To be or not to be a manager at LLI

It’s been almost two years since I left Huaycan for the first time and finished my time as Kids Program Manager. 

It’s been almost two years, and here we go again!

My name is Irene and I was the Kids Program Manager a while ago…

In 2016 I finished my master’s in Community Development and I was ready to “eat the world”, to fight injustice, to support strong women around the globe, to be part of the change. 


A year later I was working for an outsource and drowning in the routine of a role that it was just not for me. Working to pay the debts while waiting for the perfect job to knock on my door. 

Spoiler alert, that never happened. 

It was time to take a risk, to explore the world and try something different. Volunteering wasn’t ideal because “hey! I have a master!”, but a change was needed and I knew it. 

That’s when I found LLI.

And changes came. 

I found LLI through the site Idealist. I saw a brief post, clear ideas, strong statements about ethical volunteering and community development. I liked that. Free food accommodation! I loved that. 

So I took the risk, I packed all my stuff and flew all the way to Peru. My first night at Huaycan was awful. 

Noisy Huaycan, which I love so much now. 

I was ready to start but I wasn’t sure how, what, when. This was when I realized that doesn’t matter how many years you spend at college, you still have lots to learn. And I did. 

LLI gave me the chance to prove myself and develop my own skills while learning about the insides of a grassroots NGO. It was the perfect balance between responsibilities and guidance. I grew so much as a professional and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. 

I built strong relationships with the kids, their families, and the community. I knew them, what they wanted from me and what I was able to provide them. 

I learned about sustainability, about community… I even learned about myself. 

Needless to say, I met amazing people along the way. LLI’s team welcomed me with open arms (I can’t stop mentioning my great friend Rosa, or Lara, who taught me so much.), and all the people who came later (Lore, mi hermana; my cara amica Elisa; mi causa Anthony, and many many more).

It was one of the best experiences I ever had. 

I even came back!

Since my first year at LLI, I’ve been working in small grassroots NGOs in Peru. Almost three years later, I am the Communications and Development Manager at LLI. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t clicked on that Idealist link while procrastinating in my old, unfulfilling job in Madrid.

I could forever thank The Light and Leadership Initiative and its community for that opportunity. But I would rather work with them to keep providing free and quality education to Huaycan’s families. 

So, if you ever ask me if you should come and volunteer as a manager at LLI?

Please remember that I believe in LLI as much as they believed in me!

Go now to Idealist and apply!

We are looking for Kids, Teens, and International Volunteer Program Manager!

2020 Goal: Sustainability

Local volunteering and its impact

2019 was a very productive year. 

We’ve grown and learned from all of our Managers and Volunteers – Thank you all!-  and we are very proud of what we achieved. 

A goal that I’m really happy we achieved in 2019, led by our incomparable Education Programs Manager, Yeni, was training teachers to implement our objectives from the logical framework into our Kids’ Program classes. This means that instead of just teaching art classes or English classes, for example, we are working with teachers to make sure that their lesson plans are focused on developing our kiddos’ creativity, their critical thinking skills, and their leadership skills”  Emma Livingston, Manager Director

However, 2019 is over and it’s time to focus on what this year holds for us.

We have big plans for 2020 and we are already working on one of our biggest goals: improving our Local Volunteer Program.

You might wonder why?

Sustainability and Local Volunteering

At LLI we firmly believe in sustainability. And we think working on improving our Local Volunteer Program is a big part of it. 

You’ve probably already heard about sustainability. With time, this concept has become essential in the international developing field and we are glad that more and more NGOs have started incorporating this idea into their programs. 

Sometimes sustainability refers to the creation of sources of income that can be maintained over time and that continue to provide quality services to the community in the long term. However, income is not everything in the non-profit field and sustainability can refer to other areas in a program like ours.

At LLI, sustainability is also about connecting with the community and working along with it to build a strong base for the future. Working on our Local Volunteer Program is a big part of this process.

We want to make our local volunteer program as strong as our international volunteer program has always been.” Emma Livingstone, MD

This year, our amazing Onsite Volunteer Manager, Ximena, is implementing a program to train and accompany our Local Volunteers throughout their volunteering experience at LLI. 

We want them to feel part of our family and feel comfortable enough to teach, lead workshops, and participate in LLI decisions.

The Local Volunteer Program will be an opportunity for local people to improve their skills as leaders while leading a change in their community. Is not just about volunteering, it is also about getting to know the needs of your own community and how to address them” Ximena Venegas, Onsite Volunteer Manager

The new Local Volunteer Program started two weeks ago and we already have been contacted by almost 20 people who are interested in becoming or continuing as an LLI volunteer. 

If you want to learn more about this or other of our programs, subscribe to this blog and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

¡Hora de leer!

Did you know that children who have a home library with as little as 20 books of their own complete three more years of schooling than children who don’t have any books at home?

It’s crazy how reading can improve our lives, and at LLI we are very conscious of this. 

However, not all of our participants have their own home libraries. Some of them only have access to books through school or other extracurricular activities. Having a space such us our little (but growing) library where they can read and, even better, take books home and enjoy reading with their families, can make a big difference. This is why we believe deeply in our Reading Program. And so do our participants’ families. 

Last year, we asked our families what we should fundraise for in our Holiday Fundraising Campaign. 60% of our participants’ parents agreed that we should fundraise to get more books for our Programs on top of money for our Holiday Event. 

So we did it!

Actually, you did it!

Thanks to our donors’ support we fundraised a total of $2,807.40, surpassing our initial goal by $807.40. And we couldn’t be more grateful.

Reading is, beyond a pleasure, a necessity especially in a country like Peru where the national illiteracy rate average is close to 6%. This is why creating safe spaces for reading that can be accessed for those who do not have the resources to buy books or access public reading spaces is so important. 

Last week we bought the latest books and now our library is so big that we can hardly handle it.

Big thanks to those who took the time to donate or share about our fundraising campaign, especially to Don and Ula, who are not just former volunteers (as if that is not great enough), but also went above and beyond to help us achieve our goal.

