Meet our resilient women III: Olinda

Why do you need to put on pause your weekly coffee this month and support female entrepreneur’s education in Huaycan?

Meet our resilient women: Olinda

Today we want you to meet Olinda, she has been a women’s program participant since 2017 and also won the first prize of the Mujeres Emprendedoras competition in 2019 with her business proposal: Insectivida, her brand of insect repellents, created by herself. 

Olinda joined LLI looking forward to meeting other women, have a space to relax, and continue learning.

“I found myself a single mother and It was hard at first. LLI allowed me to reconnect with myself and continue learning things”.

Olinda really enjoyed our yoga classes and the self-confidence workshops. And actually, when she started the Mujeres Emprendedoras course she just wanted to continue her education but wasn’t really thinking about starting her own business.

“I wasn’t confident enough in myself. I did an eight-month gardening course before because I love plants, but I’ve never thought of going further. When the teachers asked me about my business proposal I didn’t even know where to start”

After some guidance and multiple conversations with our team of teachers, Olinda decided to focus on her gardening skills.

“As I said, I love plants and I have even studied a few semesters at the Agrarian University many years ago. So when I mentioned to the teachers about the homemade insect repellent I prepare I realized that was what I wanted to focus on”

Olinda had previous experience with gardening and even though she hadn’t the opportunity to finish her studies, she continued to learn about plants and gardening through the years. Her insect repellent was very efficient so she started to create and design her own brand during the course and by the end of it, she started selling her product: insectivida.

“I used to go to the markets and sell the product in the street.”, she tells us, however when the pandemic hit Peru Olinda had to put her business on pause. 

“It was very hard at first. I couldn’t accomplish any of my goals for 2020, couldn’t travel either to visit my mother. I was depressed so I had no energy to continue my brand. It wasn’t until July that I decided to re-focus on creating new products for the future.”

Olinda created a whole series of new products and she even started composting at her house. She would go to nearby markets and collect organic waste. Then she made compost with them and she expects to be selling the resulting new products by the end of this month. 

“I have plans for this 2021, I want to open a virtual shop and start working from home. I’ve been guiding some friends with their plants and teaching them how to start doing their homemade compost. I want to reactivate my business.”

When we asked Olinda what LLI had taught her she said: “LLI has changed my life in so many ways. I started taking care of myself. I’ve learned that I am enough and I can do whatever I want to if I persevere. I even created my own brand”. 

She was so happy to hear that the women’s program has plans to reopen by the end of the year, “LLI brought my light” she said to us, and she is ready to learn all about digital marketing this time! 

“This time I don’t want to be just a student, I also want to share all that I have learned with my colleagues and with the kids and teens from the others programs”

Do you need any more reasons to skip your coffee today and support women’s education tomorrow? 

Join our cause and support women like Olinda…Donate now!!!!!

Meet our resilient women II: Hermelinda

Why do you need to put on pause your weekly coffee this month and support female entrepreneur’s education in Huaycan?

Meet our resilient women: Hermelinda

Hermelinda was born and raised in Lima. She studied computation but she has always been passionate about event decoration so while she was pregnant with her son Mathius she decided to start studying to become an event decorator at the Huaycan’s Municipality learning annex.

“I’ve always liked handcraft since I was a kid. So when I found out the municipality was facilitating event decoration courses for just one sol in Huaycan, I was very happy!”

She started with the basics, decorating her friends’ parties for free. But she was good, she was actually very good at it and people started calling her. 

After around three years with Festi Mathius, her event decoration entrepreneur business, she found out about LLI’s Women’s Program courses in 2019 through social media. 

“I was the last participant to register and I was shocked that it was all for free. I think it was destiny I was part of this course because as I said I took the last spot”

Despite having been leading her business for three years, Hermelinda didn’t have any previous experience or knowledge of finances or marketing. She managed all her entrepreneurship through social media but still felt that she had a lot more to learn and this is why she enrolled in our Mujeres Emprendedoras course. 

“I learned a lot”, she said during the interview, “I didn’t know anything about business plans or budgeting before. I didn’t even know how to save money and be prepared for the future. I now understand how to manage my business in a more efficient way and it clearly had a direct impact on Festi Mathius”

When Hermelinda won the second prize of our Mujeres Emprendedoras competition last 2019 she was planning on getting her own physical shop in Huaycan. However, the Covid quarantine hit Huaycan and she had to reevaluate her situation. 

“We had to close for a while, my husband wasn’t working. It was hard. But with the savings from Festi Mathius, we survived. I also decided I was going to use that time to reinvent myself and add new things to my business. I took online classes and start practicing for the future”

Luckily by August, the quarantine measures were softened down and she could reopen. 

“The quarantine allowed me to do things I have never done before, for example, I opened my own bank account to managed my sales online”

Hermelinda’s business continued during the crisis and she managed to overcome and adapt to the situation. She even found a way to learn from it and improve her business. 

