Blog 5: Final Week at the UNWTO

I have officially wrapped up my last week as an intern with the UNWTO! The High-Level Political Forum was extremely engaging and brought in people from around the world. Each meeting was packed, full of Member States, stakeholders, representatives of the private sector, and guests. Stevie Wonder even performed onsite one day this week! When the HLPF wrapped up, it felt great to have been part of the meetings that led up to the forum. Watching the meetings on the theme of “Ensuring that no one is left behind” and National Voluntary Reviews, it truly demonstrated the international cooperation of making sure the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development is fully and successfully implemented. Meeting topics include:

  • Where do we stand at year one?
  • Envisioning an inclusive world in 2030
  • Lifting people out of poverty and addressing basic needs
  • Fostering economic growth, prosperity, and sustainability
  • Food security and sustainable agriculture, climate change, sustainable oceans and terrestrial ecosystems—adopting a nexus approach
  • Creating peaceful and more inclusive societies and empowering women and girls
  • Science policy interface: new ideas, insights, and solutions
  • Creating ownership at the national level
  • Mainstreaming SDGs into national policies, plans, and strategies
  • Vertical cooperation—local authorities and national governments working together
  • Challenges in mobilizing means of implementation at the national level
  • National mechanisms for monitoring progress and reporting on implementations for the achievement of the SDGs
  • Delivering for Small Island Developing States, building on the SAMOA Pathway
  • Countries in special situations
  • Multi-stakeholder engagement for implementation
  • Regional experiences
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High-Level Political Forum
last day
Last day of the HLPF and Development Cooperation Forum

On Tuesday I gave my final presentation on my internship experience. Dr. Randle was in New York so it was easy and convenient to present for him and my supervisors, Mr. Richard Jordan and Mr. Sarbuland Khan. Mr. Ed Chiles, an expert on sustainable food and sustainable tourism, also attended my presentation, which was great because I had learned about him in my sustainable tourism coursework. They gave me useful feedback and asked questions that I can use to edit and improve my final research project that I am turning in early next week. I am proud of the research I have done and the paper that I will be turning in. Mr. Khan wants to submit my paper to the UNTWO Headquarters in Madrid, Spain, so that feels rewarding. After my presentation we all went to a nice lunch close to the UN to discuss and share sustainable tourism ideas. 

Presentation
After my final presentation, L to R: Mr. Richard Jordan, Dr. David Randle, Bianca Cassouto, Mr. Sarbuland Khan, Mr. Ed Chiles

On Friday I attended my last meeting and said goodbye to everybody in the UNWTO. Mr. Sarbuland Khan, Mr. Rafeeuddin Ahmed, Mr. Kazi Rahman, and Ms. Yanick Calixte were all very kind to me and treated me as part of the team. I give them my deepest gratitude for their kindness and guidance this summer.

I have had the best experience in New York City this summer. This city is so lively and full of unique and interesting opportunities to explore, learn, and have fun. I am so happy I spent the summer here and I am honored to have interned for the UNWTO and gotten a first hand experience of the UN working hard to make the world a better place.

Blog 4: Attending the High Level Political Forum of the UN

The High Level Political Forum started on Monday, July 11th. From July 11th to the 22nd, the HLPF will be one of the main focuses of many UN members. The HLPF is the Forum that my internship has been building up to. These next two weeks I will be covering meetings, morning and afternoon. At the end of each week, I will produce a summary report that discusses the important topics and key findings of each week. So far, the main topics of the HLPF have included the main theme of “Ensuring no one is left behind”, poverty, food security, climate change, sustainable oceans, empowering women and girls, innovation, national policies, and other relevant topics. I have found the meetings to be really interesting and engaging. The topics are universal and it is easy to make the sustainability connections within all of the topics and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

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UN HLPF
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UN HLPF

This past week I had lunch with Mr. Sarbuland Khan from the UNWTO, who serves as my supervisor within the agency. We discussed my experience so far and what I hope to take from the internship. I also met with my external supervisor for this internship, Mr. Richard Jordan. I showed him the progress I have made on my internship final report and he gave me some suggestions on how to move forward. The due date is approaching so I have to really manage my time in attending meetings, writing reports, and writing my final report. I will be giving my internship final presentation on July 19th, discussing my research and experience at the UN. Dr. Randle from PCGS, Mr. Khan, and Mr. Jordan will be my audience during the presentation and they will provide feedback that I can apply for my paper. At this point, I only have 6 days left in my internship and 9 days in New York City until I head back home.

