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?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org