“I’ve created new packages, promotions to set your own decoration at home… I did a lot of things!”

Festi Mathius is now Hermelinda’s family’s main income source. She welcomes any possibility for continuing her studies and joining us in a new women’s program course to improve her online presence and acquire new skills. 

“This has been my dream for 5 years. I love my job.”

Do you still wonder why you need to skip your coffee today and support women’s education tomorrow??

Support women like Hermelinda and join our cause now!!

Meet our resilient women I: Nelly

Why do you need to put on pause your weekly coffee this month and support female entrepreneur’s education in Huaycán?

Meet our resilient women: Nelly

Nelly was a Women’s program participant back in 2019 and won our annual competition of Mujeres emprendedoras which consisted of the presentation of the different business proposals of each of our participants and the evaluation of them by an expert jury.

For those who don’t know her yet, Nelly has college studies and was a teacher many years ago. 

However, Nelly faced very serious health issues and had to stop working and focus on herself and her wellness. Her condition didn’t allow her to go back to teaching but after years of ups and downs, Nelly decided to step ahead and start working again, this time in her own business. 

It was a very small project at first and she had a lot of doubts but her family had her back and thanks to their support Nelly opened Kids To Play (KTP), a space for kids to play while learning located in Huaycán. 

“It has been the most enriching experience. It felt like living my dream, it just felt right. I saw myself growing along with the kids that came to KTP every week. We learned together”

Simultaneously, Nelly started to attend our Women’s Program Financial course. She studied to be a teacher so she wasn’t actually familiar with most finances concepts and marketing strategies. 

“The teachers introduced us to a world of possibilities. I was learning at LLI and using all those things in my own business at the same time”

Nelly talked about her first months as an entrepreneur as they were the great beginning of a longlife trip. After winning our annual competition, she planned to use the prize to implement new projects and improve the infrastructure, however, only 3 months later the COVID crisis hit Peru and the quarantines started. 

“I had to put on hold my business and it’s been a year now since we closed. We opened for a few days in January, but it was very hard and I can’t expose myself.”

“I’m not planning on giving up”, she continues, “I want to wait and see if we can open again. This is my dream. I want to give it a chance”.

Other female entrepreneurs in Huaycan had to reinvent themselves and even change their business. But that is not for Nelly, at least for now. 

“I’m open to continue learning and adapting my business. I would definitely take a LLI course that would help me to improve my business.”

Even though Nelly hasn’t been able to work she has been supporting her daughter’s little entrepreneurial initiative. Johana is only 11 but she decided during quarantine that it was time to start saving for her graduation. She is now editing videos through her phone for a little charge. No wonder the entrepreneurial spirit runs in the family

When we asked Nelly what she learned from our Women’s Program she said it helped her open many doors.

“I started my business from my point of view. I was in my own world. LLI helped me to take perspective and see things from a different point of view”

Today, Nelly assures she would love to study again with LLI. 

Would like to to support women like Nelly and help our fundraising “Skip your coffee today and support women’s education tomorrow”?

We invite you to join our cause and support women like Nelly now!

Donate now! And share our fundraising with your family and friends!

It’s time to support female entrepreneurs in Huaycan AGAIN!

Skip your coffee today and support women’s education tomorrow!

Did you know more than 40% of entrepreneurial businesses in Peru are led by women? 

Yes, you read well. In Peru, more than 1,480,000 businesses are led by female entrepreneurs. This is a very shocking number if we refer to the bigger picture, where 70% of women in Peru had an informal job and only 16% of women over 15 years old have access to higher education. 

In fact, even though almost 35% of Peruvian households are led by a woman, only around 64% of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 are enrolled in school. 

So basically, Peru is full of powerful women who have taken charge of their households and businesses. Despite not having all the necessary resources or access to formal education, have taken a risk and started a business. Learning as they go on their own. 

This is why three years ago LLI started Mujeres Emprendedoras, a six-month free financial course for female entrepreneurs in Huaycan. The program is focused on providing our participants with basic financial knowledge on budgeting, marketing strategies, self-confidence, sales, and much more. 

Why? Huaycan has many women who independently begin their own businesses, especially when they had no employment opportunities, became mothers, or maybe even finally pursue their own dreams, and It’s time to pay attention to them and help them achieve their goals. 

These unprecedented times have deeply affected our Women’s Program, which has been on hold for a long time. However, once again, women in Huaycan are showing how resilient they are by initiating or reinventing their businesses during the quarantine. We think it’s about time to give them a hand and provide them with new tools to overcome their difficulties. 

This is why we are launching our fundraising campaign: Skip your coffee today and support women’s education tomorrow. Which will take place during the whole month of March, which is women’s history month. We need to celebrate and visibilize Huaycan female entrepreneur stories and struggles. 