Blog 3: Halfway Through

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Some flags on display at the UN Secretariat

After attending several meetings on the upcoming High-Level Political Forum and the longer-term position of the UN Development System, I have a better understanding on the purpose of these forums and discussions. When the Panel and Member States are exchanging recommendations, questions, and concerns, I can follow along and understand the basis of what is being said.

I also attended the Humanitarian Affairs Segment, which discusses economic, humanitarian, and disaster relief assistance. This really interested me and is also pertinent to the future of tourism in developing regions of the world.

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Humanitarian Affairs Segment playing a video on displaced peoples 

These forums, meetings, and discussions are all related to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda and will require a cohesive and integrated approach to make the world a better place.

The four main principles of the SDGs are as follows:

  1. The SDGs are universal
  2. The SDGs are indivisible
  3. Ensuring no one is left behind
  4. Linking together the main themes of all SDGs
  5. Work in partnerships

I am basically half way through my internship and about a month away from going home and turning in my final paper. I have started to add to and edit my internship proposal based on my internship experiences and further research I have done on the SDGs and tourism. Some of the objectives and research objectives in my paper have been removed, however my main topic is still the same and will still encompass the applicability of the SDGs to the tourism industry.

Update: The World Tourism Organization officially moved to a new office building that is closer to the UN Secretariat Building.

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New building for the UNWTO

Blog 2: Continuing to Learn

 

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Chair for the UNWTO Representative

Three weeks of my internship have already gone by! This week was important because it allowed me to learn more about the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The HLPF is the platform used to follow up and review the sustainable development Agenda. The Forum will be from July 11th to the 22nd, the latter happens to be my last day of internship. There will be several meetings in the morning and afternoon that I will help cover in addition to my supervisor and the other intern. We have discussed a rough schedule of who will cover each meeting during the HLPF. During the HLPF, I will have to produce summary reports quicker given that there are so many meetings to attend and one cannot lose track or fall behind.

This week I met the other intern in Bryant Park to share information that I had already received from the World Tourism Organization. We will both cover different forums and meetings, however our work will overlap.

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Bryant Park

I attended a meeting in a new UN building this week. I walked to the United Nations Plaza, otherwise known as DC-1 and DC-2. DC-2 gave me a chance to see a different view of NYC, as pictured below, with a better view of the Chrysler Building.

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DC-1 and DC-2
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View from DC-2 of New York City, including the Chrysler Building

I am still working on summary reports and getting a better understanding of how to do them correctly using the appropriate format. I continue to be pleasantly surprised as to how many people are in and out of the UN buildings each day and I especially appreciate the diversity. In other news, the World Tourism Organization is moving buildings. We will no longer be in the Daily News Building; we are moving closer to the UN Secretariat Building. The Daily News building was used to film scenes in the 1978 film Superman and the sequel in 1980 since Clark Kent and Lois Lane worked as reporters. It is cool to be working in the same building that was occupied by famous actors. The Daily News building is a National Historic Landmarked, as deemed in 1989.

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Daily News Building History
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Daily News Building History

New York City has been great, including the weather. I am continuing to explore, see friends, and meet new people.

Week 19: Chao for now

The time has come and the end is upon us.

My last week at FAO was kind of busy. The workload in the office was light, but we had some big events. This year is the 70th anniversary of FAO and we had a video conference with all the other FAO offices in Latin America and the Caribbean. This call was long and fun and very festive. A lot of pride and thanks was expressed from many FAO members for the work that we do. And I totally agree; I have a great sense of pride for the work I’ve done in my short time here.

The team
Some of the team with Señor Preissing

The following day (October 16) was Día Mundial de Alimentación, or the World Food Day, and the office went to a feria. At this feria, we had speeches from our own FAO Peru representative, someone from MIDIS and QW, there were farmers throughout different regions of Peru selling their produce, traditional dances and songs. It was a good time and I enjoyed being witness to this event.

The roulette wheel
The roulette wheel

The day after this, there was another DMA event in a neighborhood in Lima Provincia. The point of the event was to teach about food security. We had a booth along with all the ministries and other players in the community. At our booth, we had a roulette wheel with numbers 1-20, that corresponded with flash cards 1-20 each with a question about food security, hunger, agriculture in Peru, etc. We gave away information packets about food security, family farming, a work book for children, and a cook book to come lucky attendees. Again, there were more speeches, food, lots of information packets, and something for everyone in the family to learn. This was a community event, a family event, and a good opportunity to spread the message about food security.

