LLI Thanks You!

On Saturday, Lara and Louella (LLI treasurer and mother extraordinaire) came in with some special gifts for our Kids’ Center. New collections of Legos had the kid’s extremely ecstatic. LLI students faces were filled with smiles during our board games class.

Here are just a few pictures of our students having a blast with their new Legos!

LLI is incredibly fortunate for all of the amazing people that have been able to donate to our Kids’ and Teen Program! Keep a look out for some pictures of our first ever Halloween haunted house.


Haven’t been able to donate yet? It’s not to late, donate here.

Clothing by Guillermina – a Huaywasi Artisan

Huaywasi is LLI’s artisan store and a branch of the Women’s Empowerment Program. One of Huaywasi’s artisans, Guillermina, makes beautiful clothing, incorporating traditional Andean fabrics into original clothing designs. Among these items are hand-made hoodies, dresses, skirts, t-shirts, and more. Watch this video, get to know Guillermina a bit better, and find out how she uses the income she receives from Huaywasi:

Check out one of Guillermina’s newest products, the Wawa Hoodie –

Shop ethically for more of Guillermina’s hand-made clothing now, like these super soft zip-up sweatshirts, with hoods lined in Andean fabric –


Buy Andean Zip-Up Hoodie (Pre-Order)

LLI’s 1st Open House!

Last Saturday The Light and Leadership Initiative held their first open house in Huaycán!

The Teen Center and Women’s Program partnered up to create our event, “Abierto al Público” to recruit new teens and women participants for LLI. The night was filled with presentations on each program, raffles, food, and tons of interest from the community.We had a great night with over 50 people coming into to hear more about what we do as an organization. Not only were the international volunteers there to run the event, but both local and teen volunteers were there to assist with presentations, raffles, recruitment, and childcare. Overall, we had a great turnout and an amazing time seeing so many new faces!

Check out some awesome pictures from the night:






A huge THANK YOU goes out to our amazing local and teen volunteers for all their assistance on such a busy day and their efforts to help LLI grow.

Interested in volunteering? Apply here.

Huaywasi Formula Breakdown : Fair Wages


Have you heard of Huaywasi?

Huaywasi is LLI’s fair-trade artisan store that started as a branch off of the Women’s Empowerment Program. Huaywasi staff members work with women artisans in Huaycán, who attend educational workshops with the Women’s Program. The artisans produce handmade, one-of-a-kind products that are sold in fairs around Chicago, IL and online at http://www.huaywasi.com!

How does Huaywasi ensure that its artisans are making a fair living? 

The artisans are paid a fair hourly wage for each product that they create based on what a living wage is here in Peru. Huaywasi staff members work carefully with each artisan to calculate a fair price on each new product, based on the hours of labor and cost of materials spent making each item. Each product is handmade and designed either by the artisan or in collaboration with the Huaywasi team.

Several artisans work full time with Huaywasi, and a couple still work part time–we hope to get all artisans up to full time work in the future.

How is this different from other fashion brands, like H&M?

Brands like H&M are fast fashion brands. The goal of brands such as these is to get new trends on the market as quickly and cheaply as possible. The result is often (but we can’t speak for these brands) poorly paid workers and unethical working conditions.  Huaywasi is what is called a slow fashion brand. Our goal is not to pump out mass amounts of the same product while neglecting the well-being of our employees. Instead, we focus on high quality, uniqueness, fair wages and comfortable working conditions.

What do Huaywasi artisans do with the money they earn from their products? 

All Huaywasi artisans are mothers, and some of them are grandmothers as well. The earnings they generate from their product sales create financial stability and allow them to provide for their families while working comfortably from home. Huaywasi artisans commonly report using their funds to provide schooling for their children, pay bills and buy food from the market.

Here’s Huaywasi’s seamstress, Guillermina, explaining what she does with the income she receives from Huaywasi while making skirts, dresses and other apparel:

Rosa’s Monthly Blog-September

The English Program

Did you know that the English Program is LLI’s most popular program? In 2016, LLI started four new English classes: two at the Kid’s Center and two at the Teen Center. We now have 91 students who participate in English classes every week. This year we’ve also had English volunteers from four different countries: United States, United Kingdom, Poland, and Finland, who have helped us to complete LLI’s mission of educating youth in the Huaycán community. LLI is currently working on aligning its curriculum to the Peruvian ELL standards to better assist the needs of the students and their learning habits.

In September, an exciting English music hour has started for all participants at the Teen Center. The teens are enjoying this time to come together to listen and learn with one another. Students participated in various listening activities with vocabulary, including word sorts and stand-up/sit-down for repeated words. At the end, they were able to get the deeper meaning of the song based on what we learned from the vocabulary within the lyrical context.


This month we are really excited to have some amazing teachers with us.

Abbey attended Michigan State University and studied Human Biology/Nutritional Sciences, minoring in Peace and Justice Studies with a focus primarily on Social Justice issues in the realm of Public Health.