Our goal is to fundraise a total of $1,000 to fund two six weeks courses on financial basics and digital marketing. To do this, we need YOUR support!

Are you wondering how you can help?

Well, you literally just need to skip one coffee a week and donate that amount to our cause and encourage your family and friends to do the same. 

If we can put a pause in our weekly Grande Caffe Mocha at Starbucks for one month, we will be able to save around $20. If you ask 4 friends to join you, that would be $60. If your friends also ask 4 friends, that is more than $150, which is more than a third of the total amount!!! 

For us, March will be all about letting you know of the impact our women’s program has made throughout the years. To help us, former participants will be sharing their very own experiences.

For you, March will be about supporting a very important cause. You can do this just by skipping one coffee a week. Please also encourage family or friends to join the fun!

Because the truth is that education can no longer be postponed. The women of Huaycan have waited too long! It is time for them to pursue their dreams and learn how to accomplish this during a pandemic.

Donate now, share our fundraising and help us get our goal by the end of the month!

Want to host your own fundraising for our Women’s Program? 

Setting a Facebook Online Fundraising is a super easy and convenient way to help us fundraise for our educational programs. You just need to go to your Facebook settings, click on Fundraising and add your own Fundraising event. Make sure to choose The Light and Leadership Initiative and set your goal. Done! Now you are helping us raise funds for our WP!

Have any questions? Need any help? Email us at cdm@lightandleadership.org

5 things LLI achieved during 2020

January is usually a month to reflect on what we have overcome this past year. It is time to evaluate our performance, determine what worked and what didn’t, assess the new needs of the community we serve, and strategize how to adapt to them in a better way the following year. 

This process is long and requires a lot of deep self reflection. It’s important to be critical,  also acknowledge all the progress that has been made. Sometimes recognizing our mistakes is a lot easier than celebrating our victories. 

This is why we want to talk about what we’ve achieved during 2020, because even though our organization was deeply affected by the current health crisis, progress was made and we managed to keep providing high quality educational opportunities to our community, even if we did it at a smaller scale.

So today we want to tell you about 5 things we achieved in 2020 that we are proud of:

  1. First of all and more importantly: We made it through a global crisis. Many things have been put on hold and we have had to make a lot of concessions, however, today we can safely say that we survived 2020 and are ready to face 2021. Our supporters had a key role in this big achievement and we are eternally thankful to and for them. 
  2. In 2020 we were able to reach 375 youth through our children and teen program’s summer session and our Online Kids Program, which basically means we almost kept 90% of our capacity compared to 2019. Pretty impressive if we keep in mind our team was reduced by 70% in 2020.
  3. We received the largest number of donations of LLI’s history! And this is also one of the biggest achievements during the last year. Let’s look at the numbers. In 2020, 627 donations were made to LLI compared to the 449 that were made in 2019. In only four years, LLI has quadrupled the number of donations received every year. And that means everything to us, because it shows that we can definitely count on you and that every year more and more people believe that #educationiseverything.  LLI is honored that our supporters trust us as an organization that provides quality educational services and that will continue bringing education to Huaycan, despite the hard times! 
  4. We built an international team of remote volunteers who helped us continue operating in Huaycan. 17 people from all around the world volunteered remotely with LLI in 2020 in Huaywasi, Educational Programs, Communications and Marketing. Even though we couldn’t meet in the office, all 17 of them are now family and we don’t know how we would have done without them.  
  5. We welcomed 8 new Alpaca Club members. Our Alpaca Club is our group of recurring donors, amazing individuals and organizations who either make an annual pledge to LLI of  $1,000, or more or a monthly donation of any amount. We always celebrate any addition to our Alpaca Club so, if you haven’t joined yet, you’re more than welcome to join during 2021. That is definitely a reason to celebrate even more. We now have 27 monthly and annual donors! Want to help us get to 30? Be part of our Alpaca Club!

We know any achievement, doesn’t matter how big or little, is cause for celebration. So, THANK YOU for being by our side. We are proud to have you as a supporter of our mission. 

Now is the time to think about our goals for 2021. We are sure it will also be challenging and uncertainty won’t end tomorrow.  We’ve learned to be resilient and we will continue to adapt our work to the needs of our community, because education can no longer be postponed. 

Keep calm and be resilient!

Do you know what is called  the ability to overcome obstacles?

It’s called RESILIENCE.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, this concept refers to “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. after going through a difficult or hard experience”.

Both success and happiness are broad and highly subjective terms. That is why we want to go a little bit further and show everyone that we all are incredibly resilient, and that the global circumstances will not tear us down.

At LLI we know that we can continue to move forward thanks to the support we receive every day from our amazing community of donors, volunteers, and supporters. Our words of gratitude will never be enough. But nevertheless, THANK YOU. Without YOU, the ability to continue helping our families in Huaycán would have been minimal. Thank you for showing us that, despite difficulties, unity and solidarity always win.

