by drug traffickers on one end and threatened by the government for cultivating the coca leaf on the other end. A farmer told me about the oppression she felt when living in constant fear of being killed either by the government or by drug traffickers. She is a hard-working woman farmer dealing with psychological traumas of the past with no access to mental health services. This encounter generated a whole line of questioning for me and left me wondering what can be done in terms of human development for victims of political violence. It also helped me understand why cocoa production is so crucial for farmers in these regions. It is a product used to replace the production of coca leaves and to prevent the continuation of illicit activities. It offers an alternative market to increase farmers’ overall quality of life.

So much change in my personal and professional life all at once

February 13, 2018 | Emilia, DVM, Uniterra, Peru, Alianza Cacao, Gender Communication Officer

My journey to the entrance of the Peruvian jungle has been a whole adventure within itself and has already taught me a lot about flexibility, adaptability and patience. In total, four of my flights were canceled and I spent long hours at the airport a few times. I stayed in four different hotel rooms and moved to a new place in eight days. I worked in three offices in two cities before completing my third week on the job. I’ve never experienced so much change in my personal and professional life all at once but it’s what makes this experience so unique and crucial for students who want to pursue international development as a career. Luckily, the Uniterra team has been supporting me throughout the whole adaptation process.

I am currently working in Tingo María for Alianza Cacao Perú (ACP) as a Gender Communications Officer. Alianza Cacao Perú is a public-private partnership that provides support to cocoa farmers in Ucayali, San Martin and Huánuco. The organization seeks to share technology on how to increase the productivity and quality of cacao through schools of excellence, capacity building workshops and public events. My role at ACP has two important areas of focus: the promotion of equality between women and men and the creation of communication products. I am learning about the role of women in rural areas, how they are perceived and treated in certain settings. I am exploring how the sexual division of labour can result in the unequal distribution of roles. This, in turn, can affect women’s ability to assist workshops, attend a training or participate in communal activities. Generally, they do not occupy many governance positions and their hard work can be undervalued. Throughout this learning process, I am developing a guide to promote the concept of equality between women and men in the organization’s activities. I am also supporting the gender team in the organization of events and activities. In communications, I am taking pictures of ACP activities and working on the creation of videos to highlight the importance of women’s role in the cocoa production process. It’s a way to showcase women as leaders in their communities and to make their work visible.

So far, the highlight of my internship is visiting farming families with ACP agronomists to learn more about the cultural context, the cocoa production process and the target population. I think real life experiences are eye-opening and the reality of the field is always a great way to educate yourself on a specific topic.

Le Pérou et le Canada, pas si différents que ça…

March 26, 2015 | Katrina, Uniterra, Pérou, EPS EMAPA San Martin, stagiaire en développement économique

Je suis un peu incrédule sur le fait que je vais avoir une crise de « chocs des cultures » en rentrant au Canada, dans moins d’une semaine. Je n’ai pas eu de « chocs des cultures » en arrivant ici, alors pourquoi en aurais-je un à mon retour ?
Ne pensez pas que je n’y crois pas, car ça m’est arrivé auparavant, même à revenir d’expériences prolongées très différentes ailleurs au Canada. J’ai l’impression que Lima et Ottawa ne sont simplement pas aussi différents que ce qu’on pourrait penser.
Les deux sont des grandes villes, malgré que Lima fasse 10 fois la population d’Ottawa. Lima Centre, c’est-à-dire, en dehors des asentamientos humanos (un terme qui est utilisé ici car « bidonvilles » est très stigmatisé), ressemble à n’importe quelle ville nord-américaine : des publicités, des transports en commun, des rues, des jardins, des maisons, des parcs, etc. Le trafic est horrible, il y a des chats et chiens sans laisse partout et la vente ambulante est beaucoup plus commune, mais ce n’est pas suffisant pour faire un choc des cultures.
Quant à la culture en tant que telle, oui c’est différent. Très différent. La façon dont les gens interagissent, les mots utilisés, les blagues, les traditions, etc. À bien y penser, je suis venue à la conclusion que j’ai dû m’habituer à la façon de faire latino-américaine avant même de venir ici. Peut-être est-ce pour ça que je n’ai pas senti le choc ? J’ai fait une mineur en espagnol, et les cours nous apprennent pleins d’aspects de la culture espagnole et latino-américaine, donc j’étais déjà familière avec plusieurs choses. J’ai aussi déjà vécu en Amérique Latine auparavant. Peut-être serait-ce l’explication ?
Ou alors, je pourrais avoir des dons pour m’adapter à n’importe quelle situation. Il me fut très facile de m’établir une routine, puis la briser selon les circonstances, la ré-établir, puis la briser, etc.
Enfin, nous verrons bien lorsque je rentrerai au Canada si le Pérou me manquera beaucoup. Ce qui est certain, c’est que la seule chose qui me manque de la maison, ce sont mes amis et ma famille, rien de plus.

