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Earlier this week, Brooke shared Betty Londergan’s description of Heifer Peru’s Healthy Homes initiative on her blog, Heifer 12×12. Betty wasn’t alone in the latter part of her Peruvian travels–she was joined by some of my co-workers in Little Rock, including Oscar Castañeda, the vice president of the Americas at Heifer. Oscar had the privilege of receiving a personal tour of the Pacoricona family home, which included a very detailed look inside the tool shed (courtesy of a shy but charismatic 8 year old named Ever), and we want to share a bit of Oscar’s tour as an addition to what Betty shared in her blog.
But first, a little context. The Pacoriconas live in Chillcapata, near Puno and Lake Titicaca, at an elevation of 12,000 feet or so. As mentioned above, the family is a part of the Healthy Homes initiative. Healthy Homes focuses on training families and distributing supplies that will significantly improve the living conditions of families in the projects. Improvements include, among other things:
- improved stoves that eliminate families’ smoke inhalation while reducing local deforestation through their use of animal manure as fuel
- stone-paved floors that lead to better conditions for food preparation
- outhouses that improve hygiene
- refrigerators made of local mud and clay with a container of water inside (the water acts with the local climate and keeps the inside cold and moist, preserving fruits and vegetables longer)
The poster below gives you a better idea of the whole process. Here’s the basic premise: after a family like the Pacoriconas joins Healthy Homes, they meet with Heifer staff and define their vision of their future home while they are receiving training . After they have a concrete plan, they draw out or even construct a model of the home. Then the house is built–with the improved kitchen, the refrigerator, neatly organized bedrooms, a tool shed and an outhouse, as well as spaces inside the house where the family can maintain their personal hygiene and study. An animal shelter and family garden are also added.
With that process in mind, let’s take a quick tour of the Pacoricona’s home.
And, finally, Ever gives Oscar a tour of the tool shed.
And that concludes our tour. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, here’s my synopsis:
“This is the place where my tools are,” Ever says. His mom asks him to name the tools, and does, pointing out which tools are his, which are his father’s and which belong to his brother, Edwin. Then he says, “This is my hoop. When I was little, I played with this.” He then adds that he still actually plays with it. The firewood and kindling are used when it rains, he says. “Then,” he says, “my mom cooks (as in uses for fuel) with this. The llama’s (let’s translate it as, little droppings).” You put that in the fire, he confirms.
Heifer Peru’s Healthy Homes initiative is actually a part of a larger project called the Food Security Enhancement and Entrepreneurial Development, or FEED, project. FEED, which is funded by the Walmart Foundation, aims to increase the income and food security of a planned 700 Peruvian women and their families through support of their economic activities and promotion of a greater role for women in family and community decision making.
Monday, blogger Betty Londergan posted on Heifer 12×12 about her visit to a Heifer project outside Puno, Peru, and I’m excited to share it with you all. I feel close to this project, because I worked on a grant that helped fund phase two of the project. When I traveled to Peru and Ecuador last August, I was a little disappointed that I was unable to visit the communities participating in this project, because there was a political situation at the time that made it less than safe to travel to that part of the country.
Betty’s stories bring to life the struggles and successes of the women in these project communities.
From Heifer 12×12:
Through FEED, Heifer brought the women of Chillcapata a list of simple ideas to improve their lives (no animals in the house/a bed for every child/a biogarden to improve nutrition), offered training workshops, then sent a few emissaries like Maria to other communities to see the ideas in action.
The women came back motivated true believers, and set to work to transform their own homes, and pass their learning on to others. Luckily, these are can-do people who are incredibly clever at building things, working cooperatively, and getting ‘er done.
The Incan ancient tradition of ayni, like an Amish barn-raising where everyone pitches in to cooperatively help each other, is still very much part of Chillcapata culture. Maria’s kitchen was one of the first finished, and quickly, other women signed on to improve their homes.