The Spanish psychologist and psychotherapist Rosario Linares reveals that the first person to ever bring in the concept of “RESILIENCE” was Boris Cyrulnik in his bestseller “Ugly Ducklings”. As a professional, she names 12 habits/characteristics that help us know if we are resilient:

  1. Knowing our own capabilities.
  2. Being creative.
  3. Having self-confidence.
  4. Taking difficulties as lessons.
  5. Practicing mindfulness.
  6. Looking at life objectively, yet through a positive prism.
  7. Surrounding ourselves with people that are positive.
  8. Having the ability to control emotions, and not situations.
  9. Being flexible towards possible changes.
  10. Being tenacious in our goals.
  11. Facing adversity with humor.
  12. Seeking help from others and social support.

The Light and Leadership Initiative has done its utmost to adapt to this situation that we all have to experience. We are achieving this thanks to your constant support. Even so, the process has not been easy but after rethinking and restarting projects, we have been able to take the first steps in recovering and, in the near future, rebuilding.

What Resilience Looks Like at LLI

Our Kids Program keeps growing!

We have managed to continue supporting our youngest participants in their academic activities. Thanks to the dedication of our colleagues, we are sending children short videos and providing them with online resources that allow them to continue enhancing their educational development. At LLI, we’ve managed to monitor our kids’ academic growth while integrating their home environment into this dynamic. Moreover, the goal of our academic support activities is to strengthen  their ties with their parents and to promote that all members in their family do these activities together. Not only that, but also LLI takes care of providing the resources and materials that families lack in order to avoid their formal education to stop by all means. We strongly look forward to the students’ homes becoming their educational space now that circumstances have forced the schools to stay closed. 

Teens keep interacting and we haven’t lost contact with them!

We will not stop working on rebuilding what we had created with our youth. The space we provided them before the pandemic was not only a center where they could carry out extracurricular activities and receive reinforcement classes, but also a place where young people developed their sociability, and created community by interacting with each other.

Despite the difficulties in reconstructing our Teen Program, our colleague Yara came up with the perfect idea that she was finally able to launch on July 22nd. The initiative consisted of an online platform where our young people do not only interact with each other, but also receive English, painting, and Excel classes, … Forty teens are already interacting, and that is incredibly exciting for us!

Home officing is also fun and productive!

Although our international volunteers returned to their countries due to the crisis, in the last few months the LLI team has managed to reassemble and has now ten volunteers and seven interns who work remotely from their own homes. LLI took also the necessary precautions such as postponing all work-related travel and canceling the in-person component since April. Fortunately, our daily operations were not fully canceled or were disrupted to the same extent as other organizations because of this new global team. We want to thank our volunteers and interns for getting involved in LLI so deeply so fast. Due to their commitment, we are achieving so much for Huaywasi, our fair trade brand, and in the field, for our Educational Programs. 

Getting funds is difficult but you’ve always had our back!

Our fair trade brand, Huaywasi, has been truly affected by the health crisis. Despite the on-site production had to stop temporarily the Huaywasi team was able to continue with online saleswith what they managed to finish before the arrival of Covid-19. Luckily, once the quarantine was over, they were able to slowly get back to work. Keep an eye on Huaywasi as they have surprises to come!

On the other hand, our Chicago gala that we organize every year was not going to be able to happen. But once again, it happened thanks to all those who donated in our online gala! We are also more resilient thanks to those who have contributed to the fundraiser we launched due to the Coronavirus .

We will never be able to thank you enough.

For you and our families, we will continue working as hard as possible. Although Lara and Emma, two of our pillars, had to depart from LLI, their firm leadership and work led us to many changes, Maria, our new Executive Director who joined us a few months ago works now hand in hand and non-stop with Yeni, our Educational Programs Manager; and Irene, our Communication and Development Manager. And of course Queta! Who after almost 12 years is still taking care of our organization in Huaycan as well. Despite doing it remotely, they put all their best efforts and dedication into achieving results at LLI in the short term while strategizing for the future. All four are the spitting image of resilient women. 

What’s Next?

Christmas is coming and we will continue being resilient in order to keep and hold our traditional Holiday Event with our families in a different way. 

Also we are preparing for 2021 and adapting our programs to the new reality we are living in Huaycan. 

Soon we will be fundraising to achieve all that, as every year, and again we will need your help. 

There is nothing more motivating and solid than a resilient community, and that is what we want to achieve at LLI, together, with each one of you. Don’t be afraid if you think you don’t practice those 12 habits yet. Rosario Linares assures that resilience contains a tiny percentage of genetics. Most of all, Resilience should be developed, resilience is made. 

Do you dare to join us in not letting any obstacle knock us down?

