One of EWB’s most important jobs is establishing trust. Trust is necessary in order to partner with a community and bring a project to completion. Building trust is easier said than done, however, especially among communities who are used to empty promises from governments and NGOs. We definitely faced some challenges in building trust with Japura, but once all the talk of solar panels materialized, news of our completed project spread like wildfire across the Andes. Communities that are hours away from Japura know who we are and what we do. They know that EWB doesn’t just talk; we make things happen.

So maybe that backfired a little… During the last few days of our June trip, we planned to go project shopping, visit a few communities, assess the need, and meet with community leaders. We did do a bit of project shopping, but for the most part, that wasn’t necessary. The projects found us. In the span of a week, we were bombarded by 16 official project requests, and more are still flooding in. Community leaders came from hours away to Camp Chuquicahuana so they could meet with us and discuss their communities’ needs. On one night in particular, at least 15 people representing 10 communities visited with us. Project requests range from solar panels to potable water to irrigation. Clearly, we can’t take on all these projects, but we intend as much as possible to document the need and advertise these projects to fellow EWB chapters.

After four years working in the rural Andes, it feels like we’ve come a very long way in gaining the locals’ respect. There is always more to learn; however, the very fact that locals are now so eager to work with us may make that task a little bit easier. Whatever project EWB does take on this next year, we look forward to spending another year working alongside the people of Peru!

-Stephanie Septembre