Building Communication Skills with Improv

If someone were to tell you that playing make-believe can help develop your communication and social skills, you may be skeptical. But at Saturday’s Improvisation Workshop with the women’s program that’s exactly what we did. Improvisation (improv) is a form of theater where the players create scenes and situations on the spot–no script is used and no planning is done beforehand. The actors work collaboratively to create story, action, and dialog in present time as the scene is unfolding. This form of theater is excellent for groups to engage with each other on a whole new level– working in agreement as a team to create something together is key.

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Introducing improv to this group of women was as rewarding as it was fun. They took on each exercise with enthusiasm and a wonderful attitude of spontaneity. Even with a baby strapped to her back, Saida came up with brilliant ideas for different roles she could play. Giggling throughout, the women encouraged each other with each new exercise. By giving the women a space to explore new situations and reminding them there is no bad ideas, they will continue to develop self-confidence as well as their cooperation and communication skills.   

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Written by Arielle Weaver

Special thanks to Ari and Michael for leading the workshop!

Fashion Revolution Week is Upon Us!

Have you heard of Fashion Revolution Week? 

Huaywasi, LLI’s fair trade project which supports seven female artisans and provides sustainable funding to our women’s empowerment program (whoa, that’s a win-win), is proud to participate in Fashion Revolution Week, a week-long event to bring awareness to worker’s conditions in factories (spurred by the devastating Rana Plaza Factory Collapse in April 2013).

FRC Save the Date Flyer

So how is Huaywasi and LLI participating? Wednesday, April 26th we’re headed to an ethical fashion show and pop-up shop, hosted by Columbia College and Chicago Fair Trade, in support of fair wages and safe working conditions for all. Join us at 5:45 PM!

Plus, you can find our posts and followers sharing the #whomademyclothes hashtag, raising awareness of all the amazing men and women working in the industry today. Speaking of which, do you know who made YOUR clothes?

If you happen to have a piece of Huaywasi clothing, you’d know 😉 Or any of our really cool, amazing friends in ethical fashion like MataTraders, CauseGear, Zuri Collection and more! Check out clothing made by Guillermina, Nelida and Elena, Huaywasi artisans and be sure to shop ethically next time you’re in need of new clothing!

Want to know more about Fashion Revolution? They’re up to some pretty amazing things throughout the year, too! Learn more at

“I taught my husband”… Certificate Course Success!

In March, LLI’s women’s program launched a new project: offering 4-8 week certificate courses to women, focusing on a variety of subject matters. The goal: offer women more consistent opportunities to learn, ask questions, and form community among other female students. 

We were lucky to have business pro and long-time LLI volunteer, Marco, lead our first certificate course: an introduction to business. Four classes were offered, all on Saturdays from 5 – 7 PM. At one point, attendance boosted to 21 participants! At the end of the course, women worked in groups to create a business plan, examining the steps from banking to quality control to marketing and presented their business plan to the group.


At the end of the four weeks, six dedicated women received certificates for completing all course work and attending each session.  Four of them were mother daughter pairs, which just made the graduation even sweeter. Marco and his students came together the following week to enjoy a potluck and certificate ceremony and celebration.  One participant, Raida, even made fish causa for everyone, which was the product that her group presented on for the final group project.  We loved it!

The icing on the cake was definitely the feedback from the students, who shared that the course helped them to make future plans to create a business and some cited it helped them sell their products better now in their business. One woman even shared with us that she was able to teach her husband what she learned. Amazing!

And for those of you who are wondering… LLI’s women’s program still continues to offer once a week workshops in addition to computer courses, but the certificate course feedback was so positive, we’re planning another! Next up, Child Nutrition with nutritionist Maria Alejandra! Stay tuned.


Spotlight on Maddie, LLI’s Resident Art Teacher

DSC_0873Our art program now flourishes in both our children’s programs and our teens’ programs. It even makes cameos here and there in our women’s program. It’s always a favorite and popular choice when kids are choosing their schedules and that’s often a direct reflection of our art teachers, like Maddie.

Maddie joined LLI’s team in January of this year and is staying with us until late June. It’s a perfect amount of time for her to build a strong rapport with students and carry out several modules of lesson plans.

Maddie came out to Peru after recently graduating from Spring Arbor University. When asked to tell us a bit about herself, she has a pretty good list of what describes her: she plans to get certified to teach Art and English, she loves to travel, and her Christian faith is the extremely important to her …. and she’s also a serious hula-hooper and grew up in a small town that boasts a nudist colony. Who knew?