Du bon stress

March 12, 2015 | Katrina, Uniterra, Pérou, EPS EMAPA San Martin, stagiaire en développement économique

Il ne reste que trois semaines avant de retourner au Canada. D’un côté j’ai hâte de retrouver mes proches et amis, mais rien de plus. Mon confort et la qualité de ma routine n’est pas trop différente que ce à quoi je peux m’habituer pour une longue durée ni à ce que j’avais au Canada.
Je me suis surprise à apprécier ma vie ici, même si elle est très loin de ma famille, puisque j’apprécie beaucoup les tâches quotidiennent pour lesquelles je suis responsable dans le cadre de mon stage.

C’est arrivé à un point où je me lève chaque matin enthousiaste de faire mon travail, un phénomène que je n’avais jamais connu auparavant! Je travaille les fins de semaines et souvent en soirée pour pouvoir avancer mes projets. Je n’ai pas peur d’un “burn out” puisque ça m’amuse!
Mais je travaille fort aussi parce que j’ai énormément de trucs à faire. Comme mon premier mois de stage s’est avéré inutile (ou presque), tout mes responsabilités furent poussées dans l’espace d’un mois et demi. À les regarder en février, j’étais persuadée que je les terminerais bien avant la date limite, mais à y repenser, les conditions de travail et les circonstances font qu’il y a des chances que ça arrive tout juste.

Je dois voyager pour le travail, faire des ateliers, terminer un manuel de capacitation, distribuer des panflets, etc. Et en plus, je suis invitée à des conférences, des ateliers sur des enjeux féministes, des événements, etc. J’ai la chance de connaître l’environnement politique et activiste du Pérou.
J’ai peine à croire que très bientôt, je devrai retourner au Canada, au froid et sans emploi. J’ai envie de rester et appuyer l’Asociation Aurora Vivar, avec laquelle je fais mon stage, plusieurs mois encore… mais la réalité me frapperas très bientôt! Il est temps d’apprécier chaque petit moment ici au Pérou, car les chances sont que je ne les revivrai pas.

Déjà la moitié de mon temps passé ici à Lima!

February 20, 2015 | Katrina, Uniterra, Pérou, EPS EMAPA San Martin, stagiaire en développement économique

J’ai eu quelques malchances durant la première moitié de mon stage ici à Lima. Après un changement de direction, ma première superviseure qui se casse le pied, et ma deuxième qui quitte le travail pour maladie, il me semblait que tout tombait pile pour m’empêcher de commencer à travailler. J’ai dû affronter quelques mésaventures jusqu’à aujourd’hui, mais le pire fut certainement l’ennui!

Enfin, je vois la lumière au bout du tunnel. Aujourd’hui j’ai enfin complété mon Plan de travail pour le mois et demi qu’il me reste à passer à Lima, et je vais être très occupée! Normalement, cela me donnerait un peu d’anxiété mais après tant d’attente, je suis très excitée à contribuer à ces merveilleux projets.

Je travaille avec l’Association Aurora Vivar, qui mène deux projets pour l’égalité des genres. L’un deux vise à promouvoir le leadership féminin et les sources alternatives de revenus pour les travailleuses des entreprises agro-exportatrices de Paramonga. Très bientôt, il y aura le Jour international de la femme, le 8 mars, où nous mettrons en place une foire et des activités. Je serai en charge de la photographie et des registres, mais ce qui m’anime le plus, ce sont les feuillets que j’aurai la chance de concevoir. Ils porteront sur l’histoire du Jour de la femme, contre le harcèlement sexuel et le respect de leurs droits, et seront distribués dans les écoles de Comas et Carabayllo, au Nord de Lima y à Paramonga.

