If anyone happened to walk into the Awamaki office these past months, they may have noticed some mysterious behavior from some of our staff and interns: Giulia, our Director of Impact and Sales, arranging for new webpages that were selectively accessible – her intern, Jessica Grant, working late into the night sifting through applications – our Volunteer and Tourist Coordinator, Laura, disappearing for hours with no contact…What were these three plotting?

In fact, they have been working to sort through hundreds of applications, essays and conducting Skype interviews to select Peruvian students who will soon be traveling to the U.S. as ambassadors and community leaders as part of YAPSA, the Youth Ambassadors Program with South America.

Awamaki has partnered with Amizade, an American non-profit who administers the youth exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State, to organize and facilitate a three-week exchange between high school students from Bolivia, Peru and the North Central Appalachia region of the U.S. (greater Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia) this summer and fall.

On July 3, 12 U.S. youth ambassadors arrived in Ollantaytambo to explore the Sacred Valley for nine days. While in town, the students stayed with 6 families from our homestay program. The group spent two days in Patacancha. They helped make adobe bricks for an extension for the center – many discarded their shoes and socks to help churn the muddy mix. The ambassadors also enjoyed weaving lessons, meals, and homestays with our weavers. Upon their return to town, they had the opportunity to work in the chacra (personal farm plot) of Ana María Sequieros, the secretary of our homestay association, to cultivate corn.

The last night of the program here, the host families came together with their guests for a afternoon picnic filled with anticuchos, ice cream cones and fútbol games. Students and chaperones alike savored the last day they had in Ollantaytambo with their families as the sun slowly sunk behind the mountain peaks.

 

YAPSA is dedicated to developing these students’ leadership and confidence in their ability to make meaningful change in their communities. Throughout the fall and winter, each student will develop and implement a Community Action Project (CAP) based on an environmental or social issue that exists in his or her community in the North Central Appalachia region. After the Youth Ambassadors from Peru and Bolivia visit the United States this fall, they will create CAPs, as well.

Soon, our Peruvian ambassadors will begin their experience in the U.S.. Laura, Giulia, and Jessica looked for students who will make the most of the program in both the skills they develop and the contributions they will make to communities during their travels and upon their return.

Awamaki is incredibly excited about YAPSA’s efforts to empower young adults as they seek to catalyze real change, especially through the conversations and ideas that will undoubtedly be shared during the program. We can’t wait to hear about the projects that American, Peruvian, and Bolivian students alike implement in their communities. We know from experience that good ideas, hard work, and committed young leaders can go a long way!

Check out more pictures here!