Julia and Celso Apaza got the materials they needed from Heifer to start kitchen construction, and the couple worked day and night to change every room in the house. “It was like a dream for us,” she told me, “because before I felt ashamed of my house. It was a mess, and I never wanted to welcome visitors. But now my doors are wide open and I even have a bench for my visitors to sit on.”
Read the rest of Betty’s post here. Be sure to subscribe to get all of Betty’s posts as she travels the globe visiting Heifer projects this year!
Name: Mariela Wismann
Title: Technical Office Coordinator
Location: Lima, Peru
How long have you worked for Heifer?
What attracted you to work for Heifer?
The emphasis that the organization puts on people, putting men and women at the center of all the processes and initiatives. This, in combination with work that is based on values, gives Heifer a unique identity that allows sustainable change. This encourages me to work every day.
What has been the most memorable experience you have had while working for Heifer?
Rural development work has a number of challenges. Working with women and empowerment is a way to contribute to equitable development and inclusion. In 2004, we formed a group of professionals who were in charge of a gender and leadership project. The objective was to promote equitable relations between men and women in both public and private spaces. The project produced a series of learnings, such as the design of strategies that led us to work with women. This didn’t mean we stopped working with men, but it did mean that we focused on a culturally excluded group.
What did we achieve after years of work? Strengthening the women’s self esteem, development of leadership, and an active presence in the functioning of campesino organizations (which are often ignored). Additionally, we managed to establish the theme of gender as an institutional policy and, since then, all projects should consider activities and budgets that promote a gender equity approach.
My education includes:
I have a degree in Sociology with a Master’s degree in Social Management from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, with ongoing studies in a Master’s program in Development Studies at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. My education includes project development/management (design, monitoring and evaluation), rural development and work with a focus on gender equity. I have also been a part of the International Association of Facilitators to facilitate training events for adults.
My hobbies include:
I like to read and travel. Since I was a child, I have had the opportunity to develop these two hobbies. My parents have always tried to help me get to know different cultures around the world, which is a good way to explore and learn. Now I love to cook. I don’t do it often, but when I have the chance, I turn the kitchen into a space of delicious experiments that is full of love.
My family consists of:
I am part of a big family. My parents, Gene and Ella, live in the central jungle and grow coffee and citrus fruits. In my family, there are five siblings (one brother and four sisters). I have 12 nieces and nephews and six grandnieces and grandnephews. My family is an interesting mix of cultures. My dad is the son of a Jew who immigrated to Peru in the early 20th century. My mom comes from a Japanese family. The children were born and raised in the central jungle with the influence of diverse cultures.
Something about me that you might not know:
I spent my childhood in the central jungle, and I remember fondly the nature: the smell of coffee and oranges. I felt like the farm was my playground. In the mid-80s, the armed conflict began to be felt in the central jungle, which is why my family decided to move to the city of Lima. My interest in Sociology and rural development work corresponds with my upbringing and history, as well as my commitment to create, with rural men and women, better conditions for a full life lived in freedom.
What is the best thing about working at Heifer Peru?
Giving people the opportunity to move from a state of exclusion and vulnerability to a state that enables them to live a full and dignified life with the possibility to support other families. The sharing of resources summarizes this commitment, where everyone at some point can become key development actors and agents of change.
Earlier this month we shared with you the story of Clara Alanya of Peru, a young woman who has remained in her rural community and become a leader through her participation in a Heifer project. In this video, you’ll hear more about Clara and go on a virtual tour of her improved kitchen, including the improved stove, which she now helps her fellow community members to build.
Juan De Dios Carrasco Fernández (age 60) discovered his talent as a tour guide thanks to a simple coincidence. In 1998, he moonlighted as a photographer, taking photographs at social events in his village to earn extra money to support his four children. One day, while he was walking to a shop to have a roll of film developed, a woman asked him if he knew about Mulato Hill in Chongoyape. Juan told her he did and offered to show her the way. This first step as an accidental tour guide launched him on a long career in rural community tourism, which has made him the most important rural promoter on the northern coast of Peru.
