27 July 2010

Looking (Forward and) Back- Peru

It's interesting how life can be so cyclical. In my case it happened a bit earlier than I had expected. Last summer I spent some time in Colombia visiting family before going to Perú for 7 weeks to study with the BU abroad program. This summer I am (currently) in Colombia visiting family before going on to Peru for 6 weeks to do an internship.

I knew that I wanted to return to Perú at the end of my trip last year. I had an incredible time and felt that I had a lot more to see, and definitely a lot to learn. However, I didn't think I would be fortunate enough that it would be so soon.

I'm going to be working with an lab called Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). The project I will be helping out with is called Targeting the Ultra Poor. Click on the link to learn more about it. I could not be more excited to be working with the lab. The internship is unpaid, making my financial situation for this summer and next year fairly difficult. I have no idea where i'm going to live and have to pay rent. Despite all these road block, I felt, however, that I could not pass up the opportunity to learn more about how various microfinance, and other poverty eradication programs work. Most importantly though, I felt that the work the lab is doing, by measuring the effectiveness of such programs is incredibly impactful to the effectiveness of non-profit and governmental work not only in Perú, but also in the world.

I had heard about IPA for the first time my last semester during my Women and International Development class. My class was debating the effectiveness of Microfinance and whether or not it actually does enough to permanently get people out of poverty. We read an article by the Jameel Poverty Action (JPA) at MIT lab that wrote that microfinance alone is not enough to lift people out of poverty, but other measures in conjunction with microfinance would work better. This critique was shocking since I had never heard anyone say that microfinance alone doesn't work.

Anyways, I've digressed to a long discussion for another time. The point is that I applied to a few jobs with the JPA lab and found that it was affiliated with IPA. I also applied to their Global Intern position and that's what I ended up interviewing for and getting!

As an aside: Esther Duflo from JPA lab did a TED talk about Poverty and the method used in the study i'll be working on. Check it out!

This would make my fourth internship. Can you make a career out of doing awesome internships? I can already tell, though, how different it will be. I will be working for 6 weeks in Cuzco (or Cusco). I will be (from what I've been told so far) working both on the field helping conduct a questionaire/ survey to gather data about various households, as well as working in the office gathering and organizing data.

While thinking about my internship, I thought back to my work with FincaPerú last year. During my brief time in Ayacucho, I worked with three other students from the BU program (Jenn K., Julia, Hector), to conduct a survey to see what the women who participate in the microloans think about the organization, what they think needs to be improved, and what needs to be added.

I'm not going to lie, it was difficult. It was often difficult to get the women to speak to us. Oftentimes they spoke Quechua and not Spanish. Sometimes you could tell that they just didn't trust us. It was understandable. Many of these women had been affected by the Civil War in Perú, most have had really difficult lives. Who were we to come with our funny Colombian, Gringo, Dominican accents and ask them about their private lives, finances, and opinions? I was often frustrated when someone did not want to speak to me, and even more when people were rude. I did not stay at FincaPerú long enough to develop the skills to be able to better communicate with the people I was surveying. I am hoping that I will get a chance to improve while in Cuzco. As much as I have to learn from my internship, I know that I can learn as much, if not more, from the people themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Andrea, I didn't know that you were so interested in micro financing. Its funny bc I've been thinking about starting a non-for profit in the city dealing with micro-donations, as a way to make local food kitchens sustainable via local restaurants and local consumers. I'd love to hear some of your insights on micro-financing and its flaws/hurdles. Enjoy Peru.