We, the members of the International Mission of Human Rights Observation and Defense, which includes the organizations which have signed on below, issue this emergency call to national and international public opinion and civil society, and assert and demand the following:

  1. The political and institutional crisis which is unfolding in Perú is one of the gravest ones in its history as a republic. Its current stage began with the removal from office and detention of former President Pedro Castillo on December 7, 2022, which installed the current illegitimate régime headed by Dina Boluarte and her cabinet;
  2. The interim government’s negation of the people’s will is reflected in the imposition of states of emergency which violate fundamental rights, and reliance on violence as a mechanism of repression that has especially targeted Peru’s Andean indigenous and campesino communities in the country’s most marginalized regions in the south, north, and in Lima, resulting in the more than 72 deaths and hundreds injured and unjustly detained. Impunity for these state human rights crimes has been the prevailing rule and has impeded their investigation through measures that include the centralization of case files, which undermines regional prosecutions;
  3. The principal current demands of the Peruvian people include: closure of congress, new elections, the convening of a constituent assembly to approve a new constitution, the resignation of Boluarte and her cabinet, and immediate freedom for former President Pedro Castillo;
  4. Despite the violence and repression which has resulted in hundreds of people arbitrarily killed, injured, detained, and disappeared due to abuses by state military, and police authorities, impunity continues to prevail, without a single sentence imposed upon those responsible, disregarding the convergent, well documented reports and recommendations issued the UN, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and international missions.
  5. Peru’s popular movements have designated July 19th as the target date for the third “taking of Lima”, which has been convened by the families of victims of repression from throughout the country, human rights activists, and students seeking to exercise their internationally and nationally recognized rights to freedom of assembly, expression, and social protest;
  6. The interim government must cease its efforts to stigmatize and criminalize the popular exercise of these rights through processes of intimidation that include what is understood historically in Perú as the methdologies of “terruqueo” (labeling of dissidents as supposed “terrorists”);
  7. We denounce and reject the authoritarian and repressive rhetoric and actions of the interim government headed by Dina Boluarte and the president of the Council of Ministers, which put the country’s most vulnerable sectors and especially its indigenous peoples and communities in danger of renewed repression;
  8. We also denounce the presence of U.S troops on Peruvian territory which is intended to protect the economic interests of extractivist corporations and industries such as mining and oil, and which have intensified the country’s prevailing climate of social intimidation and repression.

We demand an end to the concerted campaign of intimidation, disinformation and social panic which seeks to associate the “taking of Lima” with ostensibly terrorist organizations such as Shining Path, and urgently call for the international community to be alert to prevent the recurrence of new crimes against humanity and continued impunity in Perú.


 International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement (ITCPM) (México)

CESJUL (Centro de Estudios Socio Jurídicos Latinoamericanos – Colombia)

Grupo de Trabajo (GT) “Fronteras, Regionalización y Globalización” del Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO)

National Lawyers Guild (San Francisco Bay Area chapter) (USA)

Global Exchange (USA)

Instituto Ambientalista Natura (Perú)

Comité de Solidaridad con Perú (México)

American Association of Jurists (AAJ)

International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)

International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL)

Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (UK)

Progressive Lawyers of Turkey (CHD)

Photo Credit: Shannon DeCelle

From environmental justice in Ecuador, to Indigenous rights in Mexico, and revolution and change in Cuba, this summer Global Exchange is offering several Reality Tours that will highlight important issues around the world.

Join us as we meet with local leaders and movements to learn about the innovative ways communities and individuals are organizing for social change. Return with a new understanding of the issues and, perhaps most importantly, new ways to engage and support these inspiring movements from home.

Cuba: Revolution and Change

May 18-27, 2018

Be a witness to a rapidly changing Cuba, while engaging in dialogue with local economists, historians, doctors and teachers. Learn about the Cuban revolution while traveling across the country. We’ll start our historical adventure in Santiago where the Cuban Revolution began with the 26th of July Movement. While in Santiago, learn more about the events leading up to the Cuban Revolution as well as celebrate Santiago’s annual Carnival! Continue on to the Sierra Maestra mountains, beautiful Camaguey, Santa Clara and then to Havana.