Because he had lived in Chongoyape since he was 5 years old, his explanations to tourists also conveyed his love for its landscapes. That, combined with his extensive knowledge of the geography and history of the hill and its petroglyphs, led to an invaluable experience:
“Dr. Cabana, who was passionate about archeology, got so excited by my explanations that she cancelled all the meetings she had scheduled in Chiclayo just to stay and admire the place and listen to my stories. She asked me how much I charged for my work as a guide. That surprised me, because I thought people would only pay me for photos. So she told me that my work was excellent and valuable. That’s when I realized that this was also a job opportunity that could be a source of income for the people in my community, who, like people in most of the country, are marginalized and live in poverty, farming small plots and raising a few animals to survive.”
Excited by the possibility, Juan began to explore the hills near the area where he lived. Over time, his camera – his inseparable companion – captured the majesty of every one of the natural landscapes that he viewed with such pride.
Around 2000, Juan and a group of community members formed a small association of tour guides who were known for their eloquence in explaining the historical details of various places. Together they showed that Mulato Hill, the Chongoyape Reservoir and Chaparrí Hill had great potential as tourist attractions. Until then, no government organization had paid any attention to them.
Four years later, they contacted the Center for Research and Promotion of Sustainable Development (CIPDES), which helped them enhance their rural community tourism initiative in the Chaparrí Ecological Reserve, building the infrastructure needed to receive visitors. Eventually, Juan, his companions and the community organized and won legal recognition for the Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Tourism in Chaparrí (ACOTURCH).
“Businesspeople say tourism isn’t permanent. But for me, it’s a chance to show of the wonders of nature. If we conserve nature, we will have more opportunities and more tourism during our lifetimes and those of our children and grandchildren.”
In 2008, thanks to the collaboration with CIPDES, Juan de Dios and ACOTURCH began working with Heifer Peru through the ongoing project of sustainable Development in the Muchik Farming Community, Chongoyape, Lambayeque.
“With the project, we learned about agroecology, the sustainable management of dry forest resources, and political advocacy to promote community tourism in the region, laying the groundwork for food sovereignty in our farming community. We are improving our families’ living conditions. The agroecological farm plots provide nutritious food, and families can sell the surplus to generate income. Gender relations are improving, thanks to women’s leadership in small animal management. We can proudly say that they are the ones who organize the sharing of guinea pigs and make it sustainable. Thanks to their dynamic work, we have Passed on the Gift to 10 of our community’s 12 sectors. We have solidified our organizational system, so we can invest 40 percent of the reserve admission fees in maintaining the reserve and 60 percent in health and education for the neediest families in our farming community.”
Juan sees community tour guides as playing a very important role and says more effort is needed to ensure the professional quality of their work. That is the message he passes on to his companions, including his son, Antero, who at age 27 is also a photographer and tour guide:
“I always insist that our village should have the best trained people. That’s why education is important. People from other places always come here, and it would be embarrassing not to be able to tell them about the things we have here. God has guided me. I always tell my children that they must never stop studying. That’s why I always carry a pen in my pocket. Although my parents were illiterate, my mother worked hard to educate me, even though my father was opposed to the idea. She didn’t have money, so she paid for my primary school education with firewood. I went to high school after I was married. My wife Juana helped me. I got as far as the third year of high school, studying at night, and now I want to finish.”
The way Juan sees it, trees enabled him to get an education as a child, and now, as an adult, he is repaying them with his work as a tour guide, helping other people understand the importance of conservation:
“Love for trees is part of my nature. When I see a place where they’ve been cut or destroyed, I can’t help feeling angry.”
Juan has many dreams for his community, and more of them are fulfilled every year. Leaders from his community, many of whom are young men and women who have been trained as promoters, are often invited by universities and other regional and national organizations to share the experience of their community, which has been recognized by the national government and the regional government of Lambayeque as the first private conservation area in the country to be managed by a farming community. Their experience can serve as a model to catalyze the development of other farming communities in the country.
