Volunteer Spotlight: Shelby

Carina and Jessie, our two power packed super-women, left some big shoes to be filled this January. Enter Shelby, our new Women’s Empowerment Program Manager from Downers Grove, IL, who has taken up the platform with poise and purpose. A graduate from the Michigan State University, where she studied Spanish, Secondary Education, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and French, she’d been instructing yoga and serving as an AmeriCorps members for a non-profit in Lansing, MI before joining the LLI in January 2015.

Shelby: Women's Empowerment  Program  Manager.

Shelby: Women’s Empowerment Program Manager.

Apart from the Women’s Program duties such as leading coordination of weekly educational workshops with our women’s group, overseeing the Artisan Program, track the program impact and development, Shelby also teaches an adolescent English class at our teen center three nights a week. That’s not all! She’s been teaching yoga workshops and weekly computer classes as part of the Women’s Program as well!

Shelby also taught yoga before joining LLI

Shelby also taught yoga before joining LLI

“The first thing that comes to mind is the women and youth that I get to work with. I have been so greatly to have the opportunity to develop relationships with our Women’s Program participants and with my teen English students. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with. I love that we live within the community that we work. It makes us feel like we are truly a part of the community that we are serving, and it helps us understand the goals of the community members that we serve. And of course, I love the living situation. It’s so much fun to live with an amazing group of fun, hard-working friends that are all working towards the same goals.”


I love teaching the teen English classes. I love sitting in on the women’s workshops. I love going on fun weekend trips with the volunteers! I love picking up new artisan products. I love everything!


To anyone who seeks to volunteer for the LLI, Shelby’s advice is:

Try to stay present in the moment. Soak in all the experiences of being immersed in a new culture – it’s something that not everyone gets to experience. Make connections with the people you work with, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or look silly. Embrace Huaycán, it has a lot to teach you!!

And if you have your heart set to travel and experience the diversity this amazing world has to offer, here’s a gem of wisdom from Shelby that’ll help you through any frustration and make your travels a time to remember:

It’s natural to have expectations for your trip. Identify what they are, and then let them go. There is no way of knowing how your experience is going to change you, you just have to let it happen, and stay positive and engaged through it all. Don’t be afraid to let yourself change, and to let go of old thought patterns and lifestyle habits. Send only love to the people you meet, and it will reflect right back onto you!

Thank You Tanya & Photographers Without Borders!!

Last month, Light and Leadership was lucky enough to work with Tanya Garcia, volunteer photographer from Photographers without Borders (PWB). Tanya stayed with LLI about a week, documenting our children’s classes, our teen center and our women’s empowerment program. Plus, she was kind enough to shoot some video for us (coming soon!).

Garcia is a photojournalist, videographer and multimedia artist who is currently in a fellowship in Baltimore, Maryland with Creative Alliance. She applied to do a project with Photographers Without Borders and they paired her with the organization. Garcia says that she’s very big on supporting women’s issues and couldn’t have been more delighted to be paired with Lights and Leadership seeing as she is of Puerto Rican heritage. The experience connected her to her Latin roots and humbled her in more ways than one. Here’s the post LLI project interview with Tanya Garcia on the PWB blog.

Tanya from The Photographers Without Borders

Tanya from The Photographers Without Borders

With the vision to share inspiring narratives about people and places everywhere through the captivating  art of photography, PWB provides visual media to their partner charities – free of charge – helping to raise awareness and teach others about their goals and challenges. They inspire through publishing the visual media on their website, magazine, and showing in exhibits; documenting change in action and inspiring others to make an impact.


Thanks Photographers Without Borders and Tanya! Stay tuned for her photos!
Here’s an excerpt from Tanya’s interview illustrating her experience with the Light and Leadership Initiative:

What was different from hearing about what you’d be doing compared to the reality of being there? What was something you weren’t expecting? 

I had spoken to Lara a couple times before I left and I felt pretty prepared about what to expect before arriving in Peru. When I did arrive she had a schedule out for all of the volunteers who participate, or I guess facilitate all of the workshops and I was mostly just included in their normal schedule to observe where they’d be on a day to day basis so I could film and take photographs.

I was mostly taken back by how amazing the organization really was in terms of the other volunteers being so welcoming and friendly, and how organized everything was. The community was also very open and had a lot of warmth and friendliness to offer.

What was your favourite thing about the project? 

