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Expedition to Peru and Bolivia 2007

Blackpool Sixth Form College Expedition to Peru and Bolivia 2007 – Kate Statham


In July 2007 I was one of eleven students and three staff who took part in the expedition of a lifetime to South America. The purpose of the expedition, run by the college’s Geography and Economics departments, was to set up a fair trade link between us and some of the communities of Peru and Bolivia, linked to the ‘Minka’ fair trade project. As well as this we shopped in the numerous markets, carried out an extremely challenging but rewarding five day trek through the Peruvian Andes, and ended the trip with a visit to the amazing Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca city built in the fifteenth century but only rediscovered in the 1920s.

The trip was a real eye-opener because the immediate thing I noticed about Peru and Bolivia was the genuine poverty that existed, and yet the happiness of many of the people. Driving along the main roads, there was shack upon shack and so many people living in these shanty towns. A lot of the local people tried to make a living by selling oranges, and also by entertaining us on their panpipes while we ate our meals! It was also sad to see many children on the streets, begging or trying to sell us things and shine our shoes. Many shoe shiners wore balaclavas to cover their faces because they were embarrassed to be having to make their living that way.


La Paz Markets Bolivia

La Paz Markets Bolivia


La Paz Markets Bolivia


The Markets in La Paz, capital of Bolivia

We spent nights with two different communities in Peru, both linked to the Minka fair trade project. The first was the community of Jiliacia where we all slept on the floor in one room and the chief of the community stayed in the corner of the hut all night with his wife and little daughter, to guard us. The next day men, women and children came from surrounding communities to show us dances that they had prepared for us, and to give us handicraft demonstrations – they had never met English people before!

The people of Taquille liked our gifts from Blackpool!

The people of Taquille liked our gifts from Blackpool!

Their involvement with Minka meant that the women had been taught how to make all sorts of handicrafts, such as gloves, scarves, bags and blankets. Some of the women demonstrated the skills they had learnt, showing us how they spun alpaca wool and made it into toy llamas and cows! We purchased some of their handicrafts to take back to college and sell; the money will be sent back to the community so that the work of Minka can continue. We also stayed in a community in the island of Taquille on Lake Titicaca, where again the people showed us how they lived and made handicrafts thanks to the Minka project. By seeing the way the people of these communities lived, although it was still in relative poverty, it was obvious how much their lives had been improved since fair trade had become a part of their lives. With our guide translating, they told us how their lives had been transformed from subsistence farming and the males having to seasonally migrate to look for work in nearby towns, finding jobs with low pay but necessary to maintain their families, to being able to make a living thanks to Minka teaching them new skills so that they can sell their products in the international market.


Ladies spinning Alpaca Wool

The ladies spinning Alpaca Wool to make into handicrafts

The expedition really made me realise how much we take for granted, for example being able to turn on the tap and have clean drinking water, and being able to go out to work and earn enough money to buy extra luxuries as well as necessities. I will never forget the experience of Peru and Bolivia and how much more I will now appreciate what I have.



The Ruins at Machu Picchu

The Ruins at Machu Picchu

I would like to thank everyone at St Nicholas Owen for their very generous financial support, helping to make this trip possible.