Tag Archives: peru

A workshop held by Generacion at Casa Veronica to help children develop their skills. (Photo: Dana Leon)

Student Profile: Grad Student Interns with Children in Lima, Peru

Imagine children who are younger than college students, but their clothes are torn, their stomachs are empty, their wallets are thin, some are addicted to sniffing glue, some are sexually exploited, and their home is the street. Now imagine a place that will accept these children with open arms and help build an individual life project for each child. This place is called Generacion– where Dana Leon visited in Peru.

Leon is a 27 year old grad student at USF whose passion is children and social justice. She is a strong individual with a kind heart who had the opportunity to do an internship with Generacion and research their work for her thesis paper. Generacion is an organization in Peru centered in Lima that gives children a home and an opportunity to learn skills in order to live out their life goals.

Leon spent two months with this organization learning about it and participating in the outreach work. The first month she spent with the director of the organization, Lucy Borja, to learn what Generacion does. She also spent this time doing some translating for a group of guest visiting from England. After she learned the concrete information from Borja, Leon spent her time with Karla Vera, the psychologist of Generacion, working on the outreach aspect.

Her days would start around 10:00 a.m. in the streets of Lima, going to different districts to visit the children. In these districts Vera would approach children she knows to ask how things are going, in a way checking up on them to see if they are okay and if they need anything. These children are both girls and boys ranging from the ages of five years old to nineteen years old, with a few exceptions. They went from district to district, talking to kids and maybe meeting new ones. It is basically like keeping tabs on the children they know: the ones living in the streets, and the new children that arrive. Leon explained that these children are here because their home is not safe. They are abused by family members or others within the household and want freedom. These first couple of weeks were surreal for Leon as she was taking it in, she says, “I had no idea what to expect when I went to Peru. It’s something that we may hear but don’t pay much attention too, so you’re not going to know what to expect and that’s exactly what happened.” As time went on, she witnessed more and more of how these children live on the streets.

While Leon was working in Lima with Vera, they came across a girl about 19 years old. She was being sexually exploited. Her job was prostituting on the streets. Leon and Vera tried to tell her about an offer at a restaurant as a waitress, but as soon as they mentioned how much it paid, she declined the offer. She said she can make five times that amount in one night on the streets. There are more girls in Lima who are experiencing lifestyles like this and more kids working along side them in the streets, trying to make a living. Leon saw children who have to beg for food, prostitute themselves, sell candy to make a living, or go to bed with their stomachs empty and rumbling with hunger. These were the moments when Leon said: “Stop crying and stop pitying yourself because here’s an eight year old who has worked and made a living selling candy and in a way is independent. It’s incredible what these kids can teach you because they have to grow up so fast,” she said. She explained that it was important to put herself aside, because, “it’s not all about you, we sort of live in a society where its me, me, me and I come first. When really, lets look at the people around us, how are the people around us living?” That’s what Generacion tries to do, is put themselves aside and help these children. The children also do this for one another living on the streets. They’re like a family out there and always have each others’ back no matter what.

Leon spent a month on the streets learning what Generacion does and working on reaching out to the children, but the second month she spent the majority of her time helping at one of the homes Generacion created. Her days would start at about 1:00 p.m. and she would go to Casa(house) San Bartolo where a group known as the “surfing tribe” lives and operates together as a family. The youngest is Moises who is about five years old and the eldest is Lupe, who is 19 years old. It was a slow start for the kids to get used to Leon, but as time went on she started to build relationships with these kids. She explains: “First I was kind of watching and seeing what the dynamic of the house was and also getting to know the kids so that they could trust me and let me in. It’s one thing to let me into the house and another to sort of let me into their family, because that’s what they are, they’re a family.” They gradually started asking for help from her over time and invited her to be a part of the family.

She would get the kids ready to do their homework, help them with homework, make sure their hands are washed for dinner, mediate and resolve conflicts, and sometimes help in the kitchen. She would also tutor the head of the house, Lupe, to help her get better at english. Spending this month with the kids moved Leon in an unexpected way.

Leon explains how this trip was a very humbling experience for her because she met these children and heard their stories. She says, “regardless of everything that they’ve lived through on the streets, or at home with abusive parents, or abusive family members, or living on the streets with torn clothes and not having food to eat, and all kinds of things, life wasn’t over for them.” She said that the kids never seemed to pity themselves, mainly because, “[they] are so resilient, especially this group of kids, they are not easily pushed down. They get back up and one of the things that I saw was this hope. This hope that life doesn’t have to be this way.”

Leon is now continuing her research and internship with Generacion by trying to find funding for Generacion with fundraisers and grant writing which involves much time, work, and translating. Not only is she continuing her internship, but Leon is also writing her thesis paper on Generacion and the work they do. She wants to show the world that this is a successful model that should be brought to other cities in the world because Generacion does not just throw these kids in a home. They give them a life project, they give them love, they give them affection, they give them respect, and they give them hope.