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” – Victor Hugo

Just Breathe: Yoga at LLI

Here at LLI, we are proud to be one of the only places in Huaycan to offer free Yoga courses for kids aged 7 to 12! To kick off 2020, we offer you a guest blog post from 2019 English volunteer, Don Fiene and his interview with our rock-star Yoga teacher, Nissa Huerta. Enjoy!

I had the privilege to interview Nissa, LLI’s Kids’ Program Yoga teacher.  All during our discussion she radiated a calm, peaceful and content manner that sold me on the benefits of practicing Yoga more than any words could do justice. 

Nissa is trained in the Vinyasa, Aerobic and Thereaupeutic disciplines. She has been practicing Yoga for over 5 years and teaching for 2 years and is passionate about the benefits she has received from it. It helped her personally during a particularly difficult time in her life and she likes to share the practice that has benefited her with others.  Throughout the interview she emphasized that Yoga is a way of life, not just an exercise program.

She starts her day by meditating for 15 minutes. Throughout the day, she practices being conscious in the present moment and not letting her thoughts drift negatively to what happened in the past nor towards being anxious about the future. She regularly teaches 8 to 10 classes per week and studies yoga every weekend.  But yoga to her is something you practice all day long and can’t be quantified just by the number of classes you take. 

As for teaching children at LLI, she said she feels she has learned as much from them as they have from her.  At first she struggled with their shorter attention spans and playfulness. But she learned to adapt her class to their mentality, which made it less trouble, and more fun for both her and the students.  She feels like a girl with them, playing, jumping, rolling on the floor and having a good time together. She now loves teaching them and is considering taking courses in how best to teach yoga to children.

When asked what her favorite Yoga exercise was she said it was the camel pose, which is a kneeling back-bending asana (posture).   She likes it because it opens up and works so many parts of the body. It stretches and strengthens the shoulders, back and hips, and results in improved posture. 

Nissa has incorporated several objectives from the Kids’ Program Logical Framework into her Yoga classes. She has her students create their own poses such as the elephant and pig, stimulating their creativity.  She has students take turns directing the others, stimulating their confidence and leadership skills when playing the leader role as well as cultivating a respectful attitude when following. A key aspect of Yoga practice is to develop empathy for others, which is another objective of LLI’s Kids’ Program.

When asked to give her sales pitch for practicing Yoga, Nissa had much to say. Although people usually think of the physical benefits achieved while practicing Yoga, such as flexibility and balance, she stressed the mental benefits more.  She said that before she began practicing Yoga she had been a very anxious person and that Yoga has calmed her down, helped her maintain focus and helped her create more awareness in all activities throughout the day. She says it brings focus and balance to your life and helps you to be empathetic for others.  After completing the interview and hearing her words and witnessing her calm peaceful, content manner, I was sold.

It’s a Wrap! Our 2019 Fundraiser and Holiday Event

Holiday cheer was felt by all during our 2019 holiday party! On Sunday, December 1st, we celebrated the season with over 100 children and their families at our Education and Teen Centers. 

As always, the teens were a huge help, leading activities for the children and wrapping gifts for the parents! 

With their help, as well as that of local volunteers, the children were beaming as they participated in the dynamic activities from wreath making to holiday dancing! 

As they played, they made wishes on a Christmas Tree for books they’d like to have in the libraries in the coming year. We look forward to using our funds raised during the Give the Gift of Reading: LLI’s Holiday Event 2019! Fundraising campaign to fulfill their wishes. 

A huge thank you to all who contributed to the campaign, giving us a total of $2,807 towards the holiday event, gifts, and future book purchases!

As they played, their parents picked out gifts for them and had them wrapped at the teen center. 

The parents of the children from our program in Zone S will get to deliver an extra special surprise. The children in this program requested 1 gift each in a letter to Papa Noel (Santa Claus), which the Event Planner and Kids’ Program Manager then picked out for them at a market in Lima! 

Parents from all zones gave us their feedback in the form of a survey. Here are some highlights: 

  • 90.8% of parents believe LLI offers services that cannot be found anywhere else in Huaycán
  • 100% of parents say that LLI has improved their child’s performance at school 
  • 97.3% of parents are “very satisfied” with LLI

Overall, our party was filled with food, light and joy, which is what we wish for your holiday season as well! 


The Light and Leadership Initiative 🙂  

5 Reasons Why You Should Donate to our Holiday Celebration Fundraiser

Seasons greetings! My name is Catherine Thomson and this is my second year in a row as the Holiday Celebration Event Coordinator with LLI. In 2018, 47 donors from all over the world raised $3,016 for our event, surpassing our goal of $2,200 by $816! All of the leftover proceeds went to the maintenance and improvement of our classes and workshops for women, teens, and children. This year, our goal is $2,000.  Needless to say, we will need the support of international donors as much as Peruvian ones to meet it. You can donate here. Here are 5 reasons why those donations are essential: 

  1. The kids love the holiday games and activities. 

During our holiday celebration, children come and enjoy a variety of activities and games. Last year, 109 of them decorated trees, made bell-shaped ornaments (pictured above), and watched a holiday-themed movie. At the end they enjoy traditional paneton (fruit cake) and chocolatada (hot cocoa)!

  1. The teens show amazing leadership. 

Our teen participants love supporting our celebrations! Last year, 17 teen participants stepped up to volunteer during our event. We involve them in the process starting at the planning phase, where they decide which activities to put on for the kids. We supply them with any materials they may need, purchasing as many of them as possible from small businesses in Huaycan. Then, we support them the day of the celebration when they lead the activities. In addition to leading activities, they take on other important roles such as wrapping gifts (pictured above) and serving the paneton and chocolotada. 

  1. The families feel affirmed. 

The participation of the local community in our workshops and classes year-round is the cornerstone of the work we do at LLI. We literally wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. The women and teens in our programs create amazing community projects through our entrepreneurship and leadership classes. The kids spread smiles all throughout Huaycan when showing off the reading, chess, and sports skills they sharpened through their classes. To thank them for all these efforts, we give each child, woman, and teen who has participated in our programs a gift. It’s a great way for them to end the year and celebrate the holidays. 

