In the Peruvian town of Huachipa, on the outskirts of Lima, Fundación MAPFRE and the CESAL NGO are running an integral education project targeting children from the age of two until they complete their studies. The objective is to give them training, but also self-assurance, so that they study, work and start businesses, so as to forge a better future.
TEXT: ISABEL PRESTEL IMAGES: LEAFHOPPER
Huachipa, a town a mere 10 kilometers from Lima, is not a pleasant place to live. Extreme poverty, a lack of healthy eating or hygiene habits, the scarcity of public resources and the dust from the bricks they manufacture using the soil in that area, which remains suspended in the air in communities such as Nievería. All this not only makes life difficult for adults, children, and adolescents, but also the chances of managing to lead a better life. This lack of hope is corroborated by this figure: just 7.3 percent of the young people in the area manage to study for a higher technical diploma and just 1.9 percent for a college degree.
Turning around these stark figures is one of the objectives of Fundación MAPFRE, and one of the reasons for its collaboration with the Spanish NGO CESAL. This integral education project targets children and adolescents in Huachipa, in particular the communities of Nievería, Cajamarquilla and Jicamarca. The project starts in early childhood in the ALECRIM center, attended by children between two and a half and five years old. Sara Flores, CESAL’s coordinator of Educational Works in Huachipa, explains: “We started here because the ILO (International Labor Organization) had a program for the eradication of child labor. The next project was to enable moms to leave their kids at this center while they were working in the fields. We also take time to work on nutrition and hygiene questions, so as to improve the kids’ overall education.”
School tutoring and care
The project was progressively extended as new needs were detected, Flores goes on: “The kids from poor families who had been working in the fields failed to improve their academic results. For this reason, in 2004 we created a center for extracurricular tutoring.” Around 1,000 children and teenagers attend the center, where teachers help them with their school subjects. The result is that their academic performance improves. But that is not the most important thing. Ana Canchari is the center’s director: “Our children have many shortcomings at the affective level. Likewise when it comes to communication and habits. And, in the schools they attend, they usually have teachers who are not fully committed to their work and the challenge posed by these kids… We tell our educators that they are acting as a second mother to them. Because they end up teaching the kids essential habits: brushing teeth, washing hands, or even toileting and bathing. They also help them organize their time, because the sessions are three hours long and the kids must learn to distinguish between the time for playing and that for remedial learning.” As well as studying, they practice sports, learn to socialize, etc. But they are not abandoned at the end of this stage. The young people are also helped with a social program offering technical training or accompanying them in their higher education.
Escaping poverty is possible
The proof that this project works, with the efforts of all those working there, is patently clear for one person: Noelia Sandoval. Always smiling and hopeful, she has indeed changed her life thanks to these centers. “In CESAL I found a place where peace and tranquility reigned. When I was there, I forgot about all the problems I had at home. From a very young age, I was afraid to interact with people and that place was a haven of freedom for me. It was like heaven. I went there to do my homework, remedial work and also the recreational part, as there were sports and dance or crafts workshops.” With all that support, Noelia managed to complete a technical course. Not only because of what they taught or explained to her, but also what she learned about herself: “My teachers helped me see and understand what my skills were, what career would be right for me. And I realized that customer care and services was for me…”
“I’ve met people here who have managed to get a profession and they are truly role models for me.” Augusto Salvador Machuca Enríquez, a law student
Noelia is currently working, but she is also studying and trying to devote some of her time and effort to helping other children from Huachipa manage to change their future. “I work at the airport at night, until 7am. When I finish, I go to my classes – I’m studying German and English – until 10am. I then have a while to rest, until mid-afternoon, when I start the classes I give, which run from three to eight in the evening.” Because Noelia has set up a school to teach languages to the children in the area: “There is no language school near Nievería and I wanted to introduce one using the same teaching methodology as that with which I’ve been learning. And I take care of the materials and tuition fees with the money from my job.” This is a way to give back a little of what she has received. Noelia is one of so many women in vulnerable situations who have received technical training in CESAL and, today, are working or have started up their own business (as 80 percent of them have done). Another example is Jenny Nestares Rutti, entrepreneur: “I had a business similar to the one I have now, but in another part of Peru. Coming to Huachipa was tough because of the different climate and different customs. Thanks to CESAL, I took an entrepreneurship course on which they gave me a lot of guidelines for improving the business. They also taught me how to calculate the profit percentage and handle permits and municipal taxes…”
The grants from this NGO and Fundación MAPFRE not only focus on women. Augusto Salvador Machuca Enríquez, a law student, owes a great deal to this program: “First of all, I went to infant school until I was five; and, then, to remedial classes. In the morning, I went to school and, in the afternoon, I came here. And, with the help of the teachers, I was able to understand what I couldn’t at school.” But this project is much more than academic support. It is important to draw out of these kids a constant drive to surpass themselves. And sometimes the example set by those from previous years is sufficient to encourage the next in line: “I’ve met people here who have managed to get a profession and they are truly role models for me. They insisted that we could not give up studying at school, that we had to aspire to something more and go on to higher studies.” Like him. Like many others. Because, in education, love and self-esteem bring out the strength to strive for a better life.