If you’re interested in helping the street children of Peru, Leon suggests going to Peru to meet them. She says that Generacion will accept any visitors. Another option is to go on the Immersion trips offered by the University Ministry. If none of these work, see what social injustice is happening in San Francisco.

President of Truth Commission Condemns Human Rights Abuses in Peru

Former President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Peru, Dr. Salomon Lerner Febres discussed the importance of revealing the truth behind human rights abuses committed in Peru under authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori in an event held at USF last week. In his speech, presented in Spanish, Febres said, “Memory, truth and justice are needed to begin the long process of reconciliation.”
Having conducted research on human rights issues that resulted from the Dirty War in Argentina, Professor Susana Kaiser said she was skeptical about hearing a speech about reconciliation. “I don’t believe in reconciliation. I believe in co-existence,” she said. Kaiser said she often associates the term reconciliation with a mentality that encourages citizens to forgive and forget. However, she appreciated hearing the way in which Febres’ approach to reconciliation is committed to the goal of social justice.
Having been nominated as president of the truth commission, while he was director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Lima’s Catholic university was a challenging task. As head of the commission created in June 2001, Febres said the role of the commission was to investigate past events and bring forth the truth that was once denied. He said that speaking about the victims of Peru’s internal conflict was a way to establish the identities of the victims and shine light on those responsible for the country’s tragic loss.
The violence in Peru left 70,000 victims as a result of an internal conflict between Peruvian armed forces and the Maoist guerilla the Shining Path. The conflict lasted from 1980 to 2000.
Nevertheless, investigating violent crimes has its consequences. In a classroom presentation Dr. Febres said his two dogs were shot after his work in the truth commission. A note was left near the dogs’ bodies warning someone in his family would be next. To date, the threats have not been materialized. Febres also said he was fortunate enough to not lose any family members during Peru’s internal conflict but that he and his children feel their lives are constantly in danger.
When asked through e-mail if he thought there was a price to be paid for telling the truth, Febres said, “I knew, naturally, that working with the truth commission and furthermore being the president of the commission would implicate risks.
But I think that if we talk about the cost of telling the truth it is worth thinking not so much about the commission workers but about the humble people that have been paying [the price of telling the truth] with their lives and with that of their relative’s for decades.”
Febres said indigenous people, which made up a large majority of the victims, have been silenced for many years by the armed forces for defending their human rights. He said the ethnic identity of those massacred was part of the reason the media did not cover the commission’s results released in 2003 with great profundity.
Febres said, “Peru has a legacy consistent in its depths of inequality due to its persistent racism. It was important then in a moment in which we were restoring democracy, that the country recognize the suffering of the most poor and reflect about the old debts of justice and solidarity that we still owe to those people.”
Senior and Latin American Studies major Genesis Ibarra said, “These types of events are beneficial to the students because they bring awareness to major issues that have occurred in Latin America which tend to go unnoticed in the United States. The presence of Mr. Lerner makes the issues more tangible and demonstrates the work that is being done to bring justice.”
Professor Roberto Varea, director of the Center for Latino Studies in the Americas (CELASA), invited Dr. Febres to USF. They collaborated on the writing of a book called Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict.
Varea said the book was published in two volumes and that the first volume was released in June. The second volume titled, “Building Just and Inclusive Communitites” will be released December 1. Varea said Dr. Lerner’s work with the truth and reconciliation commission is very connected to USF’s mission.
He said, “Dr. Lerner-Febres is one of the most valuable models that I can think of. A just, altruistic individual who put the well- being of his country way above his own, took on a monumental task while at the same time continuing to preside over his University, and matched a profound sense of justice with an equal sense of compassion and service.”

Profile: Senior Raises Funds For Latin American Children

Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

After traveling to Lima, Peru with the University Ministry’s Arrupe Immersion Program in the spring of 2008, and witnessing firsthand the struggles that street children face, senior Hannah Mora has singlehandedly organized her own drive to donate funds to an emergency shelter built to house rescued victims. The shelter is an international project created by the Not For Sale Campaign.

Through Not For Sale, a movement devoted to ending modern-day slavery and resolving social justice issues, Mora is independently acquiring donations for Veronica’s House, a refuge that provides immediate needs such as food, clothing, and housing to victims of Lima, Peru’s bustling streets.

Although it is Mora’s second time obtaining donations, once in the Spring of 2009 and now the beginning of Fall 2009, she hopes to encourage 100 people to donate $5 a month, to secure at least $500 every month to Veronica’s House, she said. Mora generated about $700 last year, exceeding her $500 goal, which was then on a one-time basis when she asked family and friends to donate to the cause. This time around, Mora anticipates that people in the USF community, along with her Southern California church and former high school, can donate on a monthly basis.