Haiti: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

June 2-11, 2018

Join us as we examine the impact that foreign actors, like NGOs and volunteers, have had on disaster relief and development in Haiti. Led by Rea Dol, a Haitian educator and grassroots activist, we will engage local organizations and individuals working to sustainably build education, health, and financial services in their communities.

Ecuador: Social & Environmental Justice from the Andes to the Amazon

July 13-21, 2018

This delegation takes a hard-hitting dive into local and international efforts to bring environmental and social justice to the Andes and the Amazon. You will visit Chevron/Texaco’s toxic waste pits and see, firsthand, the impacts of extractive industries on the environment and Indigenous communities. You’ll visit the Yasuni national park, a UNESCO declared world-biosphere reserve that is under renewed attack for its crude oil. And you will meet with a range of actors resisting in creative and powerful ways, including community run ecotourism programs that are local economic alternatives to natural resource extraction.

The Guelaguetza Festival: Indigenous Resilience in Oaxaca, Mexico

July 19-28, 2018

Explore Indigenous resilience through food, culture, and social movements in Oaxaca — home to one of the largest Indigenous populations in Mexico. During this 10 day trip, you will meet with community leaders, activists, artisans, artists, archaeologists, and experience resistance in different ways. Taste the region’s renowned gastronomic traditions rooted in farm-to-table cuisine and mezcal production. See the preservation of pre-Columbian artifacts and practices, including a visit to the Monte Alban ruins. Attend the Guelaguetza festival, a yearly celebration of the customs of Oaxaca’s Indigenous communities.

Peru: Ancient Civilizations and Modern Day Peru

July 6-17, 2018

Travel from Lima to the Sacred Valley and learn along the way about Peru’s ancient civilizations and contemporary social challenges, all while tasting the country’s world-famous cuisine. From Lima’s informal settlements to Andean villages, you will meet with Indigenous cooperatives, artisans, and NGOs working to empower women, practice fair trade, and preserve their traditions.

Chiapas: Indigenous Rights & Environmental Justice

August 3 – 11, 2018

From a base in the colonial town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, our delegation will travel to surrounding Indigenous and campesino communities to learn about Chiapas’s long history of mass mobilization and collective resistance to the Mexican government’s repressive imposition of neoliberal agendas. We will see, firsthand, how popular movements like the Zapatistas organize for economic, environmental, and Indigenous justice while getting a unique look into their time-honored traditions.

Bolivia: Spanish Study & Cultural Immersion

August 6-21, 2018

Looking to pair language school with cultural immersion and social justice? During this trip, we will spend mornings in class learning (or brushing up on) Spanish while exploring social justice issues through guest lectures, debates, and group discussions. During our afternoons, we will explore Cochabamba via visits with activists, scientists, journalists, artists, and government officials. On weekends, we’ll head to the Bolivian countryside and learn about climate change, food justice and the coca industry. All the while, you will live with a Bolivian family, providing an intimate opportunity to practice Spanish in everyday situations and get a better feel for the rhythm of Bolivian life.

I had the good fortune of being welcomed to Global Exchange as a sales associate at the San Francisco Fair Trade Store a few weeks before Global Exchange’s 25th Anniversary celebration. I met many new people and felt an inkling my new job would suit me in ways I didn’t know yet.

Since then, I’ve learned more about how Fair Trade works than I imagined I could. While buying Fair Trade products has always been a way for me to support sustainable economic and environmental practices for workers whose livelihood depends on it, it’s now a way to connect with people in a way I didn’t before. I’m beginning to feel the love.blue andes gifts

I like things: fashion, texture, beautifully crafted, soulful goods I can wrap around my shoulders, press my cheek to, or bounce thoughtfully in the cup of my palm. But things are things. I thought, Fair Trade products are still things.

That’s the nature of it, but there’s also that feeling you get knowing the story behind each handmade item…the love. For example, when you hold an Andes Gifts alpaca wool hat in all its squish-soft, insulating gorgeousness, and you know it’s making a positive impact on people’s lives and the environment, it becomes more than a thing, it becomes a gift.

challenge-header-2Andes Gifts, based in Davis, California, provides free knitting instruction, as well as successful micro-loans to increase earning capacity, to women in rural indigenous communities in Bolivia and Peru. Within some of the most economically impoverished areas in the western hemisphere, Andean communities often unravel due to disjointed childcare, work, and family structure.