LLI Self Assessment- Are We an Anti-Racist Organization?

Who Are We?

As you probably already know, The Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI) is an American-Peruvian organization focused on providing high quality educational opportunities to the Huaycan community. 

LLI’s mission is to respond to the needs of women in Huaycan, Lima,and their struggle out of poverty by improving the availability and quality of education offered to women and children. We’ve been offering after school and weekend programs since 2009, reaching over 400 participants annually.

LLI is based in Chicago, Illinois, United States, serving the developing community of Huaycan, on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Our Executive Director, Program Directors and teaching staff and teaching volunteers work in Peru, but we have additional volunteers in both the US and Peru. The members of the Board reside in the US. 

Previously, the racial composition of our Peru team was  two women (white) from America serving as high management staff members; six Peruvian staff members with two of them in management positions; and we also had two other management positions which employed an American (white) and a Spanish woman. All of our employed teachers are Peruvian and most of our volunteers either in management or teaching positions are white (and mostly Americans).

The COVID-19 situation affected our organization deeply and forced us to adjust to the new situation, coinciding as well, with other changes that were planned for this time of the year and that have also affected our organization. The result is a new team, made up of only three managers, two of them Peruvian. All women.

What Racism Looks Like in Peru?

Afro-Peruvian communities and Indigenous people 

Peru is a very diverse country. According to the INEI, the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics in Peru, in 2017 60% of its population identify themselves as mestizo, more than 25% will define themselves as indigenous (including quechuas, aymaras, ashaninkas, awajun and others)  and 3.6% see themselves as Afro-Peruvian.

Only 5.9% of the population consider themselves white. 

Despite the diversity that characterizes this country, Peru is still based on a deeply racist and classist system that systematically punishes the indigenous and Afro-Peruvian population for being different. Even though it is a very important part of its culture, heritage and history.

The indigenous organization Chirapaq  focuses on the affirmation of cultural identity and the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples, and said the study done in 2017 on ethnic groups really hid a much more complex reality. According to Chirapaq, 70% of the Peruvian population is actually indigenous. However, a large part of this group will recognize themselves as mestizos as a result of the racism that exists in the country.

That being said, another study by the IPSOS consultancy, determined that despite 53% of the population considering Peru to be a “very racist” country, only 8% identified themselves as racist.

But where does this all come from?

The racist structures that affect Peru have been inherited from the colonial system that still persists in Peruvian culture and society. The idea of the indigenous and black people to be inferior, less educated or even dangerous still persists in the contemporary imagination of Peruvians. This reflects directly on these communities day to day, in their economy, their social position and even sometimes, in their safety. 

In 1971, Peru ratified the International Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination but was not until 2000 that discrimination was considered a crime by the law. Racism is still very present, especially in (or against) communities like Huaycan.

Are We an Anti-Racist Organization?

Easier to say than to be done- from our mission to our organizational reality. How we fail to be an active anti-racist organization.

The recent events taking place all over the United States made us realize that we can’t just sit down and wait for a change. We’ve listened, we’ve learned and now it’s time to do something about it. 

Fighting racism as an organization makes no sense if we can’t avoid that kind of injustice in our own working place, and this is why we decided to self-assess LLI. 

We found plenty of free online tools to help us through the process, if you want to check the assessment rubric that we specifically used you can find it here. You can also find multiple resources in the National Juvenile Justice Network website.

A couple of months ago our whole team of Board of Directors and Managers completed anonymously this self-assessment to analyze and understand our organizational reality and how we could improve. 

The main goal was to identify those areas where we still need to work and create an action plan.  If you want to know how this process will look like, subscribe to our blog and make sure you keep an eye on our future posts. 

How Are We Committed to Improvement?

Self-organizational audits

As we mentioned,  our Board of Directors and Managers completed a self-audit and have committed to making concrete changes over the course of the next year(s).

Being accountable to the community we work for

At LLI we are very conscious of the impact of our work, and who are we actually working for: The Huaycan community. This is why we are constantly looking for ways to include the community voice and our participants’ needs/interests/suggestions in our programs as well as providing awareness of our organization’s progress and be an active part of it. Right now we do that through:

  • Community forums. Once a year we host a community forum to share our progress and finances with the community. This meeting is an act of transparency and an opportunity to collect our community opinion and needs for future changes. 
  • Surveys. We use surveys to collect our participants and participants’ families’ opinion on our educational programs. We give them away every cycle and we have a system to support those members of the family who have difficulties reading or writing to make sure we also include their opinion.

Throughout the self-assessment we realized that this is not enough and that we could be doing a lot more. This is why we committed to start translating all of our materials to both languages, English and Spanish; we will be more consistent with surveys and feedback meetings regarding program opportunities and choices, and we will share the results for both beneficiaries and supporters to see.