+ + + + + + + + + +

This was my last event and it was a fun way to go out. I have had an absolutely incredible time in Peru and am beyond thankful for this opportunity and the folks who helped me along the journey. I’ve learned a lot from my time in Peru, mostly about myself, but also about food security, creating a workshop, working with children, model building, and how truly important it is to think and act holistically to solve some of our most pressing problems. This was a fabulous internship and learning opportunity and I will say that I took advantage of it.

On a side noteIn addition to learning as much as I could on the job, I also took advantage of the weekends and holidays to visit other parts of Peru. The weekend before I left, we had a 4 day weekend so I took my last adventure in the south of Peru to a city called Arequipa. In this region, there is the Cañon del Colca, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in some places. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon but I hear it’s quite impressive. Likewise, the Cañon del Colca was impressive and did not disappoint. Coming from Florida where it is very flat, this was maybe the hardest hike I’ve ever done. We went 1,300 meters (roughly 4,250 feet) one day and 1,300 meters back up the next day. It was intense. It was so beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a landscape like this before.

At the bottom of the Cañon del Colca
At the bottom of the Cañon del Colca

Peru is a beautiful country and a place I would definitely love to visit again in the future. This was my first trip to South America and it was everything I hoped it would be. From the food to the culture, traditions, landscapes, dances, handicrafts, and landmarks, it’s a remarkable country with a rich history. I had a wonderful time in all aspects, in the office, in the field, at the events, and around the country.

Cañon del Colca
Cañon del Colca
Cañon del Colca
Cañon del Colca
Día Mundial de Alimentación community event
Día Mundial de Alimentación community event
Mis jefas, Fanny y Yenny
Mis jefas, Fanny y Yenny
Día Mundial de Alimentación event 1
Día Mundial de Alimentación event 1
Cañon del Colca
Cañon del Colca
Día Mundial de Alimentación community event
Día Mundial de Alimentación community event
Día Mundial de Alimentación community event
Día Mundial de Alimentación community event
A snapshot of our booth
A snapshot of our booth
Dream team working the second event on DMA
Dream team working the second event on DMA. Flavia, me, Roxanna, Gustavo.

Week 15 & 16: Plastico y semillas

The last two weeks have been pretty low-key. And I enjoy this down-time, actually. When I first started my internship, there were a lot of workshops, conferences, and meetings, and it was all very exciting. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have attended all those workshops. But now, I’m enjoying focusing on the work and the task at hand. I’m still going to the school and giving my lesson plans, and I also love having this little break in the week. It’s such a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try to teach some impactful lessons.

Week 15’s lesson was about plastic, and how it is a problem globally. In some parts of Lurín, a decent amount of plastic can be seen littered on the streets and lining ditches. And every time I go to the school, I pick a few plastic scraps out of the garden. So I explained to the children how all this plastic on the streets and in the grass affects the health of the community, the health of the environment, their health, and why they should care. Lima, like my hometown of Tampa, Florida, is a coastal city and all this trash (much of it plastic – bags, bottles, forks, bottle caps, lighters, etc.) has a very high probability of blowing into the ocean (or in the case of Tampa, the Gulf of Mexico). 80% of ocean pollution enters the water from land. And plastic never goes away, rather it simply breaks down into smaller pieces.This of course is bad for the environment because fish and other sea creatures don’t always know the difference between zooplankton and shredded plastic bits. As plastic is made from oil, it’s quite toxic to ingest, and can oftentimes kill the animal that ate the plastic. And then it’s also possible for it to go through the food chain. Bigger fish eat the smaller fish, some crabs eat fish, octopuses eat crabs, and in Lima where ceviche is a popular dish, sometimes we humans eat those fish and other sea creatures whom have eaten plastic. Cows, dogs, birds, ducks and other land or air animals sometimes also eat plastic. And again, it’s possible for us to eat those cows and ducks. This information blew the kids’ minds.

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Passing seeds out to the younger kids.

So what can we do about all this plastic? Well, of course we can recycle. But if there is no recycling infrastructure or center, what can we do? We can reuse the plastic bottles that are so prevalent and make planter pots of out them! And this was our activity after my lesson about plastic and the environment. We cut plastic bottles, added a mixture of compost, soil, and manure to them, and placed red pepper and papaya seeds in each one. The kids loved it.

