“It’s (LLI) a place that has its doors open to us so we can work on English and other things. I also like the happy and “good vibes” the teachers have here.”
–Pedro, 15 (in black jacket)
LLI Women’s Program just had an awesome self defense Kung Fu workshop in zone Z. Our visiting professors Joe and Ryan have their own Martial Arts studio in the US, and specialize in Women’s Wing Chun Kung Fu. This upbeat lot of women learnt a bunch of power moves and left the class feeling …well quite powerful :)
Today we are extremely excited to introduce you to our immensely self-motivated, driven, and generous volunteer, Maria Fraga. In June 2013 Maria taught several classes at the LLI and developed deep connection with the kids, other volunteers and people of Huaycan. Drawing from her wish to continue supporting LLI, Maria has since raised several thousand dollars through fund-raising. Her contributions have tremendously helped LLI in its efforts to provide education to kids, empowerment to women and safe establishment to teens in Huaycan.
Currently living outside of Boston, MA, Maria is originally from Northern Portugal. Born in a small village in Northern Portugal, her family moved to Frankfurt, Germany, when she was eight years old. Six months after, they again moved to the US. Happily married for over 20 years, Maria has three wonderful children who motivate and inspire her every day.
Here we are in conversation with Maria to find out more about her outlook on volunteering, LLI and fundraising:
LLI: What motivated you to volunteer in Peru?
Maria: Interestingly enough it wasn’t Peru that motivated me; it was South America in general. I have always had a fascination with Mayan and Inca civilizations, as I learned more, Peru became the common denominator. I then researched Peru and became fascinated by its people and culture. I was struck by the poverty and lack of opportunities for women and children in the country. It also reminded me somewhat of where I came from in Portugal and what it had been like growing up as a child in an impoverished village.
LLI: So, how did you come to know about LLI?
Maria: I learned about LLI through a different organization that at the time worked with LLI.
LLI: Would you tell us about your work at the LLI?
Maria: I was able to spend a week in Huaycan and was lucky enough to be there when they were celebrating their anniversary. I was able to participate in the English classes in Zone S and be part of the celebration. It was an amazing experience not only to see the impact that LLI has on the children that participate in the programs but the women as well. I was struck by how eager the children were and how excited they were to see “teacher”. I will not forget the first day I went to Zone S, one of the girls was very shy and would barely look at me, I expected the same the next day but to my surprise she met me at the combi (local public transport) and I had barely gotten off when she came running and gave me a big hug and took me by the hand to walk with me to the classroom! My heart was filled with joy and I knew I was making a difference in this child’s world.
LLI: What’s the reason behind your exceptional commitment to LLI?
Maria: I saw first hand the impact that LLI is having on the lives of the children, women and families of the area. As much as I would have loved to stay there longer, it simply is not feasible. But I knew I wanted to be able to continue to support the phenomenal work of the organization. So I though why not do something through fundraising?
LLI: What do you want people to understand about LLI?
Maria:Well, they say seeing is believing and I wish everyone could see first hand the impact that LLI is having in the lives of these children and women. LLI’s leader Lara is an exceptional person and very committed to the organization she started. She is involved and isn’t sitting in a corporate office in some other country, she is completely committed to the organization that she created and that was key for me to decide to continue to support LLI
LLI: Any tips for future fundraisers?
Maria: Look for opportunities that may be out of the ordinary, ask your local town hall what they’ve seen in the past, they have to issue permits so they will have a good sense of what others have done. Look in your surrounding towns as well to see what they’ve done. Ask on Social Media what other people have done. Nothing is out of the realm of possibilities as just recently proven with the ice bucket challenge, which raised awareness and millions of dollars for ALS research.
LLI: Any memorable incident, while you volunteered at the LLI that you’d like to share with our readers?
Maria: There are so many wonderful memories that will still with me forever. Playing soccer and having one of the kids stop the game to explain the rules to me because I wasn’t “doing it right”, being taken for a “hike by some of the girls and them being so worried that “teacher” was ok, the look of pride on Eduardo’s face when he got an answer right and the look of sadness on the kids faces when I had to say goodbye.
LLI: Advice for future volunteers?