Representation matters! 

And this is why we will keep working in our Local Volunteer Program which has grown a lot in the past two years. We are very proud to say that last year our local volunteers team donated 838 hours of their time to support LLI’s education program. 

We truly believe in the potential of this program and the amount of benefit of having local volunteers in our classrooms, in our management meetings and being part of our decision making process. This is why we’ve committed ourselves to keep developing this program to be as strong and successful as our International Volunteer Program. 

If you want to learn more about our LVP and why we think is so important, you can also read our past blog 2020 goal: sustainability, where we talk about local voluntarism and its impact. 

Actively seeking diversity in our positions: Inclusion is not enough 

Even though after seeing the self-assessment we can say we are an inclusive organization, at LLI we think this is not enough. We need to actively seek diversity in our positions, including staff, teachers, volunteers and board members. 

This might be one of the biggest challenges that we are facing right now, but we are doing our best effort to come up with some strategies to be implemented in the next year or so. 

The conversation is still open, and we are still learning.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any suggestions on this matter. 

Civic reflection as a tool to analyze our organization

As you might already know, we have launched a series of civic reflection discussions to keep talking and self-reflecting about important issues that affect our society. 

We already facilitated 4 sessions in English and Spanish for our former volunteers and other individuals that want to critically think and question themselves in the community. 

So far it’s been a very interesting process and we are very proud to say that all the sessions have been a complete success. 

We will be posting more information soon about the coming sessions, led by an amazing team of former managers and volunteers. We are very excited!

How we include anti-racism into our educational curricula  S/B CURRICULA

Including anti-racism practices in our educational curricula will also be a big challenge. 

Racist structures affect every aspect of society in Peru, un-learning them isn’t easy and this is why the role of the teachers and volunteers at LLI is key to this process. 

Our curricula are based on equality values, regarding race, gender, religion… We work with a very diverse community and we love it. This is why we want our classrooms to be a safe space for everyone. 

If you want to help us make a difference and create that kind of space where kids and teens and women  can learn about justice, equality, diversity, inclusion, and ANTI-RACISM, join our team! Become a volunteer next 2021!

¿Y ahora qué?

Since July we have been working on our implementation plan. Coronavirus might be affecting our rhythm but definitely not our mission. 

We have so much to do as an organization, but we are committed to continue educating ourselves. We understand this is a continuous process of self-reflection and we are making sure we have the spaces in our organization to do so. 

If you want to help us or know of any tools or materials that could possibly facilitate this unlearning and growing process, please, don’t hesitate to contact us. Email us to cdm@lightandleadership.org

What about the Teen Program?

As you might know, COVID really forced the pace of change at LLI.

We had to let go of our volunteers and managers, our programs had to be completely closed down and our executive team had to focus on restructuring and making a new plan to help our organization survive these difficult times. 

So far, we’ve made it! And mostly thanks to you, our supporters. Thanks to your help we’ve managed to continue our work even during a pandemic. ¡Gracias!

Obviously in order to continue our mission in Huaycan we had to make a lot of difficult decisions. One of them was to put on hold our Teen Program. 

Due to the restructure we won’t be able to set up an online program to accompany our teens participants during the quarantine period. But again, you always manage to amaze us! 

Jóvenes de Huaycán

Yara, one of our former Teen Program Managers, contacted us. She was worried that the relationship we have built among our teens and volunteers might be deeply affected by coronavirus if we didn’t do anything about it despite the limitations and restrictions still in place due to the pandemic.

You need to understand that the essence of our Teen Program is the space we shared with them. A space they’ve worked really hard on to make theirs. A space not just to interact with us, LLI, but also to disconnect and reconnect with other teens. Without our Teen Center it feels like there is not much to do, and our teens might feel they don’t have where to go anymore. 

This is why Yara came up with the idea of creating something similar to our Teen Center but through an online platform to keep them and their families safe. In her own words, this space is for them to learn how to manage their own resources, a space to interact and keep learning and connecting even during COVID times.    

The group was created on July 22 and so far 40 teens have registered and are interacting through it. They’ve had english classes led by Yara, but also drawing sessions with Samantha – a former teen and now a local volunteer-, classes on how to use Excel and much more. 

“This is also a space for all those teens who already graduated, but still have something to bring to the Teens Program. They are learning to manage their own resources, I want them to be able to lead the group without my help at some point”

The group’s name is “Jóvenes de Huaycán” and it’s open to every single teen in Huaycan who needs a place to go to have fun, to meet other teens, to keep learning. 

What about their formal education?

Even though we are not under such strict quarantine now, high schools remain closed and the government just reinstated total lockdown on Sundays. Most of the schools are trying to continue with their students’ education through online platforms -Whatsapp, Facebook, Zoom…

This pandemic is definitely going to affect a lot of teens who were getting ready for college, and those who need more support with their education. 