Jessica attended Northern Illinois University and studied Nonprofit and NGO Studies with a minor in Spanish.

I asked both Abbey and Jessica, “What made you come out to LLI and what do you like best about it?”

“I heard about LLI from my friends Shelby and Karilynn, who are former volunteers. I was in search of an opportunity to go abroad and LLI was the perfect fit to combine my love for Spanish, kids, yoga, education and even fair trade! What I have loved best is being able to build relationships with the the people of Huaycan. My volunteer experience abroad previously was always only a week at a time and I never was able to immerse myself into the culture. I’ve loved being able to stay for an extended period of time (although 6 weeks went by way too fast!) and really immerse myself in the culture here.” -Abbey

“I decided to come to LLI for the opportunity to learn more Spanish while also working with kids which is something I love to do. I also like to teach, but it’s something I haven’t had the opportunity to do often, so I thought I would enjoy the experience of being a teacher here at LLI. What I like most so far is getting to know the kids both in the classroom and outside of class and forming relationships with them. I also love when we play a fun games in class and all of the students just light up and have a blast.” -Jessica


Are you interested in becoming a part of the team here at LLI? Apply here.

New Huaywasi Product – The Wawa Hoodie!


Huaywasi just launched its newest and most adorable product yet – the Wawa Hoodie! “Wawa” means “baby” in Quechua – the native language of the Andes. Hand-made by Guillermina, this hoodie is a perfect gift for baby showers, nieces or nephews, or your own kiddos! Check out the Wawa hoodie in action –

Order yours now! –



Wawa Hoodie


Rosa’s Monthly Update-August


This month was very exciting, as we welcomed back two well-known past volunteers Heidi and John!

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Heidi hails from Helsinki,Finland. She has dedicated her time in the emergency room as a registered nurse for 25 years and now works for a social insurance association. During her time with LLI she has been assisting us with our Reading, Math, and English program as well as numerous activities in our Teen Center.


John comes to us from San Francisco, California. He works for Zillow Group  where he is a Senior Mobile Software Engineer, coding iPhones, iPads, and Androids. This is John’s fourth time volunteering with LLI. He has been teaching in our coding and app inventor classes at the Kid’s and Teen Center.

The LLI team wanted to thank Heidi and John on their continuous commitment and we also appreciate your hard work and dedication to our kids!

Here are some kind words from our current volunteers to Heidi and John:

“John has been an amazing addition to LLI’s family. It’s great to see him here, now in his FOURTH volunteer opportunity, and making Coding a permanent part of LLI’s programming. And plus, he loves to share cakes and pastries, so who can deny that? Thanks John for being you.” -Lara
“Heidi is one of the most genuine and loving women I have ever met in my life. We are lucky to have her yet asecond time in Huaycán and I know her calming presence and her dedication is infectious to the rest of us. We love you Heidi!” -Lara
John and Miguel jamming out at the Teen Center! -Patricia
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Heidi has a great way of connecting with every person she meets; from the students at the kids’ center to Dina and Queta in the house. Heidi, I loved dancing with you, come back soon! -Pam
“I’m so glad to have Heidi and John with us this month. They are amazing people with such a great passion for the organization. It’s awesome to be around two inspiring people!” -Rosa
“What strikes me most about John is how generous he is. This is his fourth time volunteering with LLI in Huaycan. Not only does he give his time, but he is always doing kind things for others, like surprising the kids with ice cream and showing up to the volunteer house with a bag of pastries. He gives so much to this organization and is a joy to be around.” -Janae
“I love Heidi’s adventurous spirit. She is not afraid to try new things, like eating anticuchos and teaching Finnish to the kids during childcare, and I have loved all of our game nights and outings with her during my time here. She is so patient and helpful with all the kids and I know they will all miss her so much when she leaves! She truly brings a smile to everyone’s face.” -Janae
John: “I think that returning year after year from his home in the Bay Area of California just shows how committed John is at supporting an organization. He is one of the only individuals I know that balances financial support, with his technological donations, and the other kind of support, that requires teaching that student how to use technology. He’s one cool dude.” – Olivia
Heidi: “She’s exactly the kind of energy you need: for kids, for parents, and for volunteers, as well. A person like Heidi re-energizes you with her kindness and generosity. She reminds me why we do the work that we do. I hope if she returns a third year, we can have her start a Finnish club, because language learning is so important and Heidi is exactly the kind of language learner you want in the classroom: she is someone who consistently tries.” -Olivia

Meet Our Teen Center Coordinator

Returning for more! Meet Jess our Teen Center Coordinator, who is a returning LLI volunteer that will be with us for one whole year. Thanks for your continued support Jess!