Maria: If you have the opportunity GO FOR IT and immerse yourself, it truly is a life changing opportunity that will stay with you forever and you will never forget.
Meet our incredible, outdoorsy, jovial, caring and music connoisseur Program Development Intern, Nicholas. Hailing from Texas, this high-spirited Swiss-American young man is the most gentle and well-travelled soul we’ve ever met. A major in Political Science and Anthropology from University of Colorado at Boulder, Nick has also earned an MA in International Development from the University of Sheffield in the UK. He’s traveled through Central America, Colombia, and has lived on every continent besides Asia. As a long term volunteer for LLI, Nick runs and teaches reading, chess and math programs. He’s also conducting research for an Impact Analysis Study, and this December, he’ll be completing one year with us.
Nick is one of those amazing human beings you rarely meet in your life-journey, who can help you see things clearly. The first thing that comes to mind is his heart. He has a big heart and is always thinking about the kids first. Kids really bring a smile to his face, and leave it to Nick to entertain, teach, even discipline kids the best. No kid will get away with a wimpy summary of a book during biblioteca (library time). Not with Nick. He’ll egg them along, give them advice, ask them questions, but always strive for their best.
When asked about his two favorite things about teaching, he says, “First, a room full of reading children… many of them, especially the younger ones read slightly out-loud and the sound of children reading like this is a symphony to my ears. And second is, when a child understands something new, this is most evident in math when they finally understand a new concept and their face lights up with excitement and joy.”
“During my 2 wonderful weeks at LLI, he was very kind to guide me in empathizing with the children. During the same time, I have come to know him as a genuine and fun-filled person who has the most rare collection of music that I have ever seen,” says Pushkar.
Carlos remembers, “When he came to Zone Z 232 one day and even though it wasn’t really his responsibility, he still helped out by sweeping the floor and sharpening the pencils. This told me a lot about his character. He’s a great roommate that is always joking around and I’ve enjoyed getting a chance to know him. I still remember the day when I woke up and he had “gently” thrown a water bottle in my direction due to my snoring.”
Whether it’s a lesson on how to climb up to the rooftop with a big load of laundry, or a demo on how to climb a mountain, Nick has the tools for every trade. He’s the resident mountain climbing expert—Heck he’s basically half man and half Billy goat. If you want to grab Nick’s attention, ask him about outdoor gear. Like anything, ask him about backpacks, headlamps, camping tents, emergency axes– whatever. He’ll light up and give you the most intense and knowledgeable lesson on proper outdoors gear. He will bring down his backpacks and have you try it on to experience the different weights. It’s not difficult to make him happy, give him something to fix, somewhere to hike, something awesome to read, or a new problem to solve– Nick will get it done.
An incredible friend, he shows his love in the smallest but most meaningful of ways. He’ll plop a plastic bag of fresh squeezed orange juice on your desk if you’re sick, he’ll be the first to take over your class if he sees you need it, he’ll tuck a lollipop into your suitcase, or be the first to notice if you’re feeling blue. Even though there are hardly any buses in Huaycán that are large enough for Nick to stand, he will be the first person to give up his seat for anyone who needs it.
On LLI fridays aka Tuesdays, do not be surprised if you hear LOUD rap, country, spanish songs blaring through the house. This is Nick announcing to the world that it is Light and Leadership Friday.
He has a way of making any situation fun. He is truly the master of fun and lightens the mood anywhere he goes— both in the volunteer house and with the kids. Samantha recalls, “When we did parent-teacher check-ins, he was always so vibrant and outgoing, you can tell that the Huaycan community is really comfortable with him!”
Karolyn says, “If he’s not playing with the adorable Riana in Zone Z 232, he is treating the house to a wonderful homemade breakfast.”
Karen adds, “He will be the first to be strong in a tough situation, first to identify potential problems, and the first to figure out a solution. It’s like his mind is on a never-ending treadmill, constantly exercising. Imagine a big old brother who likes to act like he doesn’t care, who teases everyone, and who scares you sometimes because he’s so tall and has strong character, that’s Nick. But inside, he is a big sweetie who genuinely cares about the world’s issues, about people, and about doing his part to help.”
Nick, our dearest friend, we wish you all the best for the future!! Always stay the cool guy that you are!
— Entire LLI family!