L’autre projet sur lequel Aurora Vivar travaille vise à promouvoir les carrières techniques, particulièrement de sciences et technologies, auprès des adolescentes du Nord de Lima, à Comas et Carabayllo. Plusieurs moyens sont pris pour atteindre cet objectif, dont un sous-projet appelé “La Chispa de Aurorita”, où nous faisons des ateliers sur les technologies d’information et de communication (TIC), d’électricité, de mécanique, etc. Bref, des domaines auxquels les filles ne participent pas traditionellement, et dans lesquels autrement, elles n’auraient jamais pu se découvrir un talent ou une future source de revenus. Je suis en charge de créer le manuel qui servira à la formation des enseignants sur les ateliers de TIC. C’est une assez grande responsabilité, et le projet avance lentement, mais avec un peu d’efforts, il sera fin prêt à être utilisé… après mon départ.

Malheureusement, je ne pourrai pas réellement observer le fruit de ce travail car les ateliers commenceront en avril, et je termine mon stage en mars. Cela est en partie dû au retard qu’a pris l’organisation suite au changement de direction. Mais c’est chose courante ici au Pérou, la direction change tout le temps, que ce soit des écoles, des organisations gouvernementales et non gouvernementales, c’est une façon de faire pour assurer la démocratie! J’ai entendu dire que dans plusieurs institutions (incluant le gouvernement national), il est courant que la nouvelle direction renvoie les employés qui ne correspondent pas à leur vision ou leur parti… une chance que ce n’est pas le cas dans mon organisation!

Je crois par contre que mes travaux porteront leurs fruits éventuellement, peu importe si je puisse les voir ou pas. L’important est d’y mettre les efforts, et surtout, apprendre de sa propre expérience et de l’expérience des autres!

Final Blog Post

July 28, 2014 | LOUIS ROLAND, DVM, Uniterra, Peru, RNPM- Aurora Vivar

Well, my internship in Lima is finally coming to a close. It’s been a really positive experience, and I feel that Uniterra is a valuable programme for what it offers to volunteers. In this blog post, I’ll describe some of the tasks I’ve been doing since my last blog post, and then share some of my reflections on my time here.

The past two weeks were really busy with a series of workshops in “CETPROs”, or technical education centres, that inform students on how to develop their professional skills and integrate themselves in to the formal economy. For example, students are given advice on how to apply for a job, how to complete a job interview, and how to write a resume. A few of these workshops were carried out in rapid succession in Carabayllo, a far-flung barrio of Lima. The beneficiaries of these were of all ages; while the lower limit for enrolment is 14, students can be as old as 60. Interestingly, they are 70 or 80 per cent female, even though CETPROs offer courses in technical careers that don’t correspond to a particular gender stereotype (the way that cosmetology might).

At the same time as we began these workshops (known as “ABE”, or Asesorio de la Búsqueda de Trabajo), we were closing up our “Chispa de Aurorita” science club workshops. Closing up each workshop involved one day when the girls would present the projects that they had worked on to family or peers, and then a field trip to somewhere related to their workshop. This was a rewarding experience, because the girls took a lot of pride in the work that they had put in over the past few weeks, and they showed a lot of confidence in presenting their projects. What’s more, most of them had become a lot more friendly and open with me since the first few weeks, and so it was a lot of fun to spend time with them.

Working so many days (I averaged six a week) left me with a few days off, which I used last Monday and Tuesday to visit Huacachina, a touristy desert oasis a few minutes outside the city of Ica. I went with my girlfriend and a friend of hers, both of whom would continue on to visit more of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was going into the dunes in buggies and sandboarding down some spectacularly-steep slopes. We were with a (hilarious) group of anglophones from Australia and the UK, so it was also a nice break to be able to speak English again. An added bonus of this quick trip was seeing some sunlight; Lima is famously cloudy throughout winter, earning the nickname “Lima la Gris”, or “Lima the Grey”.

Once I was back, I finished up a few administrative tasks in the Aurora Vivar office. I finished entering some data from a vocational orientation test that one of the schools had completed, and made modifications to the database I’d created so that it would be ready for data entries that weren’t available during my internship, but that would need to be entered in the coming months.