Plastic bottles pots with fresh seeds waiting to bloom
Plastic bottles pots with fresh seeds waiting to bloom

Week 16: Our lesson was about seed (semillas) saving. Almost all fruits and vegetables have seeds. When we save seeds, we can grow more food and help ensure our food security for the future. It makes sense for us to save seeds, as we have a garden. We can also save lots more plastic bottles and in time have a ton of little sprouts and seedings going. I told the kids that all the pepper seeds I brought the previous week were from one pepper, and one kid’s eyes got so big; he couldn’t believe so much could come from one pepper, not much bigger than the size of a fist.

I also explained to the kids that it’s important to save seeds in a community (or country, and everywhere in the world, really) where agriculture is practiced. In the case of climate change and more severe weather patterns, more or less rainfall, flash floods, extreme dry season and other changes in the weather where it’s possible to lose crops, having a community seed bank can be a lifesaver. Big industrial agriculture and GMO seeds simply generate new seeds and ship them to the farmers. But saving seeds the old fashioned way and sharing them with our neighbor when needed is an investment in our future, and our food security.

Again, the overall theme of the lessons are waste as a resource: food waste (compost), plastic (planters), seeds (more plants). I’m nearing the end of my internship and have two more school visits planed. Next week is drawing the big picture together and the last one is reflexions.

Fun fact: the weekend between week 15 & 16 was my 30th birthday. My mom came down from Florida and we started this new decade on a fun note. We went to San Lorenzo and the Palomino Islands off the northern Lima coast and saw sea lions (thousands of them!). And I have to say, being here in the middle of this amazing experience is a great way to spend a birthday.

Mom and me on the Malecon
Mom and me on the Malecon
Visiting the Cathedral of San Francisco
Visiting the Cathedral of San Francisco
The sea lions of Palomino Island
The sea lions of Palomino Island
My friend, Sandra after the sea lions trip
My friend, Sandra after the sea lions trip

Week 11: Revisitando la escuela

Well, the kids are back. I’m back. It sounds like we’re all ready to go.

I went to the school on Monday to say hello to everyone and check in with the teachers. As things are always subject to change, I wanted to make sure we were still on the same page with what days are best to visit and give my lesson plans. There were only a few minor changes in our original schedule and the director of the school, Señora Zoraida, told me that to would be good to come on Wednesdays. So from now until the end of my internship, I shall visit the school every Wednesday. This works for me. It was nice to see the student again and chat with a few of them. I was also very pleased to see that more banana trees were planted in my absence. Our garden is growing!

On the first Wednesday, I gave my first lesson plan. It was simple, but necessary: The importance of the garden and what it can do for us. One of the things I am most passionate about is food waste. And in my mind, food waste being turned into compost is one of the simplest solutions to our current environmental crisis. So, under the umbrella of ‘waste as a resource’, I am teaching the children of this school about composting, food waste, a little bit about seed saving and a little about climate change. I’m only taking up about 30 minutes a week of their time, as they have a schedule already from their teachers and lesson plans regarding the usual math, science, literature, etc. However, I also plan to incorporate some of those basics into the garden education curriculum. After all, how many paintings and essays are there that have used this marble we call home as their creative inspiration.

New banana and baby avocado trees to be planted.
New banana and baby avocado trees to be planted.
Helping clean the site.
Helping clean the site.
Preparing a new site for more banana trees. And I saw a little avocado tree, also.
Preparing a new site for more banana trees. And I saw a little avocado tree, also.
11 banana trees in total!
11 banana trees in total!

Week 6: El jardín & reunións

Hello again!

There’s lots to catch up on.. Week six was busy and exciting, back to the school and a few different meetings.

I returned to the school Monday and worked on the garden with the kids. Since we (the children) had cleared the land the previous week and some parents donated banana trees, we planted them in the afternoon. Other parents had donated banana tress (we have a total of 7 now!), so the kids whose parents donated dug holes to receive the trees. I went to the school on Tuesday, as well, and the kids seem to understand the process of the trees and planting them. If their parent donated a tree, that student must dig the hole and do the work in order for the tree to be planted. I’m working on lesson plans with the kids regarding seed saving and composting, but that’s to come.

