We had the chance to sit down with Children’s Program volunteer Emmi Rautkylä, and learn about her experience working with the organization. Originally from Finland, she’s been living in Peru and volunteering with us since February 2016.
- Tell us a little about who you are and what brought you to volunteer in Peru?
I’m a 33-year-old lighting designer and rock climber from Finland. I’m lucky to have had the privilege of studying for free from elementary school all the way to my PhD in Lighting Technology. Now I think it’s time to give back, challenge myself, and see what I can do for other people’s education.
I have always known that I wanted to volunteer in Latin America at some point. Most people choose volunteering in their 20s, but for me the right time was now. What drew me to working with LLI was the fact that it seemed like you could really interact with the people and do a lot regardless of the length of your stay. The Light and Leadership Initiative program is well structured and managed, and easy to jump into: it offers activities to kids, teens, and women, which are demographics that need all the support they can get in Peru.
Apart for the organization, the country itself intrigued me because of its culture, its people, and let’s not forget the landscape. There’s no better way to learn about a country than by connecting with its people through education. My Spanish skills were at basic level prior to the program but they have already improved a lot thanks to the interaction with the locals in Huaycán.
- What are your responsibilities at LLI?
My main responsibilities are with the children’s education program. I’m the lead teacher in chess and math and also build a structured sports curriculum for 7-12 year-olds. In math the goal is to strengthen the skills taught in school and help the kids with their homework. Chess involves teaching basic concepts and moves to the beginners and tactics for the more advanced students. Some of the kids are already very skilled in chess, so the program aims not only build good players, but also to improve logical thinking and the kids’ self-confidence. In all my subjects it is important to practice good sportsmanship between boys and girls with different backgrounds.
- What’s an example day like for you at LLI?
My typical day consists of preparing the classes and teaching them. In the evening I might have a shift in the Teen center or look after the kids when their mothers are attending classes. Every other week I grade chess exams and if there’s a parent meeting coming up, each teacher is responsible for giving individual feedback to his/her students. Outside of work hours I like to visit the dairy farm, go jogging, or do some others sports. We also play soccer once a week with the locals.
- What has been a highlight for you living in Huaycán?
Being with the kids and teaching them is a daily highlight for me. When a kid comes to greet you with a kiss and says “Hola Miss” or “Ciao Miss”, my heart melts! I had to learn how to play chess before coming here, so I can sympathize with them and the pain they might feel when learning new concepts. As a result, I get the most joy out of those moments when a kid accomplishes or learns something new. You can almost see the light bulb on top of their head which is of course delightful for a lighting designer.
- How do you feel LLI is having an impact in the community?
I truly believe that LLI has a positive impact in the community in Huaycán. Due to the poor quality of education in Peru, kids need support in their studies as well as an atmosphere that encourages them to try new things and build their self-esteem. Some of the kids need special attention that they are not able to get in a public school; LLI’s smaller class sizes facilitate that. In addition to the free education, it provides the kids an international learning environment and adult friends that are there for them and their benefit.
I hope the kids continue to the teen programs and join LLI as local volunteers in the future. Hopefully they learn to appreciate teaching as a profession; maybe LLI will inspire them to even become teachers themselves.