  1. And that their voices matter. 

During each holiday event, we ask parents of our children’s program participants for their thoughts and suggestions on our programs. Last year, parents stated that our Lectura/Biblioteca (literacy program) was the second most important activity for their children after English. In another survey, parents reported that they wanted LLI to use the funds not only for gifts, but also to improve the quality of our programs, which is why:

  1. Our participants in all 3 programs will receive more books to read!

This year, 20% of the funds raised will go towards stocking our libraries with more books. Another 4% will go towards purchasing new and restoring old cabinets to display them in the library. In this way, our literacy program can offer a wider and richer selection of books to boost participants’ reading skills. 

With these five motives in mind, it is my hope that any person reading this blog would consider supporting our celebration and literacy programs in any of the following ways: 

1) Donating to our fundraiser

2) Sharing our fundraiser with family/friends 

3) Sharing this blog post with family/friends

Note: Any person who donates to our fundraiser and then refers another donor to the campaign will be entered in a drawing to win 20$ off any order of $35 or more to Huaywasi, LLI’s ethical fashion line. One entry will be submitted per referral. 

Robots in the Classroom!

This is a guest article by long-time LLI volunteer, John Zorko

John Zorko sharing a smile with teen participant Rubi and Cue the robot

The kids in Huaycan have been learning Scratch for almost 5 years now. While Scratch is an incredible tool for teaching kids how to code using actual Computer Science concepts like loops, functions, conditionals, variables, processes / threads, etc., Scratch code can’t run anywhere but the Scratch website / desktop application. I thought it would be cool to introduce the kids who have already learned Scratch to something more advanced, that was more real-world while also retaining the fun element of Scratch.

Enter Cue, a small robot from Wonder Workshop. Cue can be programmed via a Scratch-like blocks interface, but it can also be programmed in JavaScript, which is a well-supported textual programming language that is used for everything from building websites to controlling devices (like robots). With 6 Cue robots and 6 more ChromeBooks, kids can now get a basic idea of robotics as well as textual programming.

While the first class was all about introducing the students to Cue and its programming environment, subsequent classes introduced more advanced concepts like functions and variables. Each class ends with an exercise where the students need to make their robots race one another, and the exercise – hence the race – gets more interesting as they learn these new concepts. Having each class end this way incentivizes the students to work together in teams of 2, using the concepts learned in the class to make their robot run and finish the race as fast as possible.

Kids get ready to race their robots

Some of my favorite moments include when I begin teaching a concept in a lesson plan, and the students immediately grasp it and begin exploring what else they can do with the robots, often jumping ahead of the lesson plan. One great thing about kids and coding is that they’re natural explorers, and coding is a very creative (as well as technical) endeavor. I’ve had to adapt the lesson plans to allow the kids plenty of time to explore after I teach them a concept, and I believe it really helps them to learn what’s possible much quicker.

Teens use Java Script to code their robot

One of the great things about Cue is that this class can serve as a jumping off point for either more advanced coding or robotics. Some students may really enjoy coding, perhaps in the future learning more JavaScript for other applications, or other textual coding languages like Swift, Kotlin, or C. Other students may really enjoy robotics in particular, perhaps in the future learning how to create their own robots, or learning how robots work for things like factories or self-driving cars. I’m hopeful that the Robotics / JavaScript class at LLI will allow students to further realize that technology can not only be a great career, but a lot of fun as well.

Thank You Brynn, Ian and Yara: Managers of the Year!

Thank you to our managers who are finishing their year with us: Brynn (2nd from left), Ian (3rd from right) and Yara (2nd from right)

LLI has always been fortunate to have so many good, kind, generous people join our organization in Huaycán, bringing their ideas, energy and dedication to provide high quality education for our kids, teens and women participants.

This past year, we have been triply blessed with three outstanding managers who have pushed to increase the impact of our programs, livened up the volunteer house with their smiles, and most importantly, have approached their time here with a drive to learn, commitment to the community, and love and care for our participants, for our volunteers, and for each other. We’d like to recognize their work, relive some favorite memories and wish them all the best of luck for the future. You will be dearly missed here in Huaycán, chicos!

Brynn has served as our Kids’ Program Manager since August, 2018. She hit the ground running after just a day of training and focused on improving the quality of our classes and increasing communication with the parents. Some of her innovations are Exhibition Day – where kids show off to parents what they’ve been learning at LLI – and helping teachers implement objectives, such as developing leadership skills and encouraging teamwork, into their lesson plans. Thank you Brynn for all you’ve done for our kiddos!

Ian is our International Volunteer Program Manager. From the beginning, he has excelled at finding great volunteer teachers for our programs, making sure that volunteers have an awesome experience once they’re here, and keeping LLI committed to the ethos of ethical volunteering. Thank you Ian for your empathy and enthusiasm for our programs!

Yara is our tireless Teens’ Program Manager hailing from Oaxaca, Mexico. Not only has she built strong, caring relationships with every teen who visits the Center, she has worked all year on developing a fantastic leadership curriculum that guides teens towards implementing their own project in the community. It will be a long time before teens stop asking “Dónde está Yara?” and you will be missed Yara, long after you return to your land of spicy hot sauce.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Wistrand, Finland

Here are some memories and well wishes from volunteers and staff who worked closely with our three special managers:

Ian: Ha pasado ya un año, que rápido pasa el tiempo!! Un año en el cual he aprendido de un gran compañero en el cual hemos compartido cosas divertidas en la ONG. Como olvidar cuando hice mi primer airport pick up, tenia que recogerte a ti. Estaba muy nerviosa, también como olvidar la noche de juego, cada lunes que realizaba con los voluntarios. También como olvidar los chistes que hacías en la casa o de cada cosa que hablamos. Extrañaré cuando conversábamos sobre la cultura peruana o algún acontecimiento que sucedía en Perú. Muchas gracias por ayudarme en mejorar en las reuniones  y también con el ingles.Te deseo lo mejor en lo que viene Ian. Siempre tendrás una amiga en Perú, te recibirá con los brazos abiertos si es que deseas visitar de nuevo Perú. Muchas Gracias Ian!!! – Ximena

