Hey friends! ¡Hola amig@s!
I will be spending time over my summer break in northern Peru, where I had incredibly formative experiences prior to my Bachelor of Education. Peruvians welcomed me and I am grateful that I was able to work with hundreds of children, youth and parents in colourful neighbourhoods in and around Chiclayo. The team of professionals I was part of at Centro Esperanza continues to offer holistic childhood development, literacy programs through La Cometa Lectora and youth leadership and empowerment programs. They also support mothers producing artisan works and some that have started small businesses. Working seven days a week in areas where infrastructure, health services and educational opportunities are limited, the team has never stopped advocating for gender equity, for an end to domestic violence and feminicide, for educational opportunities for all, for accountability to citizens from national, regional and local governments, and for infrastructure, education and healthcare services that respect the dignity of individuals and communities.
The team has worked alongside people challenged by torrential rains/floods due to El Niño-La Niña, outbreaks of dengue, some dire health conditions for program participants and the general challenges that come with working alongside communities of people generally below the poverty line. In about the past 12 months, there have been an influx of 11,000 Venezuelan refugees who now reside in Chiclayo, a number shared with me by my former boss, Gladys, from Proyecto Chiclayo on a heart-warming, long overdue ‘update’ Skype call last night. There are immense needs for safe spaces for workshops that promote critical literacy, skill-development, self-esteem, decision-making and environmental awareness for current program participants and new city residents.
Gladys shared that many Venezuelans say that the conditions in Peru are better than what they left behind, but she knows that most Venezuelans are living in poor conditions. While thousands are happy enough in Chiclayo, thousands more are destined for Peru’s capital, or Chile or Argentina. Rents have increased significantly as there is a shortage of rooms and apartments for rent. Some Venezuelans are now working the worst jobs in the city and are being paid less than what Peruvians in the same role would be paid (exploitation). At the same time, some Peruvians feel that Venezuelans are ‘stealing’ their jobs. (I can’t fully comprehend the numerous, unimaginable struggles that Venezuelan refugees have been through just to make it out of Venezuela; over these past years, it has seemed as if nothing could get worse, but yet, they do in a complex regional and international puzzle of ideologies.)
Many Peruvians are collaborating to support Venezuelans, setting up ‘soup kitchens’ and organizing places to live. Schools are trying to equip Venezuelan students with notebooks and other school supplies, but there are shortages of donations and purchasing school uniforms remains a challenge. Some non-profit organizations including churches have long-term plans to build simple, sturdy homes for Venezuelan families in some of the cheaper areas of the region, but funding is an issue. Peru is now home to about 700,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants in search of una vida mejor, but Peru struggles to provide for its own citizens, so it is certainly a delicate balance.
Gladys and I brainstormed ideas for useful workshops. Taaantas ideas…Sooo many ideas!! It would be amazing to offer workshops (maybe art and reading) for a mixture of Peruvian and Venezuelan kids together, and perhaps some art workshops just for Venezuelans as they surely have a million emotions, mixed experiences, ideas and questions buzzing inside of them. We will thread eco-awareness and justice throughout all the workshops; two young volunteers that were about 14 when I was in Peru have offered to help with workshops.
I already have 34 books (spread in categories about my living room) to take and donate to La Cometa Lectora. I bought some with a 30% off Teacher’s discount at a big bookstore (yeees…) and carefully chose the rest from library sale racks (for $0.50 or $1). Some were originally written in Spanish and I will translate the ones in English to make them bilingual Spanish-English books. It would be great if some lovely people would help sponsor these new books for La Cometa Lectora, as I’ve spent $250 out of pocket. For as little at $6 Canadian you can sponsor a brand new, quality book that will be adored and read countless times by Peruvian and Venezuelan children, youth and adults. Books are very expensive in Peru, as most are imported from Mexico and Argentina, so for the prices I am paying, it is worth it to take books with me. We’ll buy other workshop supplies in Chiclayo to support the local economy.
March 11th, 2019: classes started in Peru as summer came to a close. Here is one account:
“First day of classes and it has been beautiful that the National Anthem of Peru and the National Anthem of Venezuelan are sung, giving the welcome to the Venezuelan children, and making the promise that they will be taught the Peruvian anthem little by little. I’ve seen parents crying.”