Peter and I began working with the NGO, Otra Cosa Network in 2007, when we began to create what was previously just a dream. In 2010 we returned to England, but I decided that I would still visit my beloved country each year, even though it is always a tight schedule to balance work, enjoy family life and see friends, and sometimes I feel like there are never enough hours in the day.
However, as soon as my plane lands onto Peruvian soil, a tremendous excitement and energy takes a hold of me. In Lima I see all the new infrastructure and this great economic growth. The majority of the Peruvian population lives in Lima. I am aware that the political and economic power is concentrated on all sides, we now see many BMW’s, malls and big hotels, which did not exist until recently.
A great deal of trade has increased in the past decade in Peru. The country is experiencing an “economic boom”. There is also much more purchasing power here than before. Sadly however, this economic growth is not redistributed equitably to other departments within the country. I travel to the North. First to Trujillo and then other communities, who unfortunately do not see the benefit of this great “economic growth”. I have been working & travelling for a long time in areas where the State is non-existent and this great growth still hasn’t reached those who have always been abandoned politically and economically.
I have been discussing this with some of our partners including the School of Yanasara, the travel agency in Chachapoyas, Father Diego in Leymebamba and by visiting the house in Rodríguez de Mendoza and the coffee growers in Sícchezpampa. Areas where this great “boom” remains unknown. The only time they get even a whiff of it is when it comes to political elections and their vote is needed, but this is swiftly followed by the disappointment of unfulfilled political promises.
My visit to the children’s home in Rodriguez de Mendoza
The kids living in Rodriguez de Mendoza children’s house
These field visits were conducted jointly with institutional contacts, beneficiaries of the projects, as well as with the representatives of the organizations, who showed much consent and support. Otra Cosa Network is just a small response to this reality. A grain of sand that gives us a moment for reflection. We help with the mobilisation of international volunteering and awareness-raising.
One of our projects is our women’s empowerment project: “HELP Women”. Because women are still massively under-represented and are often victims of oppression, we fight for gender justice. One of the best ways of doing this is through the greater empowerment of women and girls. We create proposals, and engage in educational and skill trainings and workshops as well as activities that contribute to the development of a more sustainable and equitable education and future for women.
Women’s rights workshop in Viru, Trujillo
Our project in Cerrito de la Virgen, Huanchaco: here we work to help create the vital change in attitudes and ways of thinking and to create awareness so that poor people can have access to knowledge. We work with families who do not have enough to survive, with families who don’t even own the roof over their heads, because they have had to settle on the land illegally.
When we started with the recognition of the community we didn’t even have electricity in Cerrito. I am glad to see that in Cerrito we finally have access to water for the children at our Skate ramp project (which itself was built by our volunteers). We have seen little by little – thanks to the support of the strength that unites us in the mutual feeling of solidarity of giving something back – that things are changing. Our partnerships and work with the municipality have been fruitful as well. For example, we lead a book collection campaign with our volunteers and Percy Valladares from the Huanchaco library, and we were able to collect many books that benefit the children of Cerrito. Also, in February of this year the municipality did a good job putting the ceiling in the Community Centre. We also have a great partnership with Cuna Más, which allows mothers to go work because they can now leave their children in day care that is funded by the government and supported by our volunteers.
Our Skate Ramp is a place where children and young people can enjoy a healthy sport and share experiences in a safe environment, rather than simply being out in the streets and acquiring vices like some children who end up abandoned in the streets.
Children playing at the skate ramp
Meanwhile, we also manage a project known as LitClub (literature empowerment program) that benefits 15 girls in Cerrito. This project is proving to be quite a success and since I visit them annually I have noticed a great change in girls. Carmen Díaz is our LitClub coordinator, and we could not have a better teacher for this programme. She has come to know the girls so well that she has practically adopted them as her own daughters and teaches them the kind of love that only she knows how to give wisely. What a beautiful future she is planting here.
Carmen reading a story to the LitWorld girls
We also organized a “Project Tour”, where we visited many of our partner projects. I am so happy for this opportunity to share with wonderful people, volunteers, project managers of the CEBES: Tulio Herrera, Sagrada Familia; Host families. All of them involved in this work with a simple sense of solidarity and fighting for a better world. We also organized our annual Conference and invited project managers and representatives from all of our partners, to create a space that allows us to reflect and actively exchange ideas and experiences with the managers of different organisations of the OCN network.
OCN Annual Conference
In this context, it is easy to talk about economic models that the country’s economy should be following, with high levels of GDP. In a capital city with all types of services including full access to information, technology, health care, education etc., it is very easy to talk about industrialisation which in the medium-term will lead to higher levels of development; but of course we care about the most remote and inhospitable areas.
Peru’s economy continues to grow, but unfortunately this has yet to be translated into development, nor is there a national strategy to improve for example developments in science and technology which account for barely 1% of the GDP, not to mention education. As we know, no growth is sustainable if it is not accompanied by an improvement in productivity rates and there’s still a lot of work to be done. ” Growth isn’t the same as development.”
My final Saturday saw me finishing up my work here in Peru by participating in the OCN fundraiser race organised by Hannah, Peter and Will – three British volunteers. I could not have had a better farewell celebration: not only did we manage to raise money for our projects, but there was also a sweet demonstration of affection from the community of Cerrito with cards made by girls from our LitWorld project and by the kids at the skate ramp.
Runners waiting for he FunRun departure
Another sport event that was organised this summer: a football tournament
For this New Year, accompanied by a great team with Jaci Braga and Jenny Kehoe, we made renewed commitments to reach the new goals we had set for the organisation and ourselves prior to my departure. Our challenge is to continue forward with our partners and to promote the Network in Europe and North America. It will be important to build upon our strengths and important experiences, while expanding our horizons to new possibilities so that we continue to reach towards this dream of utopia, as we work towards sustainable development in Peru.
I’d also like to take the opportunity to express my sincere feelings of gratitude and accomplishment to the entire OCN network, for the constructive work we have developed together in these past few years.
Written by Juany Murphy – International Relations Manager