August 2008: Investor Leadership Trip Report
Reported by Laurel Dutcher, Program Officer, Latin America
Ten investors from New York, Seattle and Southern California, as well as The Hunger Project-Mexico Country Director Lorena Vazquez and trip leaders Joanna Ryder and Laurel Dutcher visited Chirapaq, our partner organization and Hunger Project family in Peru. To our great joy, we shared hours of bus rides, village visits, dancing in the streets and community meals with Chirapaq staff members and women leaders of some of the 30 federations and organizations through which Chirapaq extends and expands its programs.
The trip officially began in Lima on August 6. During our orientation, each investor shared their intention to deepen their understanding of our work in Latin America and Peru. Many added that they want to have a breakthrough in their fundraising effectiveness as a result of the trip.
Our colleagues at Chirapaq welcomed us into their office, their work, their communities, homes and hearts. We got a thorough, and quite passionate at times, briefing from the Chirapaq team on their work, important issues and challenges the indigenous communities face, a brief history of the area, the conditions in Peru and some of the many cultural distinctions of the different regions and indigenous peoples of the country.
The heart of our visit was four days in the communities of the Ayacucho Region of Peru. Isolated in the high-terraced valleys of the Andes mountains, the people of the communities of Estanciapata and Pujas face challenges of poverty, virulent racial discrimination against indigenous peoples, and the costly impacts of gender inequity. In addition, these communities bore a disproportional share of the political violence carried on by both Shining Path Maoist militants and government forces during the 1980s and '90s. Traditional ways of life, values and technologies were disrupted and lost as families were forced to leave the area to escape decades of death and violence.
But this harsh past is not what we visitors experienced as we arrived! Moving through the warm hugs of the reception line to the music, colors, flowers and dancing, we had no doubts that these people are rich in spirit, passion, initiative and know-how!
Julia Gutierrez Cardena, one of the thousands of women empowered by Chirapaq, proudly welcomed us to the workroom of her home, where the walls are covered with written displays of the project she has been engaged in for the past three years.
There are posters showing vision, goals and objectives, the conditions before she began and the specific ways in which these conditions failed to support the life Julia intended to build for herself and her family: Malnutrition, family violence, alcoholism, low income, illiteracy, lack of sanitation. Posters also show the activities, priorities, and timelines to create the desired improvements, such as: separate enclosures for the animals, latrine, gravity shower, chimney in the cooking area, time set out for learning, income generation both for family sustenance and to pay for the improvements, commitments to behavior changes.
We were so taken by the workroom, we nearly missed moving on to see the actual improvements! There was a balcony overflowing with flowers, a kitchen area with not only a roof and a chimney, but also a skylight. And such pride and joy.
Mrs. Gutierrez and four other families of the village participated in the home improvement planning training. Now, three years later, a total of 35 additional families have been trained by the original participants and are in various stages of improving their own family lives.
We visitors were so impressed with the work of our partners and the stellar leadership of Tarcila Rivera Zea, Executive Director of Chirapaq, and the members of the Chirapaq national staff. On the last day of the trip, several investors expressed their solidarity and support of Chirapaq by increasing their Hunger Project investment and others will be doing so in the coming weeks. So far, we have raised $52,500 from the trip!