The opportunity to knit colorful, intricate designs and make a living through Andes Gifts helps these red andes giftscommunities stay together.

Knitters work in their homes or in co-ops where they have access to the resources they need, and work as much as they need to at their own pace. Women can stay close to their children and participate in local traditions. Knitters provide for themselves and their families, and make statements like, “I plan on knitting until I’m a grandmother”. That’s a loving thing for all it’s implications.


We invite you to visit our Fair Trade stores in Berkeley and San Francisco, CA to see for yourself the beauty of Andes Gifts.

Exactly 13 years after the #N30 actions to shut down the WTO, Global Exchange returns to Seattle with a similar message: #StopTPP!

We all know free trade agreements are politically, economically, and environmentally harmful.

But this weekend at TPPxBorder, hearing people speak to the real consequences of these deals brought my understanding of the dangers of these Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to a very human scale.

Listening to the voices of people who are affected by these FTAs – a pulp mill worker from Everett, WA, who got laid off two years before pension, HIV positive people who won’t be able to afford life-saving medication because of patent laws that protect profits instead of access, a Philippine woman who was forced to leave her family in search of work – these voices remind me that free trade isn’t just an ‘issue’ to discuss or debate. Free trade is about about profits at the expense of people’s health and safely. About trade over ethics. About politics over people and planet.

Free trade ‘agreements’ are anything but consensual.

In fact, the only partnering happening in the TransPacific ‘Partnership’ is is the stitching together of the 1%- corporations and politicians-  whilst the entirety of civil society is excluded and ignored… for now.

That’s why on Saturday December 1, a crowd of hundreds gathered at the U.S.-Canada border to demonstrate our unity and solidarity against the TransPacific Partnership. Representatives from four of the 13 negotiating countries – along with New Zealand by phone – spoke of the risks that the TPP presents to their communities, and the powerful international unity being built to stand up and protect our dignity, our planet, and our human rights.

Jill Mangaliman, Philippine U.S. Solidarity Organization pusoseattle.wordpress.com/

We called this one TPPxBorder: The People’s Round. What I loved about this rally wasn’t only the fiery speakers, the diversity, the music, the unity, the hot coffee, and the ultra-legitimacy of our opposition to this heinous version of the TPP…. what I loved was learning about what an alternative deal would look like- one by and for the people. Listening to speakers and experts articulately describe what fair trade looks like, what it offers communities internationally, reminds me why these fights are so important, and the promise of real, practical, and respectful trade solutions. We have answers – now is the time to join hands and fight for them.

After our rally, and piñata action (in which people managed to overcome ‘blindfolds’ of corporate greenwashing and lobbyist money to finally destroy the TPP piñata and release the affordable jellybean ‘medicines’ and GMO-free popcorn trapped inside!) we headed indoors to a warm meal and strategy sessions to plan future action.

Global Exchange & Witness for Peace co-led a “Social Media to #StopTPP” breakout group to discuss “Twitterstorming”  the corporations secretly negotiating TPP.

The breakout group I co-lead was about how we can use social media to #StopTPP. Our strategy is to call out the corporations negotiating the TPP in secret… and put their secrets in public view on social media channels. This week, our coalition members are calling out two corporate interests a day on their ties to the TPP… would you like to join the Twitterstorm? Just follow @GlobalExchange and @ElectDemocracy on Twitter, then retweet our actions every day this week at 11am and 2pmPST to help spread the word about #StopTPP using the very follower lists that these corporations have built. We can use your help and you can participate from anywhere.

The TransPacific Partnership is on a 1%-gilded beltway and it’s moving fast. But there is time (and enough of us) to stop it. The first thing we all can do is help spread the word. None of us can afford another NAFTA. Help us get the last 250,000 signatures needed this year to reach 1 million on the Avaaz petition against the TPP! And ask your organization to sign the Unity Statement.

VIDEO: Unity Statement at TPPxBorder Rally Dec. 1, 2012

For more information about the TransPacific Partnership and what you can do to stop it, see “10 Reasons to Oppose the TPP.” Thank you for supporting Fair Trade this holiday season, and telling corporations negotiating the TPP in secret exactly what you think of them. Together, we can #StopTPP.

That’s right folks, the sign says “Free Trade, my Ass!”


