All posts filed under: Development

Chicuchas Wasi: Fighting for Girls’ Education in Peru

My final Global Giving project, and what’s brought me to the bustling high altitude town of Cusco for so long is a girls’ primary school nearby. Chicuchas Wasi was started by Rae Lewis, who I had the pleasure to touch base with first in California. She told me the story of how the school began when she was travelling in Peru. Moved by what she saw and wanting to help, she did so at first by looking after street children in her own home. I finally get to meet her partner in all this, Ruth Uribe, who lives in Cusco and directs the school. She picks me up at the bottom of the steps to her home and we drive the short distance over to the school, including a struggle with a rocky dirt road. We bond over our language studies, as Ruth’s learning English just now, speaking in both Spanish and English over the idiosyncrasies of our languages, double-checking vocabulary and points of grammar with each other. Placed amicably among the rolling hills of …

An orphanage and an English school: project visits in Port-Au-Prince

Imagine wondering how you’re going to feed 32 children every week? As far as the mission of his charity is concerned, Carlo’s is quite simple: care for the needs of the children who call the SMDT orphanage in Port-Au-Prince their home. The orphanage, which stands for Sant Mete Men Pou Defann Dwa Timoun or Hands Together to Defend the Right of Children, was founded by a pastor a number of years ago, but he was killed in the 2010 earthquake and the building was destroyed. Carlo’s mum took over, and Carlo has now stepped in as Director. We’re here representing Global Giving, but we already know this is going to be a very different kind of visit. In contrast to the larger organisations we’ve so far evaluated, talking to Carlo about issues such as governance or internal communications wouldn’t make much sense. I’m even nervous talking to him about social media, as how could this ever be a priority for him above the day-to-day care of the children? Carlo understands though. He understands the long-term potential …

Port-Au-Prince five years on: the road to recovery

I have a strange and accidental habit of visiting the sites of major disasters. In 2005 I went to Sri Lanka, just six months after its coasts were desecrated by the tsunami. In 2011, I spent a week in Christchurch, New Zealand not long after the town was completely destroyed by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. And this year, Haiti was chosen as part of my Global Giving field evaluation itinerary, five years after it lost nearly 100,000 lives to an earthquake of its own. I also had the great opportunity earlier this year to be able to work at the offices of the Disasters Emergency Committee in London, supporting them with social media as they launched the Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Although I may have been close to disaster sites in the past, this was the first time I was able to see the relief effort first hand, from the incredible outpouring of generosity from those across the world to the amazing life-saving work taking place out in the field. But what was so interesting about the …

A lesson in politics: empowering children to influence in Xela

I have a very vivid memory of my first conversation about politics. I must have been pretty young, as me and my brother were in our old house in Kilburn and still sleeping in bunk beds. It must have been around a significant election – probably 1997 – and he spoke to me into the forbidden hours after bedtime about the whole concept of government, the different parties and why it was an important day for the country. I don’t think my parents would have overheard this midnight lesson, as I’ve since discovered they were absorbed in celebrating the glorious culling of a much hated Tory cabinet. My interest in politics didn’t grow much beyond this basic understanding until I reached sixteen and my A Level in the subject. Even this was very much about learning the systems, the history and the processes of politics. We rarely looked at current issues or held debates where our views could be encouraged and examined. It was only university that helped me to think in a more independent …

Giving working children the tools to protest: fighting for human rights in San Cristóbal

The children in Chiapas seem a lot older than normal children. They already have the weary weight of responsibility in their eyes. From as young as three they wander the streets of San Cristóbal till the early hours, selling bracelets and flowers and any number of miscellaneous objects. One girl heads straight for me in the wine bar where I sit with the evidence of privilege spread around me; my digital appliances charging on the table, my Harris Tweed wallet, my resounding European laugh. She must be about six years old. She can smell my oestrogen levels from the other end of the street and uses just one calculated expression to send me into broody fits of moisten-eyed sympathy. “Una Tortuga. Diez pesos,” she says – that’s about 40p. It’s very difficult to resist as she lines up her selection of little clay animals on the table, and I do buy the tortoise first presented to me. I even exclaim childishly, “dos tortugas!” pointing out the second small tortoise on the back of the first. …

The gift of English: inspiring teens through teaching

We’re so very fortunate in the UK to be handed the shining gift of the English language from our early years. This advantage has never been more evident as I’m introduced to Chema, a young teen who’s just finished a two year English course at one of Fundación Proaccesso’s community learning centres on the outskirts of Mexico City. His proud teacher Hector has pulled him into our intimidating presence, and nods encouragement as Chema self-consciously joins our conversation in the new language.  To him, he explains, English has been life-changing. It opens up so many opportunities for his future. Such has been his experience on the course and the understanding of the opportunities English can create, it’s inspired him to teach, joining with four other students to lead summer classes in English and a variety of other subjects to kids in the community. Completely voluntarily. We watch him return to the classroom where the first lesson of this course is being taught and already sounds like a riotous success. Hector is visibly moved. He explains …

Glossophobia and an inauguration: community education through technology in Mexico City

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I may have been on Mexican national television last week. On my second day as a Field Evaluator, little did I think I would be giving a speech on behalf of Global Giving UK at a much anticipated launch event. But there we were, jet lagged and barely recovered from our ludicrous journey, standing alongside a representative from Nokia at the official opening of the Makers Lab, cameras winking expectantly at us from around the room. The lab is a new space in a low income community just outside of Mexico City, designed for young people to innovate and create with the latest cutting-edge inventions. When we arrive, we’re given a key-ring made with a laser cutter, a small plastic rocket fresh from the 3D printer and shown a musical instrument made from floppy discs, which dutifully plays us the Star Wars theme tune. The machines are exhibited with relish by a grinning band of teenagers, each technical aspect explained in rapid Spanish. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and …