Brynn: Ohhhh Brynn ya ha pasado un año,que rápido!!!! Recuerdo cuando estuve en la casa la primera vez y ustedes estaban haciendo una torta y buscando harina pero no había harina sino chuño hahaha. La pasé muy bien. Me gustaba ver cuando Brynn le gustaba cuando compraba mango. Muchas gracias por tenerme paciencia y ayudarme un montón en la casa con los voluntarios. Gracias por correr contigo aunque solo sea una vez. Te deseo todo lo mejor Brynn en todo lo que te prepongas que sigas viajando y puedas conocer toda latinoamerica. Muchas Gracias Brynn!!! – Ximena

Yara: Oh Yara que rápido pasa el tiempo, me siento muy agradecida por conocer a una gran persona que ha demostrado pasión en lo que hace, compartiendo ideas para ayudar a los jóvenes. También te doy las gracias por ayudarme en las cosas de las casa. Extrañare tu gran alegría en la casa con los voluntarios, también ver series con los chicos. Si deseas regresar a Perú recuerda que tienes una amiga que te recibirá con los brazos abiertos. Muchas gracias Yara! – Ximena

Our local team, Yeni and Ximena, will miss you all!

Yara, Brynn and Ian:
You have completed a big task by working in LLI for a year! It was nice to work on your side for a while. All the best for your future endeavors. Love and hugs – Auli

Yara and Auli preparing for the staff dinner
Auli the condor

It was a real pleasure living and working with Ian, Yara and Brynn.  I treasure memories of Ian strumming on his guitar, Yara practising Capoeira on the roof above our bedroom (!) and Brynn all energised from one of her runs.
I wish you all the very best with what comes next in your lives and every happiness in the future. – Lesley

Ian: It was a pleasure to have met you and been your room mate for those fantastic four weeks I spent in Huaycan. I will never forget our conversations about sports and the world in general! And of course the good times preparing the questions and answers for the quiz!I Learnt a lot from you and wish you all the best for the future!! – Guillermo

Brynn: Your permanent smile and your kindness with the kids are one of the memories I kept from my time in LLI! Also the time I spent with you and the rest of volunteers teaching kids in zona S is something I will always remember, especially the happiness they showed when they saw all of you arriving! Take care and good luck in your next steps!! – Guillermo

Yara: Fue un enorme placer haber contribuido con mi granito de arena a tu excelente labor como gerente del proyecto con los jóvenes! El dia de las olimpiadas y los concursos que organizamos son sin duda unos de mis mejores recuerdos de mi estancia en Huaycan! Eres una persona fantástica y como se suele decir… las mejores fragancias van siempre en frasco pequeño!! Cuidate mucho y mis mejores deseos para lo que el futuro te depare!! – Guillermo

LLI Staff Dinner 2018

Queridxs directorxs,
Gracias por todo el apoyo que me brindaron durante la recaudación de fondos para el festival del feriado. Tanto durante las semanas antes que durante el evento en si mismo, sé que no habíamos logrado tantos éxitos sin ustedes. Espero que lo que el futuro les traerá les sostiene tanto que toda la comida que nos compartimos en el Thanksgiving! 
Saludos, Cati 🙂 

Photo courtesy of Catherine Thompson, USA

Ian- from the minute Vanitha and I met you in our volunteer interview, we were so excited to come work with LLI. You were our first impression of the organization, and we knew we could not pass up the opportunity to come work with you all. You did an incredible job in your role at LLI, and you will be greatly missed. I can’t wait to see what you do next. Hopefully we will see you again for another adventure in the States soon! – Ellen

Brynn- we had so much fun working in the kids center with you at the beginning of this year. I am sure the kids are so sad that you are leaving Peru, but they sure were lucky to have you for the year. From pisco vineyards. to real life Mario Kart, it was so fun exploring Peru with you! Hopefully our paths will cross again soon. Best of luck in your next chapter! – Ellen

Yara- I can’t imagine what the teen center will be like without you. Just from the few shifts I worked in the teen center, it was so clear how much the teens enjoyed working with you. I loved talking to the teens and hearing the impact you have made on their lives. I know that you will be successful in whatever adventure is next for you. Please let me know if you are ever in the USA! All the best! – Ellen

Photo courtesy of Jana Rojčeková, Slovakia

Brynn, Ian & Yara, 
Thank you so so much for all your hard work and efforts with LLI! I remember coming to Huaycan and being so excited and a little nervous to be in such a different environment, but you were all so welcoming and fun, that it quickly became home. From playing fishbowl, to going over volunteer tasks, to our weekend excursions, your kindness, humor, and adventurous spirits were easily some of the highlights of my time in Peru. From each of you, I learned so much about community, diligence, creativity, in the space of non-profits, and moreover in regards to friendship & humanity. Thank you for being such wonderful, fun people, and best of luck in your future endeavors!! – Vanitha

In HuacachinaPhoto courtesy of Jana Rojčeková, Slovakia

Brynn, Ian and Yara:

I would love to wish all of you the best of luck in your lives and future plans. 
I hope you will find another beautiful project where you can put your hearts. And do not forget, all of you have an invitation to Slovakia, if you will be somewhere around or if you will have some desire to travel across the Europe you are always welcome in Slovakia! 🙂

It is not easy to pick just one memory. But I loved our trip to Paracas and Huacachina, also playing games in the evenings, and of course I would love to thank everybody for participating in my video, when I was trying to teach them some slovak words, it was so fun. – Jana

Photo courtesy of Jana Rojčeková, Slovakia

To all:
Thank you all for being so kind and welcoming. Being in Huaycán with all of you is an experience that means so much to me. Thanks for showing me around, traveling with me, and being there for me when I needed it. I miss you all! Please remember you always have somewhere to stay in Detroit! I’d love to write you a letter/postcard so please Facebook or what’s app me your new addresses 🙂 