Malia in Oahu

Update 11/28/12: A few photos of our bon voyage Malia staff lunch are now posted on Facebook.

“If you come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” —Lilla Watson

In 1991 as a graduate student of International Relations, I signed up for a Global Exchange Reality Tour to Cuba. I wanted to learn about the impacts of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and understand what the current socioeconomic realities of the Special Period were on the nation. That trip dramatically expanded my understanding of the power of travel.

While I had backpacked to over 30 countries before that Reality Tour, I had never experienced that type of life sharing journey before. I engaged with grandparents, doctors, teachers, artists, musicians and politicians. In effect Reality Tours changed my life.  I experienced connection and insights, and returned to the United States committed to advocate for sane U.S. foreign policy. Once home, I promptly cut out and placed Lilla’s quote (see above) on my fridge. Little did I know that six years later I’d start working at Global Exchange, where Lilla’s quote found a new home on the Global Exchange office wall.

Ethical Traveler Tour to Cuba

Visiting Art and Hope in Cuba, with Ethical Traveler

Today it is my bittersweet honor to announce that after almost 16 vibrant years I am transitioning out of Reality Tours. Being the Director has been a true vocation. I’ve had the unique opportunity to combine my skills as an educator, social justice activist and alternative travel business woman to build up Reality Tours’ travel destinations, themes and reach.

Looking back I sit and smile thinking of all the talented, opinionated and solidarity minded people that ebbed and flowed through the Reality Tours department in San Francisco. And I think of the everyday heroes in the U.S. and all around the world whose  generosity of spirit welcomed us, collaborated with us and compelled us to meet them as brothers and sisters. We learned about their struggles, successes and aspirations which inspired us to seek changes in U.S. foreign and economic policies.

Princeton University in Mostar, Bosnia, 2012

I know the model of socially responsible travel to educate and inspire advocacy works. In fact, I could fill volumes based on my personal experiences and those often brilliant, joyful and incredibly painful moments of learning.

From the jungles of the Amazon and the struggle of the Sarayuku nation, to the healing and rehabilitation efforts in IDP camps of Northern Uganda; from facilitating thousands through migration in Havana and sharing the incredible tenacity of spirit of Cuban’s through the “fruits” of their Revolution and in their models of sustainability post “peak oil” to learning about how poachers become conservationists in Tanzania; from the smiles and solemn survival stories of children saved from the sex tourism industry in Cambodia, Nepal, Peru & Thailand to the important organizing efforts of elders training the next generation of leaders in Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam… I leave Reality Tours personally and professionally enriched with memories and experiences, and breathtaking vistas.

Malia with Yury, Ecuador Reality Tours program officer

To each of the program officers who so diligently work to take care of every creature comfort, airport transit, hotel reservation, and days and days of program confirmations, thank you for your solidarity!  It is such necessary work, yet it is painstaking and not so glamorous. When Reality Tours runs a 100 departures a year and 98 go off perfectly, nobody knows how much work it takes to make that happen! You are all stars.

Reality Tours would not exist without our members and supporters. Sometimes I’ve called you strangers, then associates and later friends, collaborators, teachers and alumni. I’ve shared some of my deepest human connections beside you, and cultivated some of my closest friendships.

Some of you “serial trippers” know I will miss traveling with you! Again, I could write volumes on what I have seen as humans blossom, when we disconnect from the phones, computers and to-do lists and when we truly spend time to talk, share and push our comfort zones to be and to grow. How many times have I lead a group when each person typically required 1-2 feet around them to have their “zone” of comfort, only by the end of a tour to see everyone touching arms and hugging their new friends good-bye? There are so many surprising rewards on a group travel experience.

Suffolk Univeristy group visiting an orphanage in Busia, Uganda

Suffolk Univeristy group visiting an orphanage in Busia, Uganda

For those of you I giggled with trying to find a bathroom to wash my fingers after blue ink was all over my face in Tehran, or scrambled to find  “relief” in the fields of Nagpur, India or tried out bartering in crafts markets in Amman knowing but a few words in Arabic, I thank you. To those I cried with, flooded by the power of the human spirit hiking through the Cu Chi and the Sarajevo tunnels; trying to get through check points from the Occupied Territories in Palestine into Israel; and being permeated by the horrific human costs of war in the War Remembrance Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and in Pyong Yang, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg… I thank you. To those I just held hands with as we heard the testimonies of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, and walking through the Killing Fields, I thank you. And, for those that I dragged out to teach salsa dancing to over and over, ya tu sabes, gracias.