The migration of young people from rural areas to urban in the hope of a better future is common worldwide. This is understandable in many ways, but it can have negative effects overall (urban slums; overloaded urban infrastructure; and an absence of young rural innovators, farmers, caretakers, etc.) What we’ve often seen in our work, however, is that young people engaged in Heifer projects often choose to stay in their rural communities. Doing so allows them to not only remain with their families, but also give back to the community that helped raise them. Clara Alanya of Peru is a great example of this phenomenon.
Clara Alanya is a young leader who has made a difference in her community. Her view of rural life and devotion to her work have enabled her to rise above the exclusion and chauvinism still common in the small farming community of Buenos Aires in Huancavelica, the poorest region in Peru.
Clara grew up in a family that imbued its members with strong values. The oldest of five children, Clara says she felt it was her responsibility to set a good example for her siblings.
When she was 19, her father took her to all the training workshops that the Peruvian Social Studies Center organized in their community. In those workshops, Clara began to think about the potential for development in her community and the possibilities for emphasizing local production and strengthening rural community organizations.
Certain that happiness and success are not to be found only in large cities, she decided to stay and take advantage of all the workshops offered in her community, unlike many young people who migrate to work outside their communities, scorning rural life.
“I went to all the workshops about how to build improved stoves, raise guinea pigs, keep a family garden and raise chickens, and my family and I made changes to our house to make it a healthy home. Now I know all about how to build an improved stove. My neighbors ask me to teach them, and I do it with pleasure.
At such a young age, however, it wasn’t easy to convince others to recognize her leadership. She had to persevere, participating in community assemblies, before she was respected as an outstanding young member of the community.
In 2010, she began participating in a Heifer project called Training Communities to Exercise their Rights to Natural Resources. Clara and other promoters from 40 rural communities received training on legal issues, developing skills for defending rights related to land ownership, water use, food security and climate change.
Clara now shares her knowledge voluntarily, facilitating workshops in her community and neighboring communities.
“I used to be afraid to talk in front of a group, but I lost my fear little by little, thanks to the training workshops. I’ve gained more confidence with the Heifer project, because the facilitators trust me. Now when older people say, ‘Why is she going to teach us? She’s so young!’ I don’t even resent it, because many people do support me and I show them everything I’ve learned.
Clara’s family has also become an example tot he entire community, confronting poverty with perseverance, understanding, and above all, family unity.
“What we do in my family is talk things over. My parents don’t make any decisions without consulting all the members of the family. That way we all agree, and we support each other in everything.
Now 23, Clara is a young woman with many dreams, who is committed to working for her community. She has shown that the most important step toward progress is to shake off the lethargy brought on by conformity and hopelessness, and envision a better future.
Name: Madeleine Muñoz Zegarra
Title: Program Assistant, Heifer Peru
How long have you worked for Heifer? 7 years
What attracted you to work for Heifer? The way Heifer supports people through the sharing of resources. I think it’s a way of empowering people by making them feel that, no matter their situation of poverty, they are able to help their neighbors.
What has been the most memorable experience you have had while working for Heifer? During the nearly four years I spent working in the communities of Piura, in the northern part of my country, I had the opportunity to work directly with the families through self-esteem, gender and leadership workshops.
It was the best opportunity to get to know them and strengthen the ties of our friendship, especially when we talked about the limitations that we often put on ourselves or that are put upon us socially as males or females. Between smiles and games, we would often practice public speaking techniques in workshops with the women to address fears of speaking in public.
I remember well one of the first workshops in the field when the women were asked to volunteer to participate in the leadership training workshops. A young woman, Ricardina del Morante, raised her hand timidly. After the meeting, one of the leaders came up to me and almost secretly advised me to think about whether Ricardina and some of the other women should be included in the workshops because he knew the women and knew that they never spoke in the meetings. He bet that it would be almost impossible to make any progress with them and thought it would be better to choose women who were proving to be potential leaders. I thanked him for his advice but said the most important thing was that they had the initiative to participate and the best bet was to support those most in need.