Brynn, thinking back to our moment on the kayaks at Paracas is so special to me. Just talking and laughing about how we had no clue where to go. Thanks for all the surprises and love that last week for my birthday 🙂 I still think about that really awful game of pool we played at the hostel haha. You are a great friend and have made such an impact working with the Children’s center. Though I was working with Huaywasi (which I loved when you’d come visit me and Jill in our office), I’m so glad I could be there for some of the yoga classes with the kids and go up to Zone S a couple times. I’m so excited to hear about when your next journey is 🙂
P.S. Send me updated pictures of how everything ended up looking after the painting and updates! I’m sure it looks amazing. Keep in touch. Sending love! – Sarah

Kayaking in Lunahuaná – Photo courtesy of Mary Lord, UK

Yara, I am so inspired by the way you made the teen center such a warm and welcoming place for the teens. To see you put your heart into all you did gives me motivation to try to do the same in my work. For them to have someone like you making the teen center what it now is, is so special. I’m so grateful we worked out doing a yoga class towards the end of my trip. I know you will bring that love and passion to wherever you end up next. Thinking back I remember a moment sitting with you in the back of a collectivo, late at night coming back from watching the Super Bowl. Hearing a bit about your life in Mexico and how the food you miss most is a good quesadilla. I’m so excited to go there and try one some day!
P.S. I have to admit I definitely snuck a little bit of your Valentina hot sauce at times haha. I will be reaching out to hopefully meet up and hear some recommendations for when I make my way to Mexico! I wish you all the best. 🙂 – Sarah

Ian, you were the first person I met/talked to when arriving to Peru. I’m so glad about this because you took my nervousness away as soon as I arrived. Aside from all the great experiences in Huaycan, thank you for being part of making my birthday so special/helping me get the courage to go white water rafting. Me and you on the right side of the raft were such a team. From thinking back to sitting on the sand during the sunset at Huacachina to walking at night in Huaycán and getting churros, it was all so amazing. 
P.S. I saw The Thing Around Your Neck on my friends bookshelf the other day and thought of you. Such an amazing book. Please keep in touch, wishing you the best! – Sarah

Sarah teaching yoga on the roof

Yara: How invested and engaged you were with each teen. Your face would light up every time we would talk about them at 9pm after you came in late at night and just have random talks. I miss those conversations. Very inspiring and heartwarming. Sitting down to watch these well-planned movies at the Centro de Jóvenes. There was only one problem: NO TEENS! So it was just Yara, me, and 1 or 2 of the teens looking at their phones while anniversary preparations were happening in the other room. Meticulous mango cutting. Helping Dominic with his cards when we went to Avengers: End Game, which I know you and I wanted to see for the longest time. That was so kind. Wonderful.  – Miles

Ian: His distaste for my Red Sox hat. Yep, that’s the first memory. But seriously: adaptability and thoughtfulness. You always approached volunteering with an adventurous spirit and an open mind that made me consistently question my own work and my own motives for volunteering in Perú.    Unparalleled snacking.  Laughing incredulously when I was being ridiculous. This happened often, as others can attest. Related: Putting up with me and my idiosyncrasies. Many other things… for a later podcast, I guess. “Classic”  [insert other Mary catch phrase here as well] – Miles

Photo courtesy of Miles Anderson

Brynn: Zone S-ing. (Parentheses: Ken!)  A consistent and helpful presence, and a truly committed volunteer. You were always so organized and so on top of everything. The opposite of me. (I did put the popcorn in the fridge, I admit it, okay)   Teaching knowing you were sitting outside our kids classrooms waiting to assist when something went awry. And it did. A lot. Me waking up early looking for animal videos on Twitter so that I could share them with you on Instagram.  Laughing every day at lunch (with our regular Cycle 2 crew) and laughing at random Internet videos. And laughing. – Miles

Dear Yara, Ian and Brynn:

First, I want to thank all of you for being with me during my volunteer experience at LLI this last March.  You all made my involvement stimulating and insightful during my seven weeks in Huaycan. I especially looked forward to going to Zone S with Brynn every Tuesday afternoon to see the enthusiasm of the children.  They always seemed so happy, laughing and shouting while working on their art projects. 

It was energizing going to the teen center with Yara every Saturday to see them socializing in a safe environment. I also appreciated Ian’s thoughtful guidance throughout my stay.  He was someone who listened patiently, never judgmental in his approach.  

Overall, I hope to have the opportunity to return to Peru in the near future, which has a rich culture as well as a rich diversity in people. Somehow, I will not be surprised if our paths cross in the future.

Best wishes, Ken

Ken chasing Yamile during field day

Dear Ian, 

I think you are such a hard working, conscientious, kind hearted and open minded person. You think of others before yourself and you have such a generous heart. You have an incredible ability to make anyone feel at ease instantly which is a real skill. Your curiosity and incessant questions about the world and people you meet makes you the perfect First Dates candidate (it’s British a tv show, not sure if you’ve heard of it)…The work you’ve done at LLI over the past year has been amazing, especially with making all those new volunteers feel welcome and comfortable. You have such a gift with people.

I wish you all the best in the future and I hope it isn’t too long before we get to see each other! 

Sending you love and hugs from far away,


A seahorse! – Photo courtesy of Phoebe Murphy, UK

Dear Brynn, 

Oh Brynn, where do I start? You’re so amazing with your kiddos and you can really see how much they love and respect you. Your passion for putting good into the world and having a positive impact on the kids at LLI was really inspiring to watch. 

Your calming energy is something I really appreciated during my time at LLI and I always admired how good you were at handling any situation you were put into. Thank you for being like an older sister to me and looking after me. You’re so kind and warm and never fail to make those around you laugh. Never give up on pursuing what makes you genuinely happy, who knows, it could be in Europpee! 

I wish you all the best in the future; I know you’ll ace whatever you put your mind to. Btw, I’d really appreciate it if you managed to find that job in Europppeee!!! 