Kevin and Reede being “Good Sports” as my sons dress up

Words cannot express my deepest appreciation to the Global Exchange founders Kevin Danaher, Kirsten Moller and Medea Benjamin to whom I  have been so blessed to work with. They each are hard working visionaries and phenomenal human beings, yet they are also friends, babysitters and cuddlers, and mentors. How I love and admire each of you!

Global Exchange has been a family to me. To all the members and staff, and especially to those that serve and have served on the Board of Directors, you are brothers and sisters and I thank you for your commitment to make this world a better place. Because of your tenacity and persistence, I know “another world is possible”.  I am who I am because of my years at Global Exchange, and I  look forward to moving forward pa’lante and continuing to using my life in service to humanity and to the planet, because its liberation is bound up with mine!

With Aloha,
Malia Everette

This past June, Reality Tour participant, Amy Murray went to  Peru on the Not For Sale Advocacy Delegation on Human Trafficking. Read on as she shares her experience with us.

I am a graduate student, and, as a requirement for my school, I had to do a cultural immersion.The immersion required me to spend75 hours outside of my own culture. I decided to use this requirement as something helpful for my personal growth and something that would help me learn more about the issue of human trafficking. The last time I had been out of the country was 10 years ago. My passport had just expired, but I decided to renew it and go on an adventure.

In my search for the perfect opportunity, I found the link for immersion trips through the Not for Sale Campaign’s website. Each of the offerings sounded like an excellent opportunity to learn more about a different culture. The Peru immersion experience seemed to offer an in-depth look into the Peruvian culture, as well as some tourism such as: the economic, governmental, and social realities. The main focus of the trip was on the human trafficking issue, which is an issue I have been passionate about for some time. Our group met Lucy Borja, the founder of Generacion, who was such an inspiration in how she loves the “unwanted.” We also met some of the kids from the streets who were so welcoming. It was overwhelming to walk into a small house and see a large group of smiling kids, singing and dancing. They greeted us one by one with a hug or kiss. We learned some of the troubles street kids face daily. They are treated poorly by the government and the Peruvian citizens because of their status. The Peruvian government outwardly and openly demonstrates their distaste for the street kids viewing them as a nuisance. We met one girl who stood outside our van and asked us to take her to the states with us. Much of the trip was emotionally overwhelming because of the hardships the kids face.

My adventure started as soon as I sent in my application to Global Exchange. To prepare for such an extensive trip was something I’ve never done before. I haven’t gone out of the country in so long that I needed a lot of help getting ready. I heard from many different people their thoughts on booking flights and what I should pack. I think packing may have been the most difficult part of the pre-traveling process. I tried to pack light, but I had so many “just in case” items that I felt I was packing way too much. Meanwhile, my friends thought I wasn’t packing enough. I read reviews online about traveling specifically to Peru. I got some vaccinations and finally, after months of planning, I was on my way to Lima, Peru.

Before setting foot in Peru, I realized an immediate difference in culture beyond my own preconceptions. On the plane I met a man from Peru who was trying to teach me Spanish during our 6 hour flight. When we got off the plane, there was a woman who yelled something in Spanish. The man looked at me and asked if I knew what the woman said. When I said no, he just smiled and walked off. I still have no idea what that woman said.

Throughout the next ten days I became immersed in a culture that I knew little about. I not only learned about the many cultures and subcultures of Peru, but more about other parts of the US. My traveling companions were four people from different parts of the US.

I think the biggest culture difference was the diversity from one town to the next. One day I ate potatoes and cheese in a small kitchen in an adobe hut, and the next day I was sitting in one of the best restaurants in Lima eating, well, different potatoes I guess. One constant was that Peru has many kinds of potatoes, and, rich or poor, everyone eats potatoes. That didn’t concern me at all. I am predominately Irish, so potatoes are a staple in my diet.