Planting the tree donated by his parents.
Planting the tree donated by his parents.
Help from mom.
Help from mom.

Wednesday, I had a conference about Sustainable Schools, which was very informative and very helpful. The past two weeks, I had a lot of meetings with my advisor and another woman in the office regarding a plan of action, and this conference helped solidify a lot of the concepts we’ve talked about in those meetings. One of the main themes of the conference was fostering intersectoral and interinstutitional cooperation between organizations (exactly what we talked about last week in our office meetings). However, seeing presentations about this idea and hearing another organization’s view helped shine new perspectives on this for me and my project.

Later in the week, I had the opportunity to visit La Molina (a prestigious agriculture university in Peru) and speak with Professor Alfredo Delfin, who specializes in hydroponics. The university is big and beautiful, and has a lot of offer. We met with the hydroponics professor because he is a contact with someone at FAO; and the meeting was mostly to get ideas for the school garden. As it turned out, I think we (at the school) are better suited to traditional agricultural techniques and Mr. Delfin was gracious enough to give us a contact of someone who may offer advice in that area.

With another intern and Mr. Delfin at La Molina discussing hydroponics.
With another intern and Mr. Delfin at La Molina discussing hydroponics.
Possible activity for children at my school.
Possible activity for children at my school.
La Molina hydroponics
La Molina hydroponics
La Molina hydroponics
La Molina hydroponics
La Molina hydroponics
La Molina hydroponics

After another meeting at the office about intersectoral and interinstutitional cooperation, I have my work cut out for me. The kids have a mid-school year break starting next week, which is the perfect opportunity for me to finalize some lesson plans and models floating around in my head.

Week 4 & 5: Un poco más y vamos!

How can it be I’ve been here a month already? The time has flown and crawled at the same time. Because my supervisor was out sick when I first started, things have moved kind of slow for me. My fourth week was no exception (my supervisor is back but we’ve been playing catch up). So I’m reading more and working on a plan of action for the school I’ll go to next week (week 5) and the garden I’m suppose to help establish there. During the week, I did have the opportunity to meet with a woman at the Instituto de Investigación Nutricional (Institute of Nutritional Investigation [a great institution in Peru doing work in indigenous communities, food security, childhood malnutrition, and more]). Hilary Creed, the woman I met with, was interesting and gave me some good leads. I shared my thesis research and questions with her about food waste and food security, the importance of working with children on this issue (as they will feel the future effects of food insecurity more than the current generation) and she found my angle interesting. The last thought is something that had not previously dawned on me, but I think it is important to consider and adds a new element to my research. I’m still working out the kinks.

However, after four weeks, I’m starting to get a little antsy. I want to go to the school. I want to start work on this garden. While I enjoy the conferences and meetings with people, I’m also ready for some action. Boy, did I get some action come week 5…

Monday morning of week 5, we finalize the arrangements to go to the school for Tuesday. The school is Instituto Educativa 6012 in Lurín (a district in the province of Lima). I didn’t know much about the school in terms of the state of the garden, number of students, and grade levels. I knew it was ‘un poco lejos’ (a little far) and in a poorer neighborhood. On Tuesday morning, I met a woman from Qali Warma (the organization that heads the Programa Nacional de Alimentación Escolar [National School Feeding Program]) and we wait for the bus to take us to IE 6012. We actually end up taking 3 busses and a mototaxi. Un poco lejos may or may not be an understatement.

Lima to Lurín. Un poco lejos.
Lima to Lurín. Un poco lejos. I actually live in Miraflores, so it’s not quite as far as the map shows. But you get the idea, either way.
Instituto Educativa 6012
Instituto Educativa 6012

Upon arrival to the school, I instantly fall in love. There is the sound of children playing and there are mountains in the background. Rosita from Qali Warma introduces me to Esmeralda, one of the teachers, and she was very welcoming and excited to have me help with the garden. The director of the school is not there on Tuesday, and I need to meet with her so I am told to return tomorrow (Wednesday). Rosita and I don’t stay at the school more than an hour and a half. I’m introduced to another teacher, I’m shown the classrooms and the garden site. The garden site is huge, 1000 square meters. There was a garden once upon a time, but it is now defunct. Obviously, this is where I come in. After being offered some popcorn with a vow to return tomorrow, Rosita and I are headed back to Lima (via a mototaxi and 3 busses).