Get to know all about Jess with this Q & A:

1. Tell me about yourself. What school you attended, major, what you were doing before this, hobbies, etc.

I went to Carleton College and majored in International Relations. During my time there I worked as a Gender and Sexuality Center Associate and was involved in the Latin American Student Organization and the Collective for Women’s Issues. I studied in five languages throughout my time at Carleton as language has always been a passion of mine, and I’m always looking for people to practice my French or Arabic with! Growing up, I moved around all the time and ended up spending three years in Santiago, Chile and five years in D.F. (Mexico City), Mexico. During college I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan and Lima, Peru, where I first heard about LLI. These experiences have given me essential language skills and fueled my drive to do my work at LLI.

2. How does it feel being back on the LLI team? Any changes?

It feels great! After being here last year for a little over two months I was so aware that it wasn’t long enough. Since I’ve been back most of the people I work with have been new, but it’s been nice that during my time two people I worked with last year also came back to volunteer, which I think speaks to the commitmpasted image 0ent people feel to this organization. In terms of changes, there’s a lot of new art up on the walls at the teen center, which I love! Last time I was here, we moved everything from the Zone D classroom to the Kid’s Center and everything was still getting set up, so it’s nice to see the Kid’s Center in full swing.

3. Why Teen Center Coordinator?

While I was here last time, I was doing a little bit of everything. I taught math for the kid’s program, taught basic computer skills for the women’s program, translated for a researcher conducting nutrition research through LLI, and worked at the Teen Center. I loved everything I did, but the Teen Center really stood out to me as a unique place for young people who care about their community. As the Teen Center Coordinator is a fairly new position, I feel like there’s still a lot of development to be done, and I’m excited to continue developing the leadership program and organizing a program to help the teens think about their plans after they graduate from the Teen Center.

4. What do you like most about Huaycan?

One of my favorite things about Huaycan is definitely Sunday night futbol/soccer. Every week a group of LLI volunteers, local volunteers, and friends get together to play for an hour or two and it’s such a nice way to get to know people, have fun, and get a little exercise. I also love the street food, and getting to try everything from anticuchos (cow hearts) to bombitas (fried dough sweets).

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Launching of Huaywasi.com

Huaywasi, the artisan program within LLI’s Women’s Empowerment Program, has officially launched an online store! All products are hand-made by six different female artisans in Huaycán, who are paid fair wages for their talents. The artisans make a variety of products ; hand-loomed bags and backpacks, dresses and skirts, yoga mat carriers, knit scarves, ceramics, and more. Each Huaywasi purchase supports not only the artisan’s financial future, but also provides free educational workshops for women in Huaycán.

“It is not fair that anybody sit 12 hours sewing and sewing until they collapse of dehydration and hunger,” Ludvig Hambro said. “…It costs us 10 Euro to buy a T-shirt at H&M, but somebody has to starve for you to be able to buy it.” – From “Who’s Really Paying for Our Cheap Clothes” – Ecowatch.comfairwages-herminia

Support fair wages and education for our Huaywasi artisans at Huaywasi.com

Meet Patricia!

Meet Patricia who has been with the LLI team since May 2016 as our Women’s Program Manager! Patricia is no stranger to South America, she is Brazilian and is third generation Japanese. Originally from São Paulo (the biggest city in Latin America), but was raised in a smaller town nearby. She spent about four years in Belo Horizonte, where she received her Bachelors degree in International Relations from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais.


Learn more about Patricia with this  Q & A:

1. Tell me about what you did before LLI?

Before LLI, I spent a year working and traveling through Thailand and Southeast Asia. I joined LLI as the Women’s Program Manager after looking for a great opportunity to work with gender and development.

2. What is your favorite part of being the WPM?
Here I’m having the chance to apply my knowledge in international relat13754556_10153793617638946_2850905938942205639_nions and gender, and also also learn a lot about social work and non-profit management. But this is a tough question, I don’t have one favorite part. I enjoy meeting the women (at the Program and on the street, markets,etc…) and their kids, and it’s also very nice to meet other organizations working for women and community development. The artisan program, Huaywasi, is another highlight. All in all, this has been a great community immersing experience.
3. How do you see the women’s program growing?
My goal is to set a solid program, reaching out to more women, helping Huaycán to achieve a sustainable development, and bridge the gender inequality gap. I am looking forward to creating structured certificate programs for our workshops, and a community empowerment program. I aim to set a program in which the women from Huaycán truly see as theirs.
4. What do you love most about being in Peru?
Peru is being such a great place to discover every day. I would mention the people, food, sightseeings, Machu Picchu, … And the feeling that this is very similar to my home. Even the crazy traffic reminds me of home (a.k.a my time in Thailand, and some Brazilian neighborhoods). Living in Huaycán is a different and pleasurable experience. It also astonishes me how many Peruvians are so interested in learning Portuguese. Plus, it’s great having the opportunity to meet amazing people from other countries also wanting to discover Peru in a sustainable way. 
5. Hobbies?
Origami and other crafts. Whatever is related to food (I’m especially interested in veganism and organic food). Learning different languages. Traveling. Meditation and yoga.🙂