"Killing my dinner" - by Akiko Toya
(Pachaysana Intern, spring and summer 2013)
As Pachaysana's first intern, I worked in the Quito office and the community of Mariscal Sucre. Because of my interests in economic sustainability of Amazonian communities, I conducted independent research while living in the community. During that time, I had countless life-changing moments. For instance, when my host family and I went camping, my host-grandpa asked me to kill a chicken for our dinner (the same chicken I took care of in the community). First, I hesitated, full of fear. However, with my host family's help, I successfully killed the chicken and had an amazing dinner (the best chicken I ever had).
While this intense experience taught me the preciousness of life, it was also an academic experience: I felt the extreme nature of our current food systems,due to the lack of appreciation and disconnections between humanity and other life. After that dinner, my host family took me on a night walkj in the jungle where I encountered a lot of rare animals and insects. In the dark silent jungle, I had a moment where my fear/awe turned into a sense of “connected to the mother earth.” Under the stars, we had a dialogue on life, nature, family, and peace, and these dialogues broadened my horizon completely. I still cherish those amazing moments with my host family and the values of ‘family’ and ‘simple life’ which they had taught me.
However, during my stay, I realized that sustainable community development was threatened by the community relying solely upon sugar cane production while facing potential environmental contamination by oil industries. I was convinced that diversifying agricultural products and promoting more tourism, as well as adopting the new study abroad program with Pachaysana, would enable the communities to alleviate the economic shocks brought upon by such factors as resource contamination. While engaged in this project, I realized that before making these suggestions, understanding the dynamic of the community and making people aware of their rights and ability to participate in community development was the first step to guaranteeing the success of the project. Thus, through creative workshops such as cooking class with women to experiment with new agricultural products, I tried to foster the development of new leaders in the community. This experience inspired me to expand sustainable and resilient communities worldwide by implementing effective policies and decided to pursue Master degree after I graduated from Soka University of America with major in Economics.
Currently, I am a MPA (Masters of Public Affairs/Public Policy) candidate at Cornell University. Although my academic focuses are economics and risk analysis, I study a wide range of subjects such as international NGO/Public management, development studies, and social business. Upon graduation, I am planning to work as a consultant/analyst in the international organizations or private consulting firms. In the long term, I would like to create my own organization aiming at international education, risk alleviation consulting, and development of Latin America. I was very fortunate to be in the startup of Pachaysana and working close to its founders, Daniel and Belen, who are eternal source of my inspiration and role models. Because of this internship experience, now I have a dream to start my organization in the near future :). Thank you very much!