Most of the trip I was in overwhelmed emotionally. Sights and sounds were different than I had ever experienced and it was sometimes hard to focus during group discussions and meetings. The language barrier got to me eventually. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t seem to ask a question without making hand gestures and limiting everything I could in the 10 or so Spanish words I knew. As soon as I stepped off the plane in the US I smiled because I was immediately greeted with a “hello,” instead of “hola.” It was comforting to be able to speak in my native language. I had never realized how much power there is in language. In the midst of this trip, I realized how incredibly hard it must be to immigrate to a new country. I had a group around me that did know my language, so that I could ask questions if need be. I don’t know what I would do if I was completely alone. Some things that seem simple, such as getting a cab, ordering food, or buying merchandise are completely different in another country. In Peru when I wanted to go to town in a cab, I was told that I should pay no more than 3 soles, if I wasn’t told that I’m sure that I could have paid more than 10 sole without knowing any better.

I have tried to gather cultural differences and things I learned into something concise, but haven’t been able to. I have actually been learning more since I’ve come home. I did find out that because I was in Peru for 10 days- 10 days longer than many of the people I know- I have become the “expert” on the country to people I talk to.  I am far from being an expert. I have had one trip and I feel that there is so much more to learn. From what I did learn, I am questioning if I am even an expert on American culture. It is so easy to generalize people for what you think they should be from what you heard, but until you experience the culture or subculture for yourself, you are not truly informed.

Because of this experience, I have been able to educate others about the realities of Peru. I gave a presentation to my class about everything I learned culturally. I also presented to the Western Washington Coalition Against Human Trafficking. I have shared my experience with everyone I know because people are fascinated with other countries and cultures that they don’t know. It is an easy way for me to lead people to discuss the trafficking issue in the US. Most people are shocked to find out that trafficking does happen in the US. The same thing that is happening in other countries is happening in our own country. I understand the issue more because of my first hand experience in Peru. I also was shown a way that the victims are being helped. Lucy is being proactive by spending time with the girls while they are prostitutes, so that they can find a way out before they are fully immersed into modern day slavery, or while they still have the freedom to walk away from it. I have come back to the US with new understanding of what is happening in our country. Since it’s not widely understood in our country that trafficking happens within the US, it is hard to find a solution to an already too big problem. Most of the time that could be spent on finding a way to help is spent on educating others that it really does happen.

I met some amazing people on my trip: heroines in the fight against Human Trafficking, people who are helping others by their willingness to be available to help, and our US team who is now more aware of Peru’s reality. Everyone who has acknowledged this issue as one that is actually happening, a human rights issue, and is doing something to help fight it is a hero. It doesn’t take much to become an advocate; by just speaking up against trafficking is helpful to the fight. People cannot be expected to change when they don’t know there is a problem.

I have always been a compassionate person, if anything, this trip has helped me become even more compassionate. I am pursuing my masters in counseling psychology, so naturally, I like helping people. I am curious how people handle joys and trials in life. I am so glad that I went on this trip to expand my knowledge and cross cultures. There is nothing more eye opening than to experience the “unknown;” in other words, to get out of your comfort zone. Even traveling within our own country is an eye opening experience. I encourage everyone to leave their comfort zones and travel; it is always an adventure whether you love the country you visit, or decide it’s not for you.

Amy Murray is a graduate student at Northwest University pursuing a MA in Counseling Psychology. She is actively involved in the fight against human trafficking and serves in several different places such as, the Not for Sale Campaign and the Western Washington Coalition Against Human Trafficking. In her spare time, Amy likes to work on art projects, run, and play tennis.

Since returning two weeks ago from the Reality Tour to Peru, scores of friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances have asked me, “So how was your trip?” and for the first time ever upon returning from a vacation, I stumbled over the answer. “Great” or “we had a wonderful time” certainly did not describe the experience, nor could any other short, polite answer adequately describe a trip where we spent a majority of our time gaining an understanding of the issues of human trafficking. So after two weeks of contemplation, how would I summarize the trip? I think I have narrowed it down to three words- breathtaking, overwhelming and hopeful– each of which needs further elaboration.

While tourism and sightseeing were not the primary purpose of the tour, we did have time to visit some of the major Peruvian tourist sites- Lima, the Incan capital of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Visiting Machu Picchu has long been a dream of mine and while I have seen hundreds of pictures of the site, nothing prepared me for the actual experience. Like experiencing the temples at Angkor Wat, the Cathedral of Notre Dame or Niagra Falls for the first time, pictures just do not prepare you for its scale and sheer beauty.  So, as I stood on the top of the ridge at 7am as the sun rose over the Andes and illuminated the slopes of Huayna Picchu and the ruins lying below it, I could just stare in wonder and try to catch my breath- both literally and figuratively.