This database is one of my better achievements within the Aurora Vivar office. Upon beginning our vocational orientation workshops, students complete a little form and respond to some questions that reveal their perspectives and biases on gender or training in professional settings. While it was just an Excel database, I was able to have each correct response automatically calculated and the percentages of correct responses displayed in a pivot table. The pivot table, in turn, would automatically update a corresponding bar graph, which permits any user to easily and visually compare any groups who completed the form. That is to say, if one manipulates the pivot table to show boys from one school and girls from another, then the graph will also show these groups and their responses. Because in Excel it is easy to accidentally “break” the series of calculations, I was also careful to hide the machinations of my database and leave clear instructions on how it should be updated.

I think it will be interesting to draw on some of the highlights from this database during my follow-up assignments for the University of Ottawa; firstly because it will be satisfying to have my work with Aurora Vivar also contribute to some research element of my studies, and secondly because the database reveals some interesting trends. Most notably, it shows that boys tend to be far more open to technical education and careers (even though CETPROs are overwhelmingly female), while girls are far more heavily biased towards attending university. Meanwhile, girls are less likely to say that professional aptitude is determined by gender (for example, women cannot be mechanics, or male cosmetologists must be gay). It will be interesting to see to what extent age or private schooling will influence these categories.

To close this blog post, I’ll share a few reflections on my experience. First and foremost, I’m am very grateful to WUSC and to Aurora Vivar; both of these organisations welcomed me and made me feel comfortable and useful, especially at the beginning of my internship. While there was definitely a cultural adjustment that I had to make, I never felt like I was without support or without someone who could answer my questions.

Looking back, some of the biggest challenges I faced arose from the fact that I had to work in Spanish. Though my Spanish improved a lot during my three months, not being a native speaker made it so that every little thing was just a little bit more difficult. It’s like having to swim with an weight belt on. Another challenge was simply the long travel times between where I lived and where we often gave workshops, in Northern Lima. Travel could be over three hours a day, which is a lot more than I was used to. However, compared to what a lot of limeños did every day, it wasn’t particularly bad.

The biggest benefit, I think, from my trip was the practical experience with development work. While I’ve studied development issues for the past three years, this is the first time I’ve been working on a development project within a developing country. I have a better understanding of the cultural, environmental, economic and political factors that complicate development projects, and the multitude of opinions that people in developing countries can have on their own development. Perhaps most notably, I have concrete examples of times where Peruvians ideas of what “development” should look like differ from the vision that is broadly promoted by international organisations and aid agencies. Attending gender and development seminars with Irma, my boss, was an excellent theoretical complement to the practical element of my internship.

All in all, I’m very happy with everything that I’ve learned and experienced, and I’m happy to be heading home to Canada. This is definitely an experience I’d recommend to any student with an interest in development issues and an appetite for adventure.

2nd Blog Post from Lima

June 24, 2014 | LOUIS ROLAND, DVM, Uniterra, Peru, RNPM- Aurora Vivar

Hi,

So I’m roughly at the halfway point of my internship here in Lima.  Things are going really well, and I’ve definitely settled into more of a groove compared to the constant changes from when I first arrived.  I am moved into my “pensión”, I know where I’m going to be getting my meals most days, and I’m becoming really familiar with the trips I have to make to work, be they from my house to the Aurora Vivar office in La Victoria or to the schools we do workshops in in the “Cono Norte”.

I’m getting more confident with my role in the workshops as well.  In our vocational orientation workshops, I’m a little more familiar with the costs and opportunities of university or technical education, and try to give as much of this type of information as possible to the students I work with to help them make their decisions.  I don’t have a huge amount of time with each student during the workshop, as a fair bit of time they are listening to the facilitator, but during the second session of vocational orientation they complete an exercise and quite often are willing to chat or seek input while they complete it.

“La Chispa de Aurorita”, the science-oriented club for young girls, is a bit more fun than vocational orientation.  The idea is to let girls have a fun time thinking about and completing science experiments or activities, which will boost their confidence and self esteem and maybe pique their interest in science down the road.  The girls are a lot of fun, and so is plugging a hot dog into a battery!