After the school, I return to FAO and tell Fanny (my supervisor) about the day and the school and all the things that I have learned. I show her the pictures I took of the garden space and of the classrooms and she smiling the whole time. After I met with Fanny, I met with another woman in the office, Jazmine, because I have a few questions about the school and my job and such. Our meeting turns into something I was not expecting, and we have a slight change of focus for this project. It’s much bigger than I thought and much bigger then me (but we’ll get into that in a minute).

Classroom
Classroom

First, a little more about the school. It’s small, 28 students from first to sixth grade. There are three teachers including the director of the school. And the parents have a meeting at the school about once a week or once every other week. The school has no kitchen (this also changes things a little), but the kids bring snacks with them and the school passes out snacks, as well. The school is simple, no computers, no machines. They do have running water and electricity, but there are no bells and whistles. On the way to the school from the last bus stop, there are about 6 or 7 farms/fields that I pass. If you don’t take the mototaxi, it’s about a 15 minute walk uphill. But I think the walk is beautiful. There’s cornfields, cows, chickens, a few dogs and some restaurants. You can see people’s laundry hanging on the clothesline. And there’s mountains in the background. (Well, being from Florida, I consider them mountains, but people from Peru with the Andes in their backyard may not consider them mountains.) The point is, the area is rural.

Another corn field. And that little white dot is a horse.
Cornfield, and that white dot is a horse.
While waiting for the 2nd bus to Lurín. This is the PanAmericana Sur Expressway.
While waiting for the 2nd bus to Lurín. This is the PanAmericana Sur Expressway.

Wednesday: believe it or not, I traveled to the school by myself. And I did not get lost. I arrived at the school and everyone was excited to see me again. The children are interested in me because I am a foreigner, which I find kind of amusing. I meet with the director of the school, Zoraida, and present my introduction letter from FAO (she has to sign it so it’s official that they accept me). She introduces me to the students and explains that I am here to help build a garden for them, and that we will have banana trees and other great things. Then I introduce myself to the students and explain that I am student just like them, that I am from the US and that I like to garden and have a garden at my house.

After this, I sit in on the class lesson and observe. And I go back to my lesson plan, because without a kitchen, things are a little different in terms of waste. After the school day, I return to FAO and meet with Jazmine again and we talk in detail about the new action plan. So back to the new plan that I think may (or may not) be too big for me. As it is now, FAO has no boots-on-the-ground projects in Lima; all the projects are elsewhere in Peru. So Jazmine and Fanny conversed and told me that this school garden could be an opportunity to build FAO’s presence in Lima. FAO already works with Qali Warma in other schools throughout Peru, so that connection is in place. However, there are other connections we can strengthen. For example, Jazmine suggested we contact the Ministerio de Agricultura (MINARGI) to request seeds and starter plants for the garden. We wrote a formal letter requesting seeds and are waiting to hear back. MINAGRI has projects relating to food security and development, and this school presents an opportunity for them to also invest in the local community. Jazmine also recommended we contact the Ministerio de Educación (for obvious reasons). And perhaps, with our powers combined, we can create a model that can be applied to other schools in the Lima area. So me and my little school in the rurals of Lima are asked to set the example to what school health can look like. Oh, and I’m suppose to have a meeting with the parents. We will need ongoing support for the garden and who better to enlist than those who can benefit the most. A new plan of action indeed. I’m only slightly overwhelmed.

On Thursday, I go back to the office to work on this new plan of action and try to take it all in. Maybe I should inform you also that I’m not fluent in Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t know any Spanish; I get by just fine. And I understand more than I can speak. I don’t find reading Spanish difficult. And it’s great with the kids because we have the same level of Spanish. But being asked to make connections with the Ministerios and have meetings with parents, I think that’s out of my league. Of course, I have the help and support from FAO. None the less, it’s a little intimidating.

The garden site!
The garden site!

Friday is a new day and I wake up feeling empowered that I can do this. It’s a great opportunity to be a part of this groundwork. I make it to the school and present this plan of action to Esmeralda and Zoraida, and of course, they are excited. The kids are happy to see me again; my exoticism hasn’t worn of yet. And today is the day we till the land, clean the weeds away, and prepare our garden area! And, Esmeralda brought banana trees for the garden. I brought some seeds that I’d been saving. (As one who likes to garden and has a habit of saving seeds, I had a small collection of fruit and vegetable seeds from my market buys; and I donated them to the school.)