There are so many wonderful things about the trip that it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing. Out of all the work that I did, in terms of interviewing people in the community and meeting the ones in the programs, I really enjoyed meeting and hearing the stories from the artisan women. I thought it was so beautiful to hear their stories and I was amazed at how they opened up to me and invited me into their homes were they live and also work. I mean, their work takes up half of their homes and they work extremely hard for everything they have and are so grateful. I felt lucky to be given their kindness.

I also really enjoyed the whole atmosphere and even terrain of the community, how the houses rode all up along the mountains, the eye catching colours that they were painted. I loved being there and experiencing the different culture, it’s fun when you’re travelling somewhere and humbling to see how people live.

Ceramics Project: Pinch Pots and Tiger

Past week the kids in Zone D had a messy yet fun day in the art class. Jessica, our art teacher introduced them to ceramics. The kids began with kneading and squeezing their share of wet clay between their fingers.

Ceramic tiger

After rolling and folding the clay back into itself several times it was the time to pinch small workable chunks which they rolled on the table or the palm of their hands in circular motion to make bead rounds or pinch pots. They skewered these bead rounds on a stick and then pulled the skewer out.

Some kids went on to making clay dices, plates, bowls, lamps, even a snake in a basket and a tiger! Once their clay creations were dry and sturdy, they painted them in all sorts of bright colors. Who knows if the pinch pots necklaces remain their most cherished piece of jewelry for years to come.


Pinching in Progress


Proud Artist


A Ceramic Spin Top

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Ceramic Class

Ceramic Class


Ceramic Dices Display


Pinch Beads and Probably a Snake in a Basket :)


A Fashion Forward Ceramic Tiger with Polka Dot Hand Bag


Painted Pinch Bead Necklace

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Artist of the month: Angelo

Angelo is an absolute joy to have in class. He is filled with curiosity and is always deeply engaged in his art work. “Miss!” he says excitedly as he calls me over to look at his newest creation, usually involving a fire breathing dragon or some other fantastical beast. Whereas some children at his age need a lot of guidance, Angelo isn’t afraid to explore his creative ideas on his own. To top it off, Angelo always stays late to clean up after the havoc that has been wreaked by a classroom filled with 20 energetic students!

Artist of the month: Angelo

Artist of the month: Angelo

Art Volunteer Needed!

We are in need of an art volunteer from June 17th and onwards. Minimum 4 week stay is required.You’ll be given the reigns of our art program, allowing you to design and develop the program during your time with LLI. PLUS, there’s an opportunity to work with our Women’s Empowerment program aiding in the design of products and textiles.

Spanish is a major plus, but not necessary– just a willingness to learn. We’ve had plenty of art interns who have not spoken spanish, but were willing to learn “art vocabulary” and did very well!

Visit our website and Learn more about this position.


A fun and safe place to be creative, LLI’s art classes are offered at least once a week in all zones and work with kids ages 6 and up.

Program Goals

  • Stimulate the imagination and encourage creativity
  • Explore the use of different mediums
  • Build self-confidence and self-awareness
  • Increase awareness of the arts in different cultures and throughout history
  • Provide safe and productive learning environment for students after school and/or on the weekends and evenings.
  • Promote intercultural exchange between our students and volunteer teachers


Zach with Zone S kiddos

Volunteer Spotlight: Zach

Meet Zach, 25 years old and carpenter by trade he’s a down to earth, diligent and deft young man from Boston, Massachusetts. Zach joined LLI about three months ago, and has been volunteering as an English teacher as well as assisting in teaching chess, art class, sports, and reading program. When asked about his favorite thing about teaching kids: Helping a student figure out something they’re having a hard time with and seeing their face light up when it finally clicks. I truly enjoy the sense of humor of the students as well even the very young ones, joking around and laughing with them is a wonderful feeling.


LLI: What inspired you to volunteer in Huaycan?

Zach: Volunteering abroad is something that I’ve wanted to do for a number of years. To have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life and to help them have some opportunities that they may not otherwise have had the privilege to have is a wonderful feeling for me. I’ve always enjoyed spending time with kids and the Latin American culture is something that’s always been interesting to me. So when I came across light and leadership initiative during my online research for volunteering opportunities it seems like a perfect fit.


LLI: What activities do you enjoy the most while volunteering for LLI?