All my love and hugs,


Brynn, Mary and Phoebe – Photo courtesy of Phoebe Murphy

Dear Yara,

You’re a superstar. I admire your work ethic and how committed you are to everything you do. When I first went to the Teen Centre and met the Teens, I remember being struck at the connection and bond you had with them. They love you so much, hence why they are constantly asking where you are ahah. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to meet you and be inspired by your love and passion for everyone you meet. You’re such a beautiful human and there is no doubt that you’re going to carry on being an extremely successful and accomplished woman. 

I hope that one days our paths cross again, but in the meantime, I wish you all the best.

My love and hugs,


Yara and Patrick at the anniversary

Mary sent some photos!

Brynn finally gets a haircut! – Photo courtesy of Mary Lord, UK
Same sweater! – Photo courtesy of Mary Lord
A memory from Mary’s theater night at the Teen Center

To Brynn: Too many wonderfully bizarre memories to keep track. Thank you for the laughs, discussions, awkward dating encounters– you will be deeply missed in LLI and at my house (seriously I think the family I live with knows you by name now). I wouldn’t want to argue with national park tour guides with anyone else ❤ Your knowledge, cultural awareness, and (especially) niche pop culture expertise is continuously refreshing, I wonder often how you fit so many random things in your head. I think I was a bad influence on you because I brought out your gringa-ness in the most obvious ways, but please know that I will always have an open yoga mat for you to sleep on when you return! Un Abrazo Fuerte ~Jillian~

Jill and Brynn at the anniversary

To Ian: DUDE, I’m going to miss hanging around in office with you. Our discussions were unparalleled and I think everyone in the office was secretly jealous (or maybe annoyed that the two loudest people in the office were talking nonstop). Thank you for making such an impact on the organization and being the definition of a stand-up guy. My best days in office are when I get an Ian laugh and an Ian “claaaaasic”. Sending nothing but good vibes your way into the future and cannot wait to show up to visit you somewhere in the NW 🙂 ~Jillian~

Ian and his girls, Huaycán and HoraciaPhoto courtesy of Jillian Schneider, USA

To Yara: Yara! I’m sad to see you leave, but wanted to say thank you so much for what you’ve done in the organization over the past year. Your dedication to the teens was so evident and I’m only sad that we didn’t have the chance to work together more. Your work ethic will take you so far in the future–I can’t wait to see the amazing things you’ll achieve! ~Jillian~

Yara and her beloved waffle and muffin makers Photo courtesy of Jill Schneider

For Ian: From the beginning of the interview, to the last day of my volunteer experience – You helped me feel welcome and comfortable. Thanks to you I felt relaxed and could have an even better experience in Huaycan. For all the times I had questions, you could help me. Every single volunteer appreciates your qualities as a person and LLI will “lose” a very helpful, kind and strong organizing talent with your departure. – Dominic

For Brynn: I really enjoyed the laid back weekends we had, just chilling and watching movies and series. Thank you for all the good conversations about sports. I really enjoyed the tour of Barranco and Lima that you gave us. My volunteer experience would not have been the same without you. It was always a good energy when you graced us with your presence in the volunteer house. Keep that bright smile Brynn and may it guide you through life and all upcoming chapters.

For Yara: You have your way with the teens. I’ve learned a lot just by observing you, how you manage groups and the way you talk to them. I hope you will find a job one day where socializing is the main part of it, as you really understand how to communicate with them. I wish you the best of luck as you depart from LLI and embark on a new chapter.

Perfect selfie of Dominic (center) – Photo courtesy of Emma Livingston, USA
Dominic dancing

Thank you all so much for volunteering in Huaycan, and making such a huge impact on the community. Things wouldn’t be the same without you. It’s inspiring how selfless, humble and caring each one of you are. I wish there were more people like you in the world. Good luck on all of your future endeavors!

My favorite memory with Ian: Trivia game night. Brynn: going to Zone S with you!! Yara: hanging out in the teen center with you and all the teens – Jasmine

For Brynn: Thank you Brynn for always being so helpful and kind. You’re so great with the kids, you set a great example. I’m really glad I had the chance to work with you, I had so much fun and learned so so much! I wish you all the best in the future! – Reetta

For Yara:Thank you Yara for all the help with the teens’ classes and being so understanding and kind. I admire how hard working you are and how well you work with the teens. I wish you all the best in the future! – Reetta

For Ian: Thank you Ian for good conversations, sharing thoughts about sports and music, taking me to the piano place (!!!!) and for all the help and everything. I really admire your ability to connect and communicate with people. Being around you is so easy – you really make people feel welcome. Continue being so great! Wish you all the best in the future!

Yara: Working with you was tons of fun! Your impact on the leadership program and the teen center is amazing. The teens love you and it was so nice watching you connect with all of them. I know that wherever you end up next, you’ll do great things! Best of luck in the future! Best, Isabelle 

As a Huaywasi intern, I did not work directly with Ian, Brynn, or Yara, but each one of these amazing individuals made my time with LLI so much more special! I would like to thank these three people for sharing their positivity with not just me, but all of the other wonderful volunteers at LLI. Yara was absolutely amazing with the teens & I will always remember her smile and love for animals. I will always remember the fun times we had at our game nights & watching La Casa de Papel. It was great sharing an office space with Brynn & Yara even if it was only a week. I will miss hearing about Brynn’s adventures and her passion for volunteering. It was great seeing how amazing Brynn is when interacting with the kids and their parents and I am soo glad we both shared a mutual appreciation of Post Malone and traveling. Ian was the first person I spoke with from LLI and I remember how nervous I was in our interview. Through all of our conversations before I arrived in Huaycan, and our crazy stories once I was in Huaycan, I will always have a fond memory of Ian helping others and going above & beyond to reach his goals. He always had a positive attitude about everything & I appreciate all the help he was able to give me even before I arrived to LLI. Most people dread going to work everyday, but these three beautiful people made me dread going home from work and Huaycan 🙂  – Deb

Perfect teamwork in free time by Brynn & IanPhoto courtesy of Heidi Wistrand
Photo courtesy of Heidi Wistrand