Ricardina never missed a workshop, and you could see her effort to speak in public, noting that each time the volume of her voice raised as the women in the workshop supported each other with their advice. After two and a half years, Ricardina was elected to a leadership role, leaving many people astonished at the changes she had made.
One day, Ricardina told me, “The day that I raised my hand, I was afraid of not being taken into account. I was tired of wanting to say something but not being able to; something was stopping me. I wanted to do this for my son. At that moment, I thought the baby might be like me, not speaking, shy. I went to each workshop with him, and now he is a real talker. I definitely consider myself shy, someone of few words, but I say what I think and I feel like I’m the best example for my son. Now I help other women who speak the least.”
My education includes: My professional title is Psychologist. I studied for my Masters in Clinical Psychology and Health at San Marcos University. I received a diploma in gender as a post-grad at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and a diploma in public investment projects at San Marcos. I have also participated in extension courses related to tracking and monitoring projects and participatory training techniques.
My hobbies include: I like to paint, do crafts, play with my kids and read. A lot of the time, I am thinking about games to play with my kids. Sometimes I put on music and teach my oldest son to dance or make choreographed songs so you can jump, run, etc., to them.
My family consists of: I am the fifth of seven siblings and most are married and have formed their own families. In my case, it’s:
• Carlos, my husband
• Piero, my first son, who is four-and-a-half (born July 14, 2007)
• Paulo, my second son, who is nine-months-old (born February 28, 2011)
Something about me that you might not know: I like simple things. I don’t use makeup or wear sophisticated clothes. I don’t like to wear high heels.
I admire my parents, who are the children of campesinos and migrated to Lima with their six small children while dealing with the terrorism of the 1980s and the economic crisis of currency devaluation and unemployment. Since then, they have thought us that poverty is transitory, and what remains is the value of education, work and family support in the face of a crisis.
What is the best thing about working at Heifer Peru? I like to collect the life stories of the people we work with. Many times their words find the essence and importance of the work we do, how they live, how they feel about the project work and how it changed their lives.The opportunity to work in the field and talk with people is the most valuable part of the work. I was lucky enough to see some Passing on the Gift® ceremonies and dance and celebrate the joy of helping others with them. I have seen the sharing of guinea pigs, alpacas, sheep and seeds in different parts of the country (the coast and the mountains), and each time the experience is different.
Remember Lucio? He lives on a farm in the practically barren Andean Highlands of Peru, and I was lucky to meet him on my trip this past August. (Two other blog posts here and here about Lucio and his farm.)
Lucio is a great example of the determination and innovativeness of Heifer’s project participants. A constant agricultural experimenter, Lucio has many gifts to share. His primary way of doing so is by holding workshops on his property, where he can show other farmers how to grow vegetables in greenhouses (potatoes are traditionally the only crop successfully grown in this area, so this is a really big deal), harvest fish sustainably from a stream, breed alpacas for only the finest qualities and collect alpaca manure for use as biogas.
We recently had staff from our Heifer Peru team, and I discovered they have a video that will help bring Lucio to light in a way my own words cannot. It’s a little on the long side, but I think it’s worth it.
Are you giving the gift of a sheep this holiday season?
Watch this video by Heifer Peru highlighting a Pass on the Gift ceremony of creole sheep. Every gift from Heifer continues on through our Pass on the Gift model, making our work truly sustainable. In Peru, and many other countries where we work, it is quite common for communities to continue this unique process of sharing resources long after Heifer’s project work has ended (like 11 years longer). Heifer International Americas Area Program Vice President Oscar Castaneda put it well when he said, “Transformation is when Passing on the Gift is no longer a commitment, but a way of community living.”