 Zach: My time spent here at LLI has been truly amazing. The thing that I enjoy most is definitely spending time with the kids. They are so incredibly appreciative, caring, loving, energetic and enthusiastic. They’re almost always smiling and the feeling that I getwhen they run up to me to give me a hug is more than I can explain with words. It’s so great to be able to spend enough time with these kids to get to no their individual little quirks and personalities. Each one is truly an individual.  In addition to the amazing students it’s it is a privilege to live with such a great group of volunteers and I feel that I’ve made some true friends in this process. I’ve also been impressed with how well this organization is run. We are able to work as a team to solve problems and continuously move forward.


Somethings that are at the top of my list include; playing sports with the kids before English class especially when they get really into the game. Helping a student figure out something they’re having a hard time with and seeing their face light up when it finally clicks. I truly enjoy the sense of humor of the students as well even the very young ones, joking around and laughing with them is a wonderful feeling. And like I mentioned earlier getting to know the individual personalities of these children and gaining an appreciation for their little quirks and the things that make them unique is extremely enjoyable to me.

LLI: Plans after LLI?

Zach: After I finish volunteering with LLI I plan on spending some more time traveling in Peru before I head back to the states to resume my job as a carpenter.


LLI: Message to future volunteers?

Zach: To anyone thinking about volunteering abroad, I can’t say enough about the experience that I’ve had so far with the light and leadership initiative. I truly feel that this is an organization that makes a difference in the lives of the children and the families of Huaycan and I feel truly privileged to be a part of it. If you put your heart into it it will no doubt be a life changing experience.


LLI: Any travel/volunteering/teaching tip for future volunteers.

Zach: My best advice to future volunteers in terms of traveling would be to take advantage of every opportunity you have to do or see something new here. You likely won’t be disappointed. As far as teaching and volunteering goes, the more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it. You have the opportunity to build a real relationships with these children it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.


It’s been smashing having you here with us, Zach. You’ll always have friends at LLI and we wish you success in everything :)

Spring Craft & Vendor Show

This Saturday, March 21st, we’ll be at the Hinsdale South Craft Show with the handmade goods from the impeccable artisan women of LLI. This time the range of our products is greater and better than ever before: handmade woolen socks,leg warmers, caps, handbags, shoulder bags, bag packs, cell phone cases, infinity scarves, long lush handwoven scarves, shawls, toys and more. Years of experience, hours of hard work and ton of love has gone into making each of these items by hands, and they’ll brighten anyone’s day. Come over and get some for yourself and your loved ones.

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Where: Hinsdale South High School Cafeteria, 7401 Clarendon Hills Road, Darien IL 60561

When: Saturday, March 21, 2015

Admission: $1/adult; Under 18-Free

The Beat Night

The March 19 Beat Night is turning sixteen and there’s going to be a fundraiser for The Light and Leadership Initiative. All funds raised go to assist our Reading and Art programs.

beat night bday promo

Beat Night is a poetry reading held every 3rd Thursday of the month at 7pm upstairs at the Press Room in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

What sets Beat night apart is that the writers get to read with a full band. They give a few words about the tone, style or mood they want for their piece and the band improvises something just for that. The results range from fun to amazing.

Beat Night is a mutual exchange of inspiration between the writer the band and the audience and it’s never the same thing twice.

Come over and  listen to sixteen of Beat Night’s most infamous poets and the Beat Night Band. We promise it’ll be a spectacular night.

There will be CDs, books, Beat Night merch and raffle prizes from smashing places around town. So hop over to celebrate for a good cause!

All the proceeds from the evening will be donated to the Light and Leadership Initiative and help us improve our Reading and Art programs.

If you can’t make it to The Press Room on March 19th for our fundraiser, please consider making a donation on our Indiegogo page

at 6:00pm in EDT
The Press Room :77 Daniel St, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801
Night of Action Poetry

Night of Action Poetry at Teen Center

Saturday night at the teen center was special. It was the teens and Acción Poetica en Huaycán, which means teens and action poetry in Huaycan.

Recently the new mayor of the capital of Peru has ordered the elimination of all public murals from the historical center. There has been quite a kerfuffle in the public, artist and author communities condemning this decision.

10998827_10206375299125080_638889555468176541_oThe teens participated with fierce enthusiasm, reading out loud the works of Peruvian authors. They emphasized the spirit of protest against mayor’s decision from famous Peruvian authors and artists through engaging presentations. Afterwards they picked phrases from the presentation and displayed them on the wall. Then they picked two phrases from the wall and put them together creating emotionally charged slogans which they then painted on the wall.

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Do you think this decision to paint over public murals will make Lima ‘proper’ or ‘poor’?