Brynn, Yara & Ian: you’re amazing and I miss you. Thank you to all of you for making my visit with the Light and Leadership Initiative unforgettable and amazing this year. You made it so easy to jump along and be part of the high quality education with LLI as welcoming was so warm and orientation was so great. You’re so good at your work and I couldn’t have been happier as this time when I could take part of the time with kids and teens in the Education Center and Teen Center.  You also have a genuine interest in taking others into consideration. That makes me smile and I have warm thoughts when remembering our conversations, games and puzzles and time spent together. Thank you for so many experiences and travels too! Hope to see you again soon. We have a spy or two here in Finland as well 🙂 .  Until then find lots of perfect moments and have exciting game nights where ever you will be! – Heidi

Yara and Ian are too good at all kind of games – Photo courtesy of Heidi Wistrand

Yara Yarita estoy muy contenta de haberte conocido por medio de esta organizacion maravillosa, espero algun dia crucemos nuestros caminos de nuevo, eres una chica super . Gracias por invitarnos al restaurante Mexicano y me gustó “el burrito chingon”  estaba PADRE jajajajaja Deseo los mejores exitos en cada meta que tienes para tu vida, cuidate mucho Yara y quiero que sepas que tienes una amiga en Peru. Somos las que sentimos mas frio que el resto de gerentes o voluntarios y siempre estamos quejandonos de eso jajajajajaja – Yeni

BRYNN Hola my dearest Brynn 🙂 Estoy muy contenta de haberte conocido y trabajar contigo. Hiciste un buen trabajo con cada uno de nuestros participantes, sé que ellos estarán muy agradecidos contigo cada vez que te recuerden, gracias por poner un granito de arena a una causa buena como lo que hace LLI. Te deseo los mejores exitos en la vida, quiero que te cuides mucho my dearest y recuerda que tienes una amiga en Peru. Recuerdo: Compañeras de viaje a la zona S 🙂 Brynn, recuerdas nuestra reunion de padres de esa zona y solo asistio una mama jajajajajaja Siempre a Brynn le gusto que le llamara “My dearest Brynn” – Yeni

IAN Hi Ian 🙂 Estoy alegre por haberte conocido, eres una persona maravillosa y alegre, espero que siempre asi sea tu forma de ser. Gracias por todo el apoyo que brindaste a cada uno del staff, voluntarios y participantes de LLI, eres una pieza mas que se unio a esta causa buena que realiza dia a dia LLI. Te deseo los mejores exitos en la vida, cuidate mucha a donde vayas y espero que no te olvides de tus amigos de Peru 🙂 Uno de los recuerdos que siempre voy a tener de ti es que te gusta mucho en español usar los diminutivos jajajaja Otro recuerdo es cuando queria yo decir grasshopper en ingles, pero decia incorrecto ” gras-shoper” jajajjaja gracias por corregirme teacher Ian. Casi parecido te pasó con el español, una tarde tenias mucha hambre y querias decir ” quiero matar el hambre” en vez de eso dijiste “quiero matar el hombre” y yo me quedé sorprendida preguntandome a quien hombre quiere matar Ian jajajajaja. 
Ian te dejo una trabalengua del burrito barrigon, yo sé que te va a gustar mucho 🙂 – Yeni

Burrito barrigón

El burrito barrigón
ayer se dio un resbalón.
Por andar detrás de un carro,
se cayó dentro del barro.
¡Qué burrito picarón,
el burrito barrigón!

Foto de recuerdo de nuestros gerente – Photo courtesy of Yeni Delgado, Peru

Thank you Yara, Ian and Brynn for a great year. Welcome Caroline, Jamie and Estefanía! I’m looking forward to another strong team committed to effecting positive change in Huaycán. Bienvenidas!

And now, for the best part of the blog: Fun pictures we couldn’t find a place for anywhere else! Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Mary Lord
Photo courtesy of Yeni Delgado
Frenemies – Photo courtesy of Jill Schneider
Llama rock!
Brynn and Valeska
Yara and Brenda
Ian and Angelo
Last cerro climb with the managers!
Ximena’s so mad you’re leaving! Come back! We miss you already!

Olinda and Yennifer…One Year On!

If you are a regular reader of the LLI blog, you may well remember Olinda and Yennifer, the winners from the Women’s Program 2018 Business Competition. 

Olinda and Yennifer receiving their certificates at the business competition last year

The Business Competition is the biggest event in the Women’s Program calendar. We invite all the women who have been attending our business and finance classes to compete to win a 1000 soles (about $330) investment for their businesses. During the competition, they give a short elevator pitch to a panel of judges and submit their business plans. Last year, Olinda and Yennifer impressed the judges with their creative business ideas, compelling speeches and thorough business plans. So what are Olinda and Yennifer doing now? We caught up with them to find out what they have been up to the past year and how their businesses are going. 


Olinda pitching her ‘Insectivida’ product at the business competition

Olinda’s passion is plants and the environment. Her business, Biodri, offers an organic pesticide product called ‘Insectivida’ made from natural substances such as garlic. She also offers a service where she examines the customer’s plant to help identify the pest and advise them on what product they need.  Olinda invested her 1000 soles in bidones (large containers to make her product), the bottles to sell her product and the labels for her product. 

This year, Olinda has managed to increase her customer base and has regular customers both in Lima and Huaycan. Recently, she can be found in the fair in the main square of Huaycan, promoting and selling her product. Olinda has also done a two-day course at the Agrarian University of Lima to learn more about her field. 

Olinda says a challenge for her has been finding the money to pay for promotional costs such as leaflets and business cards, but she has finally saved enough and will be getting her business cards done next week.

Olinda says the next step for her business is offering other products alongside her insecticide, such as compost and hummus.  Olinda says “My favourite part of running my business is knowing I am helping to take care of the plants, the environment and people”

Olinda selling her insecticide at a recent fair in Huaycan


Yennifer presenting Baby Ecology reusable diaper 

Yennifer noticed a gap in the market when she had her baby boy last year and now her business, Baby Ecology, makes reusable diapers from ecological materials. Yennifer invested her 1000 soles in the materials to make the diapers such as cloth, elastic and fasteners. She also used the money to make flyers and business cards to help promote her business and for the registration fee to participate in fairs.