Maddie has introduced some pretty amazing art modules in our children’s program, which are a series of connected lesson plans carried out over the span of 4 weeks. When asked about her favorite lesson plan, this is what she shared:

“In February, we did a unit on the genre of fantasy. I love connecting literature to art and I loved the freedom the kids had to be imaginative with these projects. For two weeks we worked on fantasy creature flip-books. Each page had three sections. They drew heads on the top on, bodies in the center, and legs, flippers, tails, or whatever in the third. They could mix the pages to create new fantasy creatures.

The kids were super excited about this project! I also began to see more of the kids grow more confidence of their own abilities, and fewer inclined to copy my examples.”


At LLI, we’ve seen our participants embrace art: it’s a time to be creative, to explore talents they maybe didn’t know they had, to meet new kids and teachers alike, and more. Maddie described her own thoughts for why teaching art is important, and we at LLI couldn’t agree more.

“Art has many benefits including improving self-confidence and offering a constructive outlet for self-expression. But a benefit that I see as really important is developing creative thinking, or creative problem solving skills.

Life is full of questions and obstacles. From as simple as: How can I cook this dinner without all the ingredients? To as complex as: How can we create affordable energy while protecting the environment? When we begin to see the problems from different angles, we are able to develop innovative solutions. With creative thinking, suddenly the impossible becomes possible.”

When the students are doing art, it challenges them to think creatively. They are forming and reinforcing pathways in their brains that will allow them to see the problems in their world from a different perspective, and construct unforeseen solutions. And this creates hope.

Who doesn’t love a good lesson plan on Biomes? Maddie connects art with other subjects, like natural sciences, through her lessons.

We’re grateful to have Maddie as part of our team at LLI. Thank you Maddie for sharing your time and talents!

Looking to join us as an art teacher? LLI is in need of a volunteer art teacher to join us June 21st. Are you able to volunteer? If so, please visit and apply to volunteer now!

Donations + Leadership :)

Due to the recent flooding and landslides surrounding Huaycán and happening all over Peru, Light and Leadership decided to act and see how we could help. Our Teen Leadership group came together, along with other teens in the center, to collect donations for those who lost personal items, their homes and more in the events.floods-3

Both LLI’s Teen Center and Kids’ Center served as a donation drop-off point for anyone interested in supporting. Thanks to LLI participants, their families, LLI volunteers (both local and international) and Huaycán community members, LLI teen leaders were able to gather 10 bags of donated clothing and heaps of canned goods, hygiene products, etc. Saturday evening was spent by teens sorting the goods, putting them into donation packs and getting them ready for delivery.

The next day, eight teens and three LLI volunteers made the delivery to the area of need, traveling about an hour from Huaycán and past Chosica.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! GRACIAS a todos los participantes. 


We’ve Moved!

This past month, LLI moved spaces in Zone S!  We’re now hosting our Tuesday classes of Art and Reading in a small, local school. Check out the photos below!

LLI International Volunteer Rachel, checking out the space!
The guard dog 😉
Three of our dedicated students using the new space!

Thanks to the Zone S community of Renacer de Julio for many wonderful years using their community space. Gracias a la Zona S, la comunidad de Renacer de Julio por tantos años bonitos juntos en su espacio comunitario.

Meet Lucero, Master of all Things Kids’ Center.

Lucero was born in Peru, raised here until the age of 9, and then made a move to the United States. Now, she’s currently studying business in college. LLI is lucky to have her–she brings energy, organization, and of course, an extra “toque” of Peruvian love to our programs. She runs the day-to-day operations at the Kids’ Center and will be with LLI until at least July, though we hope she will stay longer 🙂

Learn a bit more about Lucero below!


Why did you decide to volunteer in Peru?

I came to the decision to volunteer in Peru because I wanted to give back to the country where I was raised and to be close to my family. I was drawn to LLI because of how much the programs span the different age groups in Huaycan. From 7-year-olds to their mothers, the programs really offer something for everyone.

Tell us about a project you’re working on now to improve the Kids’ Center and/or its programs?

We are currently working on creating new crates and folders for every student. These will give their own space to leave their books, worksheets, art projects, etc… This new organizational system will make it easier for the kids to show off their finished work to their parents. We are hosted a “Parent Night” where parents met the new teachers and saw what their kids have learned and accomplished during the summer session. 

What is life like living in Huaycan?

