I have now been living in Lima, Perú in a suburb northeast of downtown at the foothills of the Andes called Huaycán. Why am I back in Perú? Wasn't I just here in June?
I'm here because I left my job in Colorado to search for a job in International Development, and I was hired by a Lima nonprofit named The Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI) to be their Program Director...
...which is turning out to be exactly the job I was looking for!
I arrived here a little over three weeks ago, and I am excited to say that - after observing all the programs and operation of LLI - I feel extremely lucky and honored to have been chosen for this position, and I feel that I will both do well at and excel in my new job. The nonprofit is quite well integrated into the local community, it attracts like-minded volunteers who are positive and engaged in their work, and it is working hard to educate and empower local residents. This is the kind of career I dreamed of having when I decided to study international development.
What I've been working on since I arrived started mostly as orientation, training, and observation. The program has English, art, reading, chess, women's, and teen programs that I've been attending and helping with. I have also been shadowing on parent visits, where we go to the homes of the parent of our kids and speak to them about the child's progress and notify them about program dates and events. We work in three "zones" (zones S, Z, and D) of Huaycán where we have classrooms. We go to the different zones because the ones higher on the hill (S and Z) tend to be poorer - one of the families we went to on a parent visit stated that they did not even have money to send their child to school in a nearby zone - a bus ride that costs 1.20 soles ($0.41) round trip.
Here are some cute pictures of our younger participants in art class in Zone S:
Otherwise, I've been working on researching after-school math programs and the Peruvian math education system in order to improve future LLI math classes. For the past week, I've been going to four of the local primary and secondary schools to meet with the directors (principals) about sitting in on math classes and speaking with math teachers so that we may acquaint ourselves with each school's teaching style and math teachers. The way Peruvian schools are set up, each school can teach the math curriculum in any order they wish as long as at the end of the year the same set of things have been taught. This is problematic in that when we tutor kids, they come from various schools, and they are all learning different things at once (for instance, of two kids in the same grade level, one may be learning geometry while the other one is learning algebra). We're hoping that by knowing what each school is teaching we can fit our program around those subjects.
I've also been editing the program's 50 page Impact Analysis, which is basically an end-of-the year report. This is something that I will be writing in the future, and so right now I am coming up with methods of doing quantitative and qualitative measurements of the program so that I can demonstrate the program's impact, and potentially apply for more grants in the upcoming years.
Soon, programs will end on December 7th and we'll have an end-of-the-year/Christmas party after which many of this year's volunteers are leaving. I'll stay around till mid-December to close up shop and do cleaning. Come January, there will be new volunteers and new job responsibilities, so I expect to become rather busy around that time!
The staff here is great as well. I've been living in the volunteer house for my orientation, and all the volunteers and the executive director have been very nice and welcoming. I've been practicing yoga, running, doing karaoke, and going to local restaurants or pubs with the volunteers and the ED in my free time, and I truly enjoy their company. Pooja - our social media volunteer - taught me how to make her style of Indian chai, which has now become one of my favorite drinks!
On the weekends, we've just been going to downtown Lima and exploring! My favorite things that I've done so far in downtown are: 1. Going to La Gastronoma - a cute food store and restaurant owned by two young Italian women - to have Peruvian microbrews or espresso and pick up handmade breads and cheeses, 2. Finding a Jewish store called Minimarket Kasher that has the best pecan-strawberry rugelach, 3. Seeing my friend Suni, whom I know because she works for Peace Corps, and doing yoga with her (which was a little challenging as the directions were spoken in rapid Spanish).
I really enjoy living in Lima too - if I need any convenience I miss from the US, I can find it here. The weather is also nice - sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny; cool at night and around 50-70 degrees fahrenheit during the day. Coming from Colorado, I've been forgetting that Thanksgiving and Christmas is right around the corner because it doesn't feel that way!
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so we will be doing it Peruvian style. Four of our Peruvian friends and five other volunteers are going to get together to have Peruvian rotisserie chicken, french fries (which we will mash into a mashed potato-like consistency), salad, cranberry sauce (courtesy of a huge bag of craisins my parents bought for me in the states. Cranberries are one of those things that are hard to find outside the US), homemade pumpkin pie, and Chilean wine. Should be great!
To close up, here are some other pictures from Huaycán, mostly the views from the Zone S and Z classrooms:
One of the Zone Z classrooms