Yennifer has been very busy this year selling her product at various fairs including the closeby town of Chaclacayo, and the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco. She has another fair coming up in the mountain town of Huancavelica. But the year has not been without its challenges. Yennifer says that a big challenge has been getting her company known in the local area and to convince people to make the switch from regular diapers to reusable, more environmentally-friendly ones. However, Yennifer decided to offer one free diaper to mothers as a trial to see if they were happy with the product. After this, many mothers decided to make the switch and little by little, Yennifer’s company is becoming more well-known in Huaycan. In addition to this, Yennifer’s products are also being sold in shops in Pucalpa and Pichanique, in the jungle part of Peru.

Yennifer says the next stage for her business is to improve her product so that the diapers can be used for longer and to make them even more ecological. She also wants to formalize her business and find more suppliers to stock her products. 

Yennifer says that she loves working for herself and managing her own business because she is in control of her own hours, which allows her to take care of her one year old son. 

Yennifer participating in movement exercises to prepare for the business competition

Would you like to help women entrepreneurs in Huaycán gain valuable business skills? Volunteer with us as LLI’s Women’s Program Assistant! Email for more information!

6 Opportunities To Work With LLI Volunteer Openings Starting From September!

Have you been looking at LLI and wondering a bit more about our positions? Are you looking for ethical volunteering opportunities? We have a wide range of positions available in Huaycán, Peru, and this blog post is going to dive into 6 different positions. Check them out – one of them could be the perfect fit for you

1. Reading Program Teacher

One of our most requested classes from participants: English. We have kids and teens with a range of English abilities who are looking to improve their skills. Our English program caters to both volunteers with teaching experience (we’ll talk about implementing your own ideas and experience!) as well as new or novice teachers (we have existing lesson plans and curriculum!). This is a great opportunity for those who have no Spanish (some Spanish doesn’t hurt either!) and are willing to make at least a six week commitment to volunteering in Huaycán. 

Finnish volunteer, Reetta, using music to educate

Meet Reetta (Finland), one of our current English Teachers!

“My best experience as an English teacher with LLI has been seeing how students have learned new things and increased their self confidence. It’s been really rewarding to notice that, as a teacher, I can help the students to improve not only their English language skills but also their social skills. In addition, I’ve gained a lot of teaching experience which is also very valuable.”

2. Reading Program Teacher

Did you know LLI’s Kids’ Center has a library with over 1000 books? Kids love to read at LLI and our reading program volunteers are in charge of providing a fun, nurturing space for kids to enjoy their favorite books as well as challenging them to think critically about what they are reading. If you have at least intermediate-level Spanish and are excited to challenge kids through reading, this is the position for you. 

Meet Amelia (USA/PERU), our current Reading Teacher!

“I like teaching with the kids. I like that they’re always eager to learn. If you treat them with love and respect, they will treat you the same way. Kids are easy to handle when they can see that you care about them. They always treat me like a teacher. Even though I tell them I’m not a teacher, they say, yes you are! They even gave me a chocolate for teachers’ day. Kids can change the world. When I taught them about plastic waste in the environment, I asked them how can we make a change. And they told me, ‘I am the change.’” That’s why I love working with kids.”

Kids’ Program participant enjoys a book in the LLI library

3. Art Teacher

LLI students often cite art as their favorite class… it’s a time when kids and teens get to be creative, explore something new and socialize with each other. Plus, LLI’s art program operates on the generosity of others: we receive almost all supplies from incoming volunteers, which makes are our art program easy to sustain! If you want to share your passion for art with our kids and teens and have basic Spanish skills, come join us as our next volunteer art teacher!

Kids work on a group art project as part of LLI’s art program

4. Women’s Program Manager

Looking for a unique opportunity to facilitate empowerment for women? Are you passionate about issues facing women? LLI is looking for our next Women’s Program Manager to start on January 10th, 2020 and stay until December 9th 2020. The position entails the oversight, management and development of our women’s entrepreneurship program (Mujeres Empredadoras). This includes overseeing financial education programs, managing the program budget, promoting the program in the community and much more! We are looking for someone who can think creatively to grow our program in line with our Program Goals. Advanced Spanish, leadership experience and a passion for women’s issues and education required.

Women learn to feel more confidence in themselves in public speaking class.

We asked our current Women’s Program Manager, Jess (UK), what is the most fulfilling aspect of her position: “Definitely seeing the women use what they’ve learned in the classes both in their businesses and also in their everyday lives.  I love seeing them come to class with so much enthusiasm and seeing them learn more and more each week, whilst growing in confidence.”

5. Women’s Program Assistant

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As Women’s Program Assistant, you could have the opportunity to teach basic computer skills to our Women Entrepreneurs

Would you love to help empower women in Huaycán but can’t commit to a whole year? LLI is looking for a passionate manager assistant for it’s Women’s Program! The Women’s Program Assistant plays an integral role as the right hand of our manager, Jess, in carrying out projects and tasks related to the management and development of the Women’s Program. This includes but is not limited to registration assistance, promoting the program, carrying out community surveys and interviews, and potentially assisting with program evaluation. Jess says, “We are looking for someone who is organized and a team player, with a demonstrated interest in community development. Spanish skills are a must and research skills are a plus!”

6. Teen Leadership Program Facilitator

This is a super cool position in which a volunteer is directly involved with one of our most exciting and important programs – our Teen Leadership Program! Volunteers facilitate leadership classes and assist in developing leadership curriculum and leadership projects! If you are passionate about leadership, have advanced Spanish skills, and are looking to make at least a 6-week volunteer commitment – this is the position for you!

Teens participate in a campaign to clean up a historical landmark of Huaycan

Meet Isabelle (USA), our current Teen Leadership Facilitator
“During my freshman year of high school, I created a tutoring program to help underprivileged kids with learning disabilities. I enjoy helping others and making a difference in the community. So far, the most gratifying experience for me at LLI has been helping the teens strive for excellence and seeing them continue to want to do well while maintaining a positive attitude despite any obstacles some may have.” 

If any of these positions sound like a good fit for you, contact us at