But, back to why we were really in Peru. The issue of human tracking is a problem that plagues us on a global basis, and Peru is certainly no exception. A 2006 report by Anti-Slavery International identified three primary trafficking issues in Peru:  domestic labor; sexual exploitation of women and children; and forced labor (primarily, in mines in the Amazon basis).

Visit the Not For Sale Campaign Website to learn more

Our on ground coordinator, Lucy Borja, is a modern day abolitionist who has fought for the rights of Peruvian street children throughout her life and provides social services and support to children through her organization, Generación (more about Generación later). Lucy provided us with her perspectives local trafficking issues, arranged for meetings for us with various other NGOs dealing with the issue, and took us to the streets of Lima one night where we were able to meet and talk to some of the girls (some as young as 13) who were caught in a life of prostitution, some forced there by pimps, others by boyfriends and others by family members.

As I listened to the stories of these girls and reflected on all we had learned, I became overwhelmed by both the sheer scope of the trafficking issue as well at its personal impact on the individuals that are caught in its grips. How can we effectively address an issue that is so vast in scope, yet also so personal?

Well, Lucy had an answer for that, as well. She shared with us what she and other likeminded individuals and organizations in Peru were doing to deal with both the victims of trafficking and their efforts at prevention. In Cusco, we met with organizations that are focused on community development in an attempt to relieve poverty in rural areas. Poverty is the issue that puts people at the most risk of traffickers as they look for a better life in the cities or work in the mines, only to find themselves caught in the grips of slavery. We also met with representatives of Yanapanakusun which provides a safe house for girls that are victims of domestic slavery, and sponsors education programs in the countryside to try to keep girls in school and out of domestic work. And in Lima, we were able to visit Lucy’s work at Generación.

Generación operates a home that currently houses approximately 18 children that formerly lived on the streets of Lima. At the Generación house, the children receive all the support they need to build their lives-a safe place to sleep, food, clothing, access to education, and most importantly, love and support. Generación also operates Veronica’s House, which is a safe house for at-risk women and children that had been forced into prostitution, and provides vocational training so that the victims can learn skills that will allow them to find work off the streets. The day we spent at each of these locations filled me with hope that, while we may never be able to eradicate trafficking, there are things we can do and organizations that we can support that are making a difference in the areas of prevention, rescue and healing.

Dana Geffner, Global Exchange’s Wholesale Program Director and Jocelyn Boreta, our Retail Program Director were in Peru recently to meet with Fair Trade artisans.  They just compiled and sent out a report back to staff the other day, but here is one of Dana’s excerpts from the journey:

“We took a 7-hour car ride through the mountains of Peru to get to remote villages.  It was the first time anyone had visited this group of artisans, because until 3  years ago it was too dangerous to visit.  Most of the people we are working with are victims of severe violence and most of the women have lost their husbands to terrorism.  My colleague and I were in the back of a tiny car along with 5 other people, which made for a very tight situation with everyone sitting on everyone else’s laps. Our hosts were so excited that everyone had to come, even the Vet that takes care of the llamas that the wool comes from.

We got to the first village and arrived to a group of 80 people from this small, remote town, who started clapping ecstatically as we pulled up.  The leaders of the cooperative escorted us to the front of the group behind some tables (imagine a press conference scenario.)  We had to talk, first in English translated to Spanish, and then translated to Quechan, their local language. They went on to tell us what they needed from us and how we could help. Then many of the artisans started to bring up the work they had done and wanted to know if it would sell.  It was just amazing.

One man stood up to speak, saying that this was an important time in their history and for their work, because we came to visit with them and showed them the respect that no one had done before.

Looking back at the photos make me tear up now, just realizing the incredible impact fair trade purchases can make on impoverished communities.”

Dana and Jocelyn designed several new products that will be available at our Fair Trade stores soon, as well as other Fair Trade stores across the US. Stay tuned to the blog as we share the full report back from Peru, including more stories from artisans, information on the Fair Trade movement on the ground in Peru and a sneak peek at the upcoming product.