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UFV Students Abroad — Madison Stewart on sustainable development in Peru

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On Tuesday, September 26, at UFV’s Abbotsford campus, we were given a glimpse into the lives of the Indigenous population of Peru by student Madison Stewart. Stewart is a fourth-year global development student who has spent years building an impressive background in development, volunteer, and coordination roles.

I was able to attend one of three presentations she organized. The information was clear, concise, and fascinating throughout the full hour and a half. Her presentation discussed the formal research she completed for her Global Development Studies capstone course, which consists of combining developmental theory and practical experience, while working with the rural Indigenous communities in Peru. Stewart’s role as a marketing coordination intern in Peru, and her work in marketing new products to workers and consumers, was in partnership with the organization Mosqoy.

Mosqoy is a non-governmental organization (NGO), whose mission statement says they work “towards global sustainability and resilience by empowering local culture.” Mosqoy works with the Quechua population in the Andean mountains of Peru.

Students and individuals working with Mosqoy can be involved in three sections of the organization: T’ikary, Q’ente, and Mink’a. T’ikary is the youth program in which Mosqoy works to educate Indigenous students, allowing them to visit larger cities to study subjects such as arts and tourism. Q’ente encompasses their work in textile revitalization, which consists of the buying and selling of textiles worldwide, and giving jobs and empowerment to local Indigenous women. The third program is Mink’a, their knowledge exchange, which aims to teach people around the world about how to be mindful of one’s footprint while visiting foreign countries.

During her presentation, Stewart described her experiences working in Q’ente, where she traveled to remote communities in the Andes’ such as Cancha Cancha, Parobamba, and Pitukiska.

The textile component of this organization is the money-making element. The women in these communities are commissioned to make fabrics that are then used to create small items such as bags and wallets that can be sold to tourists and help sustain these women and their families. It is important to note that Mosqoy does not purchase anything dyed by non-traditional means, which helps to keep the culture alive.

I asked Stewart what research she did in order to prepare for her role, and she stated, “To prepare for my role in the organization of Mosqoy, I had studied development at UFV for three years, specifically development issues in Latin America.”

Thanks to her studies, she was able to attend the UFV Peru Study Tour in the spring of 2015.

“On that trip, [Professor] Geoffrey Spurling mentored me through my directed studies on rural development in the Vicos community of Peru, and I also met with the Canadian-Peruvian NGO, Mosqoy, for the first time.”

Stewart explained that any level of international development isn’t without its challenges.

“Our biggest challenges were often linked to communication. So much communication goes into these kinds of projects, whether it be between the board of directors or with local communities,” said Stewart. “Mosqoy works within a community-based development structure, which means that decisions must be made collectively this is necessary, but it slows down the process.”

UFV students thinking of taking their studies abroad can gain a lot from experiences like Stewart’s. There is a lot to learn from living among other cultures. Students are fortunate to have opportunities available to us such as this presentation, so we can gain insight into what goes into a trip abroad.

“I think any student who is hoping to work in development abroad must begin to understand that specific country’s history,” said Stewart. “I am lucky to have had significant background on Andean history prior to working in Peru. This knowledge helped me to better understand the political economy of the country, and the continued stigmas regarding Indigenous lives.”

More information on studying abroad can be found at the UFV International office in room B223, Abbotsford campus.

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