Today we are extremely excited to introduce you to our immensely self-motivated, driven, and generous volunteer, Maria Fraga. In June 2013 Maria taught several classes at the LLI and developed deep connection with the kids, other volunteers and people of Huaycan. Drawing from her wish to continue supporting LLI, Maria has since raised several thousand dollars through fund-raising. Her contributions have tremendously helped LLI in its efforts to provide education to kids, empowerment to women and safe establishment to teens in Huaycan.
Currently living outside of Boston, MA, Maria is originally from Northern Portugal. Born in a small village in Northern Portugal, her family moved to Frankfurt, Germany, when she was eight years old. Six months after, they again moved to the US. Happily married for over 20 years, Maria has three wonderful children who motivate and inspire her every day.
Here we are in conversation with Maria to find out more about her outlook on volunteering, LLI and fundraising:
LLI: What motivated you to volunteer in Peru?
Maria: Interestingly enough it wasn’t Peru that motivated me; it was South America in general. I have always had a fascination with Mayan and Inca civilizations, as I learned more, Peru became the common denominator. I then researched Peru and became fascinated by its people and culture. I was struck by the poverty and lack of opportunities for women and children in the country. It also reminded me somewhat of where I came from in Portugal and what it had been like growing up as a child in an impoverished village.
LLI: So, how did you come to know about LLI?
Maria: I learned about LLI through a different organization that at the time worked with LLI.
LLI: Would you tell us about your work at the LLI?
Maria: I was able to spend a week in Huaycan and was lucky enough to be there when they were celebrating their anniversary. I was able to participate in the English classes in Zone S and be part of the celebration. It was an amazing experience not only to see the impact that LLI has on the children that participate in the programs but the women as well. I was struck by how eager the children were and how excited they were to see “teacher”. I will not forget the first day I went to Zone S, one of the girls was very shy and would barely look at me, I expected the same the next day but to my surprise she met me at the combi (local public transport) and I had barely gotten off when she came running and gave me a big hug and took me by the hand to walk with me to the classroom! My heart was filled with joy and I knew I was making a difference in this child’s world.
LLI: What’s the reason behind your exceptional commitment to LLI?
Maria: I saw first hand the impact that LLI is having on the lives of the children, women and families of the area. As much as I would have loved to stay there longer, it simply is not feasible. But I knew I wanted to be able to continue to support the phenomenal work of the organization. So I though why not do something through fundraising?
LLI: What do you want people to understand about LLI?
Maria:Well, they say seeing is believing and I wish everyone could see first hand the impact that LLI is having in the lives of these children and women. LLI’s leader Lara is an exceptional person and very committed to the organization she started. She is involved and isn’t sitting in a corporate office in some other country, she is completely committed to the organization that she created and that was key for me to decide to continue to support LLI
LLI: Any tips for future fundraisers?
Maria: Look for opportunities that may be out of the ordinary, ask your local town hall what they’ve seen in the past, they have to issue permits so they will have a good sense of what others have done. Look in your surrounding towns as well to see what they’ve done. Ask on Social Media what other people have done. Nothing is out of the realm of possibilities as just recently proven with the ice bucket challenge, which raised awareness and millions of dollars for ALS research.
LLI: Any memorable incident, while you volunteered at the LLI that you’d like to share with our readers?
Maria: There are so many wonderful memories that will still with me forever. Playing soccer and having one of the kids stop the game to explain the rules to me because I wasn’t “doing it right”, being taken for a “hike by some of the girls and them being so worried that “teacher” was ok, the look of pride on Eduardo’s face when he got an answer right and the look of sadness on the kids faces when I had to say goodbye.
LLI: Advice for future volunteers?
Maria: If you have the opportunity GO FOR IT and immerse yourself, it truly is a life changing opportunity that will stay with you forever and you will never forget.