At LLI we are very aware of this and even though our organization is not meant to take over the high school’s job, we plan in the future to start  working on some alliances to support our participants in their formal education. 

Even though we won’t have the capacity to start an online teen program for our participants, we would like to help our students connect to other groups and find other resources for them to continue their education. This is why LLI is talking with two different local associations which are focused on providing extra educational support to the peruvian youth and helping them prepare to enter university. 

What can I do to help?

If you want to support Jóvenes de Huaycán, and perhaps lead a session or two for the teens in Huaycan, contact us!

You can email us to vcm@lightandleadership.org and we will put you in touch with them!

Learnings and thoughts about our Online Kids Program

The 15th of March the Peruvian Government declared the state of emergency and the quarantine started nationwide. A hundred and six days later, the mandatory lockdown was lifted in most parts of Perú and things have started slowly going back to normal. But not for everyone. 

Kids younger than 15 years old must remain in quarantine and are only allowed to go outside for an hour to exercise or take a walk in the company of at least one adult. 

As you might already know, a few months ago we decided at LLI to keep supporting our participants and families during these difficult times by providing them with educational resources — please read The Challenge of Education During a World Health Crisis to learn more about this. The main goal was not just to keep our children busy and mentally stimulated but also to support their families who have been in charge of their education for several months, sometimes with no time or materials, and mostly with scarce or even without any professional guidance.

On May 14, our online Kids Program officially started, launching a series of 3 classes per week with resources in art, English, science, yoga and reading. Families signed up to be part of it and our Education Manager was in charge of sending the materials every week and also receiving all the kids’ homework and keeping track of their progress. 

Two months later, it is time to evaluate our work and prepare ourselves to continue providing online classes until we can restart our on-site programs. 

Want to see the results? Keep reading!

Let’s check the numbers!!

We have a total of 60 participants who took at least one class per week. Not everyone had the chance to join every class, but 86% of the participants attended our classes at least twice a week.

More than the 50% of our online participants were going to public schools before the quarantine started and 30% of the total received few or any educational materials and support from their school.

Approximately 30% of our participants followed the educational virtual program “Aprendo en Casa”, designed and launched by the peruvian government to continue educating the youth during the lockdown. Even 2% had to follow the classes through radio. 

All of the parents’ participants expressed in the survey their concerns about their children’s education and their interest in continuing it during the quarantine. However not every family had the time, the knowledge or the resources to do so. 

For example, 43% of these families do not have a home library for their kids.

When we asked the families how the Online Kids Program helped them during the quarantine, 33% of them mentioned that LLI’s online classes helped them a lot to learn english. Also 7% stated the classes improved their connection with their kids and helped them to create spaces to learn and do things in family. 

To conclude, the majority of the families affirmed that their kids really enjoyed the materials and 100% of them would sign up for the online kids program again. 

Even though adapting our curriculums to the online format, specifically WhatsApp -which is not a platform created for educational purposes- was a challenge, looking at these numbers now we could safely say it was totally worth it. 

Working with children is very important to us because it is one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, especially in communities like Huaycan with so limited resources. Finding ways to support our participants and their families can be hard sometimes and this is why we will always work tirelessly to find a way to keep accompanying and supporting this community. And  because we believe education is everything.

We are always looking for talented and passionate volunteers to help us with this titanic task, does this sound interesting to you? Details below.

Volunteer with us!

If you value education as much as we do and are interested in supporting LLI, you can always become part of our volunteer team. We are recruiting volunteers for our 2021 programs! Book now your volunteer time with us and help us build our educational programs. 

You can’t come to Peru but you would still like to help? There are many ways to support us from far away!

  1. Become a monthly donor! Join our Alpaca Club and help us continue bringing high quality education opportunities to Huaycan’s community. 
  2. Remote volunteer with us! We are looking for volunteers and interns who can help us from any part of the world.
  3. Shop Huaywasi! By buying Huaywasi you are supporting not just our amazing artisans but also our programs! Have you checked their summer collection??

Why should we keep “Reflecting Civically”?

At LLI, we started facilitating Civic Reflection Discussions (CRD) for our local and international volunteers more than six years ago. We knew -and we know- that the process of ethical volunteerism starts questioning your role as a volunteer and it was our responsibility as an organization to facilitate that process among our team. For us, Civic Reflections were the perfect way to initiate the conversation.

For just about every month over the past several years we met and talked, and shared and felt awkward sometimes, and even may have wondered “What’s the point of all this?”. Then we’d repeat it the next month and the month after, and we will repeat it again and again until our work is done here. We’d slowly gain more perspective on our work at LLI, a stronger understanding of others’ points of view, and a higher understanding of difference.

We realized that CRDs are tools to keep learning and unlearning through community thinking, conversations and, even more importantly, through listening to others.