Mora came up with the idea of giving back to the children she met during her immersion trip after almost a full year had passed. Around spring break in 2009, Mora reflected on her trip, yearning to revisit the street children that befriended her. “I wasn’t able to go to Peru again,” she said, so she thought of a way that would allow her to make a financial contribution instead. Her mission was simple: find 100 people to donate $5 each, which she found was an economic-friendly amount that wouldn’t burn a hole in people’s pockets.

Signing up for the trip, “you don’t know what you’re getting into,” she said. As a sophomore, Mora came across the application for the immersion trip by simply spending time in the University Ministry office. Trips were offered for Nicaragua and Africa, but Mora said, “Peru stood out because we would be working with kids.”

The Arrupe Immersion program in Peru is designed to give light on the various shelters that protect street children, and to educate USF students on the tribulations and opportunities of working with the children.

After a select group of 10 were chosen, bi-monthly meetings were held leading up to the trip, to inform the group about the politics, culture, and other broad information on Peru.

Upon arrival, Mora said one of the first things the group did was meet with street children at a beach, about 40 youths from ages 12 to mid-20s. The street children shared their individual stories, which were “very personal and heartbreaking,” Mora said, “a very effective way to introduce us to the trip.” Before meeting them, Mora said she had never seen anything like that; “being around poverty and homelessness, it wasn’t relatable to me, but I went there and became friends with them.” Meeting the street children gave a face to homelessness, she said. Mora noticed that some street children even had scars on their bodies, to fend off police who wanted to hurt them.

Afterwards, two children conducted a tour of Lima, told “through their eyes,” Mora said. “Not a typical tourist vacation you would expect.”

To Mora’s surprise, some street children depended on prostitution and stealing food, while others found their own unique way to make money. One of the boys Mora met, Ruben, would make and sell bracelets to get by, she said.

“When I came back, I changed my lifestyle and felt guilty about the way I was living, what I spent my money on,” Mora said, “I retold the kid’s stories and experiences to friends and family.”

By the next spring break, Mora approached Kique Bazan, Director of Social Justice and Community Action for the University Ministry and the co-founder of Not For Sale, to see what he thought about her proposal of raising funds on her own and sending the donations to Lima’s street children. At the time, Veronica’s House was a work in progress, but Bazan informed Mora that the project would be a good place to send the money. Bazan directed her to Not For Sale, so she could send out letters to family and friends, and encourage them to spread the word to their family and friends, Mora said.

Mora’s intention was to raise the money by the time the University Ministry headed back on their next immersion trip to Peru, but she fell short of her deadline. The $700 she raised solely through her network of family and friends took about a month to complete, and by that time Spring Break had passed.

Mora then gave her donations directly through the Not For Sale, and 100 percent of the proceeds went towards Veronica’s House. As an additional gift, Mora provided a collage of pictures of all the people who donated, so the children in Peru could directly see their sponsors.

Veronica’s House opened in July 2009, in which Not For Sale helped fundraise $89,294 to purchase the land and house, but the house itself is still under the construction. Four rescued girls have a permanent residence at the shelter, but every so often, new youths are brought in consistently.

The project was an effort driven by Not For Sale and Peru’s “modern day abolitionist,” Lucy, whom Mora met during her visit. Lucy founded Generación, an organization that offers prevention and aftercare programs designed to foster life skills, including the emergency shelter, Veronica’s House.

Now that Mora is on her second cycle of raising funds, Bazan helped create Mora’s own webpage under Not For Sale, where people can make online donations. Bazan also made Mora ambassador of the project, and she has taken steps by presenting the drive to her classes and her hometown church, and informing her high school through their newsletters.

Mora said she is uncertain how long this second drive will last, because it’s a monthly effort made on behalf of the people she reaches out to.  For now, Not For Sale keeps tracks of the total amount raised, and Mora will find out the total once her drive ends.

Projecting into the future, Mora will continue to do the campaign “as long as they need me to,” she said, “even if that means I [can no longer] be ambassador.” Mora said it is something she is dedicated to, so she will maintain her involvement as long as she can. “It’s something I think is important and it’s a story I tell people all the time,” she said.

In March, the University Ministry will take some 13 students on another trip to Lima, Peru, to meet former street children again and learn what life has been like through their eyes. “It’s easier to vocalize once you’ve seen for yourself what’s going on.” Mora said.

Mora is majoring in theology and religious studies and minoring in Catholic social thought. “I want to continue spending my time volunteering with organizations centered on social justice, specifically Not For Sale, which has provided me with the tools and opportunities to participate in such efforts as these,” she said.

Over a short time, the immersion trip Mora innocently stumbled across has made a significant impression on her life. “It continues to be an important part of what made me who I am,” she said, “and even though it’s only been two years, I still have friends that I want to give back to.”

To donate to Mora’s cause, click here.