The other task I’ve been completing is preparing a database for the organisation to use and fill in once I’m gone.  While I’m pretty comfortable with Excel, some major challenges come from the need for the database and the charts that are linked to it to be easily accessible to people with more basic knowledge of MS Office.  Also, a lot of the data I put in isn’t numeric, and it can be difficult to decipher the handwriting of a lot of the students we work with. Once I finish all the data entry, however, I’m excited to see how useful this tool will be for Aurora Vivar.  I’m even thinking of trying to integrate this database and the trends I find within the data as an element of my final assignment for the University of Ottawa.

The last thing I’ll mention in this blog post is the university class I’m attending with my boss, who’s finishing her Master’s degree in Gender and Development.  This is a huge challenge, to try and follow a graduate-level discussion in Spanish, but I’m learning a lot, and my own experience as a student of development has helped me keep up to some extent.  I am especially appreciative of the fact that so many different viewpoints and perspectives can be presented which fundamentally challenge a lot of the mainstream ideas in Canada.  Mimi (my boss) and I have had some very interesting discussions on our way out of the university on Monday nights.

Anyway, I need to go prepare for said class, so I’ll end my blog post here.  Happy Sunday!

First Week in Lima

May 16, 2014 | LOUIS ROLAND, DVM, Uniterra, Peru, RNPM- Aurora Vivar

This blog post will describe my experience during the first week in Lima.

My arrival was a long and arduous journey; my poor dad had to drive me from Huntsville to Toronto on Sunday, May 4 at midnight for a flight that left just before dawn.  I then had a layover in Dallas that lasted nearly twelve hours, due to the flight being continually delayed, before finally departing for Peru around 8:30 pm.  I got to my hotel at around 4:30 on Monday morning.

Around midday on Monday, Isabel from WUSC picked me up from my hotel for my orientation in Lima.  She showed me around Miraflores, one of the principal tourist districts in Lima, and a few other barrios.  I also got advice on how to carry out transactions, how to find a safe taxi, and how to find my way around.  The next day, I was shown where I would love once I moved out of the hotel and I practiced taking the small private buses, called “combis”.  While buses follow a designated route, they are more or less the ones who decide the route; there is not one central municipal organisation deciding which buses should do a specific route, how often, or at what time.  I was also taken to the WUSC office and the office of Aurora Vivar (in “La Victoria”) where I’ll be working most days.  As I expected, everyone was very welcoming.

Thursday, I went to the “Comas” district, far in the north of Lima, where Aurora Vivar runs workshops helping adolescents in their later years of school to consider their future career paths and to educate them about gender and employment/entrepreneurship issues.  There is a marked difference between downtown Lima and the North; the North is far poorer, and it is clear that there has not been the same level of public investment in this region than older, more touristy, or wealthier districts have enjoyed.  The “asentamientos” of Lima, reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro’s “favelas”, are settlements that sprawl away from central Lima in the hills.  Though much poorer, people are equally friendly here, and I feel less like a tourist when I’m helping with Aurora Vivar’s workshops (though I obviously still look like one), as opposed to walking wide-eyed around Barranco (another touristy and bohemian district of Lima).

Saturday I helped with the “Club de Ciencias” run by Aurora Vivar that encourages young girls to take an interest in the sciences, presumably with the end goal of promoting interest in high-paying, sciences-related career paths.  Unfortunately, however, attendance was very poor, given that most students were busy preparing for “espectáculos” celebrating Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day is much more of an affair in Peru than it is in Canada; my theory is that this has something to do with Peru’s influential Catholic heritage, but this is only speculation.

On Sunday I visited the Museo de la Nación, and learned a lot about the terrorism and Peru’s military governments between 1980 and 2000.  This is a very interesting and tragic history, one that I’m definitely going to continue reading about.  Unfortunately, with all the conflict between the state police and the Shining Path communist movement (and later the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement), the primary victims were Peru’s rural civilians.  In total, roughly 70 000 people are estimated to have died in the conflict.

Monday was office work, and now I’m finishing my orientation and capacity-building training with the rest of the Uniterra volunteers that have just arrived.  I’ve had a very positive experience so far; Peruvians are a very friendly and very calm, relaxed people.  I hope that, in the next few weeks, I’ll get more comfortable in my work and be able to make more meaningful contributions to the work that Aurora Vivar is trying to do.