By this point you might be thinking what the heck is a civic reflection and why are we so obsessed with it. ¡Sigue leyendo!

What is a Civic Reflection Discussion and what is it for?

For us, Civic Reflection Discussions are those spaces we create in and out of LLI to evaluate and critically think about us as an organization and as volunteers working in a foreign country like Peru. 

The purpose is to reflect on civic engagement on a variety of levels and topics. This challenges our staff, volunteers and other community members to examine how we think, why we think the way we do, and what we can change. 

Those spaces are also very important to LLI because they encourage us to self-reflect about our actions and their impact on the Huaycan community. 

However, even though we use civic reflection discussions as a way to continue ethically volunteering in Huaycan, CRD is a lot more than that, and is utilized well beyond LLI. They  are hosted all over the world in different contexts, like schools, businesses, etc and for different reasons, all with the same goal: to get a reflective discussion going among our communities. 

And this is why we think it is an essential tool to confront the current situation we are living in -It doesn’t really matter when you are reading this article.

What Does a Civic Reflection Discussion Look Like?

The discussion in a Civic Reflection can take many forms and all of them are unique somehow. Actually, all CRDs start in the same way: we take a resource or material, read/watch/listen to it together, and discuss it for an hour or so. Plain and simple 

Photo by Maud Bellet

It is very important to understand that CRD must be a safe space for everyone to talk and to be listened to, this means respect and openness are key while being part of the discussion. This definitely does not mean, however, you won’t feel uncomfortable. In fact, feeling uncomfortable is a sign there are ideas that are challenging you to examine and re-examine. But this is all good. This is how unlearning tastes. Also, sometimes you will also feel excited, fulfilled and very empowered. It is important to give you space to feel both.

However, you need to keep in mind that the discussion taking place during CRDs should STRENGTHEN your work in wider society as an advocate, educator, volunteer, student, etc for causes you may choose. This is NOT the actual work -this is an aid in the process.

CRDs are just the beginning and it is up to you what to do next. 

If you want to learn more about Civic Reflection we encourage you to check out the Center for Civic Reflection website.

Online Civic Reflection Discussions

This June, LLI started a series of CRDs in both English and Spanish in light of the recent events going on in the US. The murder of George Floyd by the police and all the protests taking place through the country left us thinking: Where is LLI in all of this? What can we do as an organization largely based in Peru?

We strongly believe in equality and we work to accomplish this within the framework of our organization.  LLI was founded on the basis of helping women in a marginalized community in Peru create more opportunity for themselves and their families. 

Photo by Gioeilli Jesús Trisolini Caceres

Society postponed this conversation for too long, so we thought that we could contribute to the process of justice by encouraging our former volunteers and friends to self-reflect and question themselves through CRDs, a tool that helped us a lot in the past. 

The idea of hosting an online CR was challenging and we didn’t know how many people would be up to join us. We end up facilitating three online CR, and we are happy to say that they were a complete success–and ALL full!

A lot of people signed up for it, former volunteers and other individuals who thought it might be an interesting event. And even though all the discussions were different, 95% of our participants said they would do it again!

It Was Cool but… Why Are We Repeating CRDs?

We realized that online CR is a bigger tool than we originally thought and can transcend borders and thousands of km to create a space for people from all over the world to keep self-examining and challenging others.

Perhaps this is the way to continue ethical volunteering as right now, there are no volunteers physically at LLI? Maybe this is the way we connect ethical volunteers with social responsibility, activism or others avenues?

Creating an international network which provides spaces to talk and critically think about different topics is a great chance to continue the process that we started with our volunteers in Huaycan. To have other individuals join that conversation is the best way to enrich that process and share it with everyone who would like to be part of it. 

CRDs are just the beginning, we would like to contribute to plant the seed. It’s in everyone that joins us hands to water it and help it grow. This is why we are launching another series of CRDs soon! Facilitated by a great team of former volunteers and managers who will help us!

How Can I Get Involved?

By now you should be completely intrigued by this CRDs thing and you are probably wondering how you can be part of this… right?

You can get involved by: 

  • Participating! Join us on the next CRDs You do not need to be a former volunteer or have a direct connection to LLI. We will be posting soon the schedule of the next CRD series through our social media, make sure you follow us on Instagram and Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter
  • Being a facilitator. Facilitators are those people who guide the conversation during CRDs. If you are interested in facilitating an online CRD for us or even in your neighborhood, school, workplace, we can provide you with online training and resources for you to be prepared. Join our team of facilitators and help us spread the conversation. If you are interested, please email us at lara@lightandleadership.org.
  • Share! If the times don’t work for you and you can’t either facilitate or join our CRDs, help us reach other people who would like to be part of this. These CRDs are not exclusive to our former volunteers and we would love to connect with other people out there wanting to “reflect civically” with us.