Program Development with the Yanesha in Peru: Exploring indigenous culture to better understand Human Security

Program Operations Manager, Marie MacDonald, spends a month in Peru to build relationships with local partners and prepare 2020 7e programs.

Last week our international staff member, Marie, had the awesome opportunity to be part of a Yanesha celebration in Peru. Marie has spent the last month exploring Peru and developing our programs for 2020 and onward.

Getting to Know Peru

Part of her program development endeavors involved cultivating and nurturing relationships with our current country partners as well as new partners that will help expand and strengthen 7e programs. Our first community partner that has inspired many aspects of our Human Security programs in Peru are the indigenous Yanesha people, nestled in Union de la Selva. According to recent censuses, there are about 7,000 Yanesha members remaining with approximately 5,000 that speak the native language. The Yanesha are seeking ways to maintain their rich cultural and community’s traditions in a developing world.

7e’s programs dive into the struggle that indigenous population face in preserving culture and heritage. Furthermore, these struggles are tied to Human Security and the implications of cultural loss for an individual, community or nation in a developing world. The end goal is to understand how these issues take place on a local and global scale.

Celebrating with the Yanesha

In the past month, Marie spent time visiting new communities, organizations in social development, local vendors for students to support and locations to visit that harness the uniqueness and beauty of Peru. Ruth, our Local Director and Yanesha representative was critical in Marie’s success in harnessing these relationships and navigating the social and cultural landscape of Peru. Without local representatives that champion social knowledge and trust within communities, a holistic and sustainable approach to community development and service learning is very difficult and ineffective in the long term.

Before leaving Peru, Marie was invited to be part of a very traditional and beautiful Yanesha celebration, a privilege and honor that she will not forget. Ruth was married last week to Rigo in her home village of Union de la Selva. She is an ambassador for the environment and has made conservation and environmental activism part of her professional and personal goals. To epitomize her passion for her Yanesha community and love for a healthy planet, Ruth’s wedding tied in all of these traditional aspects as well as environmental sustainability.    .

All decorations were hand-made from leave and flowers found in the jungle; everyone was dressed in cushmas (traditional dresses made from seeds and plants), all meals were hand-cooked and provided from organic produce on her farm; the elder population sang, danced and played traditional Yanesha instruments; and the whole event was conducted in Yanesha language. It was a beautiful, bright, happy, and an extremely culturally engaging wedding. Marie feels honored to have been able to witness such an event. Congratulations to Ruth and Rigo. Parasios por compartir conmigo!

Stay Involved and Learn More!

Stay tuned for more news about Peru, upcoming programs and updates about our community and Yanesha partners.