Life in Huaycan is great. You live in a house with an amazing group of people. You can go running at the cancha early in the morning, have lunch and dinner at the house or go out to eat on quince. You can go out for a walk during the evening or go get a sweet dessert, all within a 5 to 10 minute walk from the volunteer house! You also have the option to travel on your days off, which I love too.


Interested in joining LLI’s volunteer team? Check out for more information!

Teen Center Mexican Cooking Night

On Saturday February 11th, the busiest day the Teen Center has ever seen, we had our first cooking event of the year- Mexican Cooking Night! We made quesadillas and pico de gallo from scratch. Jealous you missed it? Here’s the recipe:


  • Corn Flour
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Cheese
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Limes
  • Cilantro/Culandro
  • Jalapeños (or Aji Amarillo or Rocoto if you’re in Peru)



  • Mix corn flour, water, and salt (to taste) in a bowl until you have a dough that is firm. If it is crumbly, add more water
  • Roll the dough into golf ball sized balls, place a ball in a plastic grocery bag, and roll with a rolling pin until your tortilla is flat and round
  • Cook the tortilla on a nonstick pan (add oil if the tortilla sticks)
  • Put cheese inside the tortilla and fold, cook until cheese melts

Pico de Gallo

  • Cut onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and your pepper of choice and put in a bowl
  • Squeeze limes into the bowl, add salt and mix

Special thanks to Pamela and her Oaxacan roots for helping out 🙂


It’s Summer in Peru (and in LLI’s English Program!)

 “My favorite part about teaching at LLI is the kids! It’s great getting to know these crazy little ones, their excitement to learn is wonderful!”Everyone, young and old, remembers the anticipation of summer. The days would creep by until finally, you were sleeping in until 12, grilling up hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as thinking of anything and everything… except school. As much as summer serves as an excellent refresh button, it can always reignite one’s love of learning, outside the typical school setting.
Our English summer curriculum attempts to do just that. While English is still our most popular program here at LLI, it doesn’t mean we don’t hear the inevitable groans when English class is about to start. Therefore, the approach to the summer curriculum is to allow students to learn English in the most unlikely of places: songs, games, and much, much more.


The goal of these activities is to build a class culture, uniting our English language learners into one collective team, while at the same time highlighting the need for self-expression and acceptance of our unique selves. Our previous long-term English teacher, Jessica Sandlund, designed the unit as a focus on individual identity and how to properly express yourself in a second language.


Here to continue Jessica’s work is our current English team: Stephanie, Rachel, and Brittany. Both Stephanie and Rachel are long term volunteers with us, and we’re grateful to Brittany for her several week stay at LLI this January and February 🙂


Brittany is 32 years old and from Philadelphia (USA). She worked as a civil engineer for 10 years but has also worked for 5 years as a part-time math and science tutor for kids of all ages. She teaches yoga for kids and adults and has been practicing yoga/meditation for 8 years. She loves running, the beach, healthy eating, dancing, being a listener to anyone, and story telling. Brittany left her job in the US in October 2016 to travel Peru and join LLI and is beyond excited to contribute to the education of the children of Huaycan and their bright futures.
“Teaching English at LLI is so rewarding! My favorite aspect of teaching English here is being a part of the future of the amazing kids in Huaycan. They are incredible and so smart and creative. Teaching with LLI and offering the opportunity to learn a second language, especially English, which will open so many doors for them in Peru or even internationally, is incredible. All they need is the education, and they can truly do anything LLI and Huaycan has shown me that.”


Rachel most recently finished three years of teaching in a Japanese high school as an assistant English language teacher. Some of her favorite things are being outdoors, going to Japanese onsen, spending time in her home state of sunshine-y Florida with her friends and family, and watching Korean dramas.


“My favorite moment of teaching with the English program so far happened outside of class. I was walking on Quince with friends one night after dinner and one of my students, with his mother I assume, passed me on the street. I recognized him as he was passing right below my elbow, so we didn’t make eye contact or have time to say hi. I was happy and surprised to see him and turned to my friend and said, “I just saw one of my kids!” and I looked back to see if I could still find him in the crowd. He was still walking along in the opposite direction but he was looking back at me at the same time and when he saw me looking over my shoulder at him he shouted, “Hi Misssss!” I waved and shouted, “Hiiii!” back. It made me smile a lot and also made me even more excited about what this program is all about. That instance is an example of why I wanted to come here, to connect with and get to know the members of this new community. It is the biggest reason why I enjoy teaching. I am excited to be a part of this Huaycan community as an English teacher.”
Stephanie was living in NYC for the past two years before coming to LLI. Prior to her life in New York, Stephanie was working and traveling around the country and world. Living and working in France, she picked up her talent for working with kids, injecting her fun-loving energy in everyone she came in contact with. She recently received her yoga teaching certification, which is her second educational focus here at LLI. She loves to travel, read, and cook. She is currently reading Harry Potter in Spanish!
“My favorite part about teaching at LLI is the kids! It’s great getting to know these crazy little ones, their excitement to learn is wonderful!
This summer curriculum, plus our regular classes, wouldn’t be possible without the support and dedication of our English Program Manager, Olivia! Special thanks and shout out to her.

