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In June 2013 I began a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-funded internship coordinated by the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation (ACIC).
Part A: After a week of intercultural training through the Canadian Foreign Service Institute in beautiful Tatamagouche, NS, I began working for the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Chalice Canada for five weeks, as part of a friendly, dedicated team.
Part B: involved heading to work with one of Chalice’s partner NGOs, Centro Esperanza, in Chiclayo, Peru. I was there from July 2013 to January 2014 and had an incredible experience working alongside Peruvian women who run Project Chiclayo, a program for children, youth and their families, generously supported by Canadian donors. I was non-stop busy for most of those six months and did a wide range of tasks that allowed me to use many skill-sets and learn new ones, while having a chance to reflect on what international development and local, grassroots development can achieve.
Part C: I worked for 6 weeks back in the Chalice office helping out wherever possible and sharing my experiences in Chiclayo with the other intern who had been with me in Chiclayo.
Below are (most of) the amazing young women who did internships through the ACIC in Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia, Ghana and Tanzania. This photo was taken on Day 5 of the internship, the last day of our ‘intercultural’ training session. It felt like we had known each other for far longer!___________________________________________________________________________________
Peru Part Two :
While international development is far from perfect (and can cause harm in ways not known until they can be analyzed in hindsight), what I had experienced was something real and something worth continuing. I was overjoyed to return on a more independent basis to work at Centro Esperanza and arrived in the first week of June 2014, staying until late March 2015. Similar to my first time in Peru, I was busy:
-designing and (co-) facilitating classes and workshops for children and youth: environmental awareness/tree-planting; drawing and painting through a nature lens; [Spanish] literacy and English homework help sessions; self-esteem, values, youth leadership.
-helping develop and facilitate training sessions about pedagogical practices (literacy and art with holistic lens to promote personal and community development).
-launching a rotating library, out of a suitcase, called ‘La Cometa Lectora‘ (or ‘The Reading Kite’) to improve literacy levels in children, youth and their families (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRJgEMQ7-TE for the English-language video, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjWiWEedgfI for the Spanish one)
-supporting a cooperative of mothers in making and marketing colourful artisan products for local sale and export to Canada
–translating an array of NGO documents and doing live-interpretation (my respect for all live interpreters everywhere!)
-laying the technical ground work for the first ever website for Centro Esperanza on WordPress (centroesperanzachiclayo.org)
Centro Esperanza offers multiple programs centered around 1) Human Rights and Democracy (holistic childhood and family development), 2) Gender Equity, 3) Interculturality and 4) the natural Environment. Throughout all their work, the team seeks to strengthen organizational and leadership skills in order equip people with the skills and values they need to achieve a dignified life. Through offering year-long programming to people living in poverty in and around Chiclayo, the NGO supports equal opportunities for all people and promotes a life free of violence, while encouraging sustainable development and livelihoods.
Centro Esperanza offers Project Chiclayo to build people’s capacities so that they become agents of change in their personal, family and community lives; inspired by Christian values and ethics, the NGO is secular/laic and opens its programs to anyone. The Project’s objective is to become an example of inter-institutional networking and coordination in the Province of Lambayeque and I was lucky to be a volunteer at several intergovernmental and non-profit meetings, training sessions and events in the province.
The NGO is making a notable difference in the lives of its valued participants. When individuals and their families feel empowered and capable of bringing about change in their own lives, magic really does happen–though not without challenges and hick-ups and frustratingly time-consuming ‘bureaucratic’ roadblocks. While this grassroots-level development can be classified as international development, the real secret to Centro Esperanza’s success is the giving and sharing of love, trust, respect, patience and dignity by a staff of Peruvian-born women and men, from ages 16 to nearly 70. Many of the staff live in the same areas facing precarious existence due to a lack of infrastructure, job opportunities and crime and as their program participants.
I am forever grateful for the time these beautiful people allowed me to be part of their professional and personal ‘family’ lives; I never felt alone or unconnected to locals while in Chiclayo. I am delighted to remain in contact with many of these team members and program participants to chat about Centro Esperanza programs and life, and help with translations where possible.