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History of Collaboration

Peru Summer Program

The Maker of Friends, Breaker of Cultural Barriers: Nico Jara

History of Collaboration

Peru Summer Program

The Maker of Friends, Breaker of Cultural Barriers: Nico Jara

In 1999, the world population exceeded six billion, Y2K hysteria stoked fears of societal collapse, popular music was dominated by Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, and VISIONS established one of our deepest community connections with the Peru Summer Program.

In Peru, 1999 was the beginning of the end for an administration that caused economic stimulus and humanitarian conflict alike. Throughout the 90’s, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori deregulated and prioritized the mining and energy sectors while violently suppressing rebellions. The national GDP rose but rural communities suffered from the displacement and pollution caused by large-scale natural resource extraction projects like open mining in the Andes. Fujimori was impeached in 2000 on charges of corruption and human rights violations for which he now serves a 25-year sentence in prison.

Two decades ago, we set out to serve under-resourced communities in Peru, which is a decidedly harder task than visiting as a tourist. To accomplish meaningful service projects in a foreign land, VISIONS has to cross cultural divides and integrate into local communities by living together, working together and growing together. Fortunately, in the inaugural year of our Peru Summer Program, we connected with Nico Jara.

“It all started when I met Richard Webb, who was the director of VISIONS Peru at the time. A friend recommended me as a driver, and we began to coordinate within the communities, and it seemed that we were on the same page about the things we wanted to accomplish. Over time, VISIONS has delegated more responsibility to me, which I have always been happy to take on. Additionally, my fluency in Quechua, my mother tongue, has always been very important, because it is spoken by most inhabitants of these communities,” Nico said.

As an indigenous person to the Andes, Nico carries intimate knowledge of the history, culture and communities of the region that encompasses our homebase in Urubamba. In that respect, his teachings and participation have been invaluable, but perhaps, it is his deep appreciation for personal connection and community that has strengthened our bond the most. He has become our Project Coordinator, also known as Maker of Friends and Breaker of Cultural Barriers.

Nico sees community as, “a group of people with whom we share not only work but life experiences, traditions, social activities, food, and many other things.”

In the early years of the Peru Summer Program, Nico recalls a particular experience that endeared him to VISIONS. Following a nearly fatal car accident in 2002, Nico’s injuries kept him from working as hard as he usually likes, but he still participated in the program that summer.

“I would have liked to give my 100% but physically I could not. Nonetheless, the group that year gave me a lot of encouragement. Many of them worked a little harder to help me, and I’ll always remember this saying from the kids – ‘You can do it.’ To this day, I remember it.”

Nico is with our program every day the kids are there and digs in alongside us at worksites. He’s eager to laugh, joke around, and as a passionate soccer player, he spearheads daily pickup games during the summer.

“The exchange of life between us is wonderful,” Nico said. “The good vibes from the kids despite them being so young and I quite older, we always know how to connect. I often do not understand things they tell me in English but there is always some way to communicate. Always.”

Nico is going on 60 but could pass for half that. His wife Berta is a licensed nurse at the local clinic in Cuzco. They have two daughters and a grandson. Their youngest daughter, Patty, worked with VISIONS the summer of 2014. As a professional driver during the rest of the year, Nico meets a lot of groups visiting Peru, but he says that VISIONS is different than the rest.

“Most notably, the contact the kids have with the experience of community. The lifestyle [during the program] is so different than their own, but as time passes, many of them come to understand and even grow attached the differences. I have seen many people cry before leaving with such feeling, and that has meant a lot to me.”

And Nico means a lot to us. He is one of us, as are you! Built over the course of three decades, we are the international community that is VISIONS.

Looking to the future, Nico would like to say to all of us, “Let’s move forward with the same enthusiasm to support others as we’ve had in the past. Let’s continue to be the team that provides life experiences more than just work or tourism. Exposure to poverty can awaken you from your comfort zone, but more than that, it teaches the children and us to value our daily lives.”

“Most notably, the contact the kids have with the experience of community. The lifestyle [during the program] is so different than their own, but as time passes, many of them come to understand and even grow attached the differences. I have seen many people cry before leaving with such feeling, and that has meant a lot to me.”

And Nico means a lot to us. He is one of us, as are you! Built over the course of three decades, we are the international community that is VISIONS.

Looking to the future, Nico would like to say to all of us, “Let’s move forward with the same enthusiasm to support others as we’ve had in the past. Let’s continue to be the team that provides life experiences more than just work or tourism. Exposure to poverty can awaken you from your comfort zone, but more than that, it teaches the children and us to value our daily lives.”

Learn more about VISIONS Programs

DIG DEEP. DO GOOD. AMAZE YOURSELF.

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