Obrigado :)

Patrícia (left) and Sara, Women’s Program Participant

Today, we are giving a special thanks to our Brazilian team member, Patrícia, as she leaves LLI!  Since arriving in May 2016, Patrícia has contributed an amazing amount of work, dedication and above all, heart to our programs. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, as the women’s program carried out 85 educational workshops and events, plus weekly English and computer classes. This is in great part to Patrícia, who hit the ground running when she arrived in Huaycán.

Take a look at what our LLI team has to say about her:

“Patricia has been a major contributor to my overall happiness here at LLI. She has to be one of the most knowledgeable people I know, and that is not due solely to her resume filled with numerous languages and awareness of gender issues on the global scale. I think what makes Patricia so brilliant is her ability to spread this wisdom to everyone she comes in contact with. From our walks around Huaycan when we first arrived that served as an escape from whatever we were running from to laughing in the office about the ridiculousness of our other beautiful coworkers. I am confident that Patricia’s strong work ethic and genuine goodness will stay present at LLI. She will be greatly missed, but the rest of the world needs her. She’s like a super hero for gender equality. She will save the world, I know it.” – Olivia, LLI’s English Program Manager

“It was such a pleasure to work with you because you contributed so many great ideas and your fantastic organizational ability. There was no problem that you wouldn’t put yourself to resolve. You added so much to beautify our spaces too, through your origami and your demeanor 🙂 Thank you so much for all of the work you have done for LLI, and I’m so happy to have worked with you! I know that you’ll be successful in whatever you do next.” – Katie Ehrlich, LLI’s Program Director


“Olá então, tudo bem? Rahhhhh! I can’t believe you are leaving us! Without you, the house will never be the same – the pencils on the bathroom door will go unsharpened, there will be no more flower chopsticks, no more origami, and all of our doors will squeak. Thank you soooo much for teaching me so much about… well everything. And for turning off the light Kkkkk. It’s been amazing to watch you build the women’s program! You are such a gentle and smart woman. We will all miss you so so much.  Beijinhos, Pam.” LLI’s Volunteer Coordinator

“Pati!  Muchas gracias for being such a wonderful coworker, roommate, and friend. From painting quotes on the walls of the teen center to driving into Lima to get the guitars fixed, it has been a pleasure working with you. Your calm energy was always appreciated in the house. More than anything, though, I appreciate you teaching me how to make brigadeiro; I will think of you every time I eat that delicious chocolatey goo. Tudo de bom!” – Jess, LLI’s Teen Center Manager

“Patricia! What can I say, you’ve fair and square won the title of Best Women’s Program Manager of all time. Seriously though, I truly enjoyed working with you this past year and can’t tell you how appreciative I am for all of your hard work and dedication to the women’s program and to Huaywasi. I know you will be equally successful in whatever the future holds for you, but you will definitely be very missed here! Best of luck and hopefully I will make it to visit you someday in Brazil (if you’re even there, haha 🙂 )” – Shelby, Huaywasi Program Director


“Fala Serio, Pati! No te vayas!  You have been an amazing addition to our LLI team and family and it’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to you, though I know I will see you again one day. You are an incredible woman and it’s clear that you have many exciting things ahead of you. Thanks for working extremely hard for the Huaycán community–your impact through our women’s program has had a powerful ripple effect that will continue for many years.  Thanks for your laughter with me and just being…well, you 🙂 You will be missed.” – Lara, LLI’s Executive Director
“It has been a pleasure working with Patricia during her time as the Women’s Program Manager! She has done an excellent job tailoring every workshop and class to topics especially important and relevant to life here in Huaycan. I know myself, the other volunteers, and of course the women of the program will miss her greatly! Best of luck with your next venture Pati!” – Caroline, LLI’s Women’s Program Manager

Thank you again Patí!