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Highlights of Peru: the calm before the storm (1/2)

Sigh...

If there's a country that totally shook me up it was this one. Peru was the closest thing to an emotional roller-coaster for many reasons. In fact, there are so many that I will divide this article into two parts... today we'll talk about the good things that happened to me while I was in the land of the Incas.

#1 Getting to work with kids for the first time in my #Faces2Hearts journey:

Anyone would think that important social issues are meant to be discussed by adults in serious and bureaucratic spaces, but these teenagers can prove us wrong.

They are standing up and raising awareness on sexual violence.

Rosalinda, Stalin, Juan Gabriel, Willy, Odilon, Jonathan, Dely and many more are a group of teenagers giving a voice to their generation. They realized they should be the ones talking about the issues that affect them directly and since then they've been creating awareness campaigns in the media and taking them to public spaces, targetting teenagers and their parents.

They've identified problems related to sexual violence, such as grooming, texting, cyberbullying and blackmailing, and with the support of the European Union, Save the Children and Paz y Esperanza, they're changing the lives of kids and teenagers in Huanuco, Peru pushing legislators to take action and create laws and programs to protect them. What I loved the most about this project is the autonomy these teenagers have to make their own decisions and be creative with their campaigns. To me, that's an excellent way to empower them and encourage their critical thinking. They have awesome personalities, and in them, I found a lot of happiness and energy I was needing at the moment, they cheered up my day like you can't imagine, thus they were extremely helpful creating this video (they did art direction, they told me how they wanted to appear on the video, and they made sure to create an awesome working atmosphere).

For that, they get the first place on this list 🙂

#2 Mardonio of my heart!

If there's something I like besides breathtaking landscapes and feeling very small being outdoors, is getting to know to know people that are not afraid to show their heart. That was the case when I met Mardonio, the president of the Association of Producers of Pachitea.

Mardonio Rivera Jorge, 37, shows proudly his book of Quechua songs and his traditional outfit made by his wife.

Before receiving training from IDMA (Instituto de Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente), an NGO supported by the EU, he (as well as pretty much every producer in Pachitea) used to farm the land in a very aggressive way: using chemicals, taking down the forest to get wood for fire and planting monocultures. After several years of training, they've become guardians of the forest and they reforested 10,000 meters of land next to the river with native plants. Thanks to this, they've seen the river and biodiversity come back to their lands. I can say that being in Pachitea feels like being in a nature retreat. Birdsongs will follow you on your hikes, the sound of the river will make you sleep like a baby every night and the warmth of the people will make you feel like home.

I love seeing things like this because it shows perfectly how much impact this EU projects can have on people's lives and how grateful they're for it. In Mardonio I saw a sensible man, a caretaker. After spending a couple of hours getting to know him, for some reason I haven't figured out, I got very curious and this little voice inside of me told me to ask a simple question: ''Mardonio, can you sing?'' And his answer was beautiful: yes, but I only know songs in Quechua. So he looked for his book and started singing, which was the perfect way to say goodbye with a big hug.

#3 Getting to see women working the land and becoming economically independent.

After 30 years working the land for 30 years, Doris was ready to talk about all her knowledge and teach it to younger farmers. Besides being a great teacher and storyteller, Doris is also an example to young women. They've seen that it is possible to make things work in an environment which is mainly occupied by men.

Doris Garcia, 67, poses in front of her 50-year-old avocado tree. She helped her mom plant it when she was just a kid.

20 years ago the other farmers were calling her crazy for deciding to change from conventional to organic farming, even her husband. And after fighting (yes, fighting) with her husband she managed to convince him to work all their land using only organic products. After seeing the results, the other producers started getting curious, and one by one, they started making the change. After all, actions do speak louder than words, and her actions were concrete and successful. Because of her, a lot of young women are now economically independent, in a sustainable way which makes it even better.

But, as I started saying, Peru was quite the roller-coaster, and even though I had a great time, bad things happened as well. But I'll share more details about this in my next article next week. Tell me, what was your favourite highlight of Peru?

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