Experiential Learning: Spring Break in Peru

June 10, 2015 |

Liz McFarland, MBA Candidate, shares her experience traveling to Peru over Spring Break with classmates.

danielspioneer-peruThe importance of what these women do I truly saw when I arrived in Peru and began having conversations with the women. Many of them get up at 3 a.m. to begin their day working with the cuy. Some have large operations with separate coups set up, but for the most part the cuy live and are cared for in a room of the mud huts and houses that they live in. Peru has long been a place where women did not have an equal standing in their relationships. What I realized working with them on this project is that this work gives them the ability to ensure their family is provided for and that the money they raise can be used for the children. Cuy has long been considered a sacred animal, dating back to Incan times. They feel that feeding this to their children is the best for them. What I saw was that the success of this work brings honor and respect for these women and they have something that they can be proud of. In the video I have attached there is a part when four women are sitting, the one speaking is explaining that, before raising cuy and joining the association for help her husband controlled everything because he made all the money. Now she has the freedom in having her own money and can better care for her children.

We spent a week working with these women, everyday going to a new woman’s home to see her cuy and talk about how she personally made things work. Many days we were out longer than anticipated because each woman wanted to show us their personal cuy houses. I was amazed at the level of work ethic these women had. It completely changed by perspective of poverty. Many people, particularly in the US, view poverty and homelessness with laziness and unintelligent. Neither of these things are true. These women were not only the hardest working women I have ever met, often carrying their babies miles in a blanket strapped to their backs to work, but were also extremely intelligence. They knew very much what they needed to make their businesses more efficient, gathering in an association to have the power of economies of scale. Their problem was that they live in a place where opportunities do not come easily. Competition is high and the corruption is higher–making building success nearly impossible.

The moment that changed my life was when we presented our suggestions to the women we had been working with. We had so much fun with them that I truly felt like they were my friends. At one point they brought their traditional clothes out and dressed us up, all laughing and calling us their pequena munecas (Little Dolls). The president of the association, Loli, began by presenting her thanks, and while my Spanish is not excellent, I could tell from her face and her tears that she truly felt blessed to have us their helping. As Corey, one of my teammates, translated her speech, much of the room had tears of their own. She explained that they had asked for help three times before and no one came. The fact that we came willing to help made her happy beyond words and she knew that with our help, her children would have a better life. Many women took a moment to thank us after, all breaking down into tears while explaining how much this meant to them. There were few dry eyes in the room. Corey donated a computer to the association, and we all stay in touch with Loli. I plan to go back and spend time with these women. We went there on a school project and I expected hard work, but what I did not expect was the life-changing experience and new meaningful friends.