The banana trees that one of the teachers promised the students.
The banana trees that one of the teachers promised the students and bags of soil.
The niños and niñas preparing the land to receive plants.
The niños and niñas preparing the land to receive plants.

The kids totally loved playing in the dirt and digging out the weeds. One of girls asked if we could have flowers in the garden also. How could you blame her; a world without flowers is just not as pretty. I don’t know if MINAGRI will donate flowers, but I think I can find a way to incorporate them into the garden somehow.

I wanted to go to Centro Historico this weekend and see the catacombs in the Cathedral de San Francisco, but with these changes in the plan, I have new work to do. I wanted action, and now my hards are full.

Field of Greens: lettuces, kale, spinach. I pass this field on the way to the school.
Field of Greens: lettuces, kale, spinach. I pass this field on the way to the school.
If only this picture did justice to the area, but the walk (or trip via mototaxi) is beautiful with mountains in the background and a few farms/fields along the way.
If only this picture did justice to the area, but the walk (or trip via mototaxi) is beautiful with mountains in the background and a few farms/fields along the way.

Week 2 & 3: Poco a poco

Hola.

Well I can sum up week 2 for you in a few words: More reading. My immediate supervisor was still out of the office so I read more materials and familiarized myself with projects the UNFAO has been doing the past year. Even with all the reading, it’s just a fraction of what FAO is a part of. One could get lost reading forever. I know we’re moving slow, but we are going to get somewhere.

Week 3: My supervisor is in the office! I’m actually a little nervous to meet her (because she hasn’t been here) but more excited. We have a meeting immediately and discuss a plan of action for the next few months. She also makes a few phone calls and sets up some meetings with important people who are a part of the school feeding program. I’m so relieved to finally start making progress and thankful that she started working on those connections right away.

This week is actually a little slow, as well, as this is kind of my real first week of the internship. I did have an introduction meeting with someone from Qali Warma, which a program from MIDIS (Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion) “that provides food service to complement education for children enrolled in public educational institutions at primary and secondary levels, and indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, in order to help improve attention in classes, school attendance and eating habits, promoting the participation and responsibility of the local community.” This is who I’ll be working with on projects of school gardens (huertos escolares) and food waste (despidicios de alimentatión).

Opening welcome speech
Opening welcome speech
My supervisor explaining the positives and negatives of the capacity of the institutions of QW
My supervisor explaining the positives and negatives of the capacity of the institutions of QW

I am reading more relevant material now about social inclusion and child nutrition throughout Peru, as well as working on a schedule during the week. Thursday and Friday, I had the pleasure of going to a conference about Qali Warma (QW) titled Taller Nacional de Análisis y Valoración de las Metas de Política para la Sostenibilidad de la Alimentacion Escolar en el Perú (National Workshop on Analysis and Assessment of Policy Goals for the Sustainability of School Feeding in Peru). All the big players were here, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of the Environment, MIDIS, QW, and more.  I have to say, working in another language is not easy. I am proud of myself for engaging with the other participants and for contributing to the table discussions.

Table discussion questions: What are the principle barriers or difficulties in our interventions in school feeding?
Table discussion questions: What are the principle barriers or difficulties in our interventions in school feeding?

There were lots of table discussions throughout both days. I really am grateful for this opportunity because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was unlike the other lecture I attended. There was an activity the second day where everyone had to write down a suggestion to improve the system, implementation, design, policy, etc. Only having read about the program and not seeing it in action, I think it’s a little difficult to make an honest suggestion. My first suggestion was immediately taken off the wall as the facilitator of the conference said it was an opinion. However, my second suggestion made it all the way to the end as a key strategy to improve performance. I was very proud of this small victory. My suggestion: more involvement from school officials in the purchasing of nutritional foods. The others in the group tweaked it a bit to include more communication and involvement. Are you noticing a theme here? More communication. More involvement. More teamwork.

Conference facilitator. My frist suggestion for improvement immediately taken down.
Conference facilitator. My frist suggestion for improvement immediately taken down.
Plans of Action
Plans of Action

We have more meetings planned for next week with folks involved in food waste, school gardens, food security, and nutrition. All of these themes are aspects of my research and project with FAO and under the umbrella of QW. We also have the date of my first school visit: July 7. I can hardly wait to meet the niños and niñas and help them with a garden!

We have a 3 day weekend so I’m exploring the city again. More city pics to come.

Hasta luego.