Yesterday we visited an organisation called EDUCA. They work with young people aged 15-29 with the aim of improving their skills such as literacy and also helping them learn business skills. They do some fantastic work which is so valuable in the area of San Juan De Lurigancho where many people live in poverty. One such example of their work is that they provide cases of books to schools on loan along with a teacher’s guide. This allows many schools to access many different books which helps keep their costs low. This also means the children get to read a lot more books than they otherwise would. Books are carefully chosen to help the children learn key values which will help them and society in the future.
Another aspect of their work is the organisation of competitions. We heard about two such competitions; writing and business. Writing, needless to say, is a good and useful activity to encourage and in these competitions the best stories get compiled in a book and given back to the schools. The young people not only win prizes such as stationary, books and bags etc. but also have the joy and pride of seeing their work in a book.
The business competitions seek to encourage the young people to think about their career and encourage the young people to start their own businesses as a means of income. The winners and runners-up (or as some would have it runner-ups) get help starting their own businesses. We met three such groups yesterday all now running their own successful businesses.
The first of the group we met was a family of women and their daughters, whom are special needs. It’s thought by some, as it was initially by these mothers, that anyone with special needs are in no way able to contribute to society nor help support their family. Thanks to the work of EDUCA, supported by CAFOD, I saw two mothers and their four teenage children, who are all trained in baking and even have their own cooker. This allows them to financially support their family as a family. One of the girls was keen for us to try the cuisine and I must say that the cakes were delicious even on a full stomach. I found this family to be very determined and very faithful. It was inspiring to see how these mothers and their daughters prove society wrong that, despite their special needs, they are able to make such a positive contribution to their family and stand as a shining example to a society which can often disregard those with special needs. They were particularly keen to thank CAFOD and their supporters but it was great to see them thanking God first of all.
In seminary we learn that our good works are themselves a gift from God and are a response to the grace we have received. While presumably they have had little theological training, it was inspiring to see how the family were expressing this truth by their delight in running their business, baking their cakes and joyfully sharing their produce with us.
After we left the first family we arrived at one of the small carpentry shops of a young 26 year entrepreneur named Christian. Christian was deeply impressive in his joy, pride and determination regarding his growing success and hard work ethic. Christian invited us into what he would tell us was his first of four shops. This particular shop was small and simple but had deep significance as this was place in which he was born and grew up. He grew up without a father, which although difficult was the ultimate inspiration for becoming successful, driving him to provide for himself and his family.
As we entered his shop, Christian began to tell his life story which, despite beginning in difficulty, he was constantly smiling and excited about telling of the success reaped from his hard work in studying carpentry to opening his first shop and then the second. Dotted around the walls were inspirational quotes like ‘the skies’ the limit’ and other ones extolling the importance of never wasting time! Christian was beaming with pride, confidence and humour, with a strong self belief which certainly inspired all us in the room. EDUCA supplied Christian with some ‘seed’ money which provided him some initial funds to begin his business. Christian then led us around the corner of the road to his second shop where he showed us leather sofas he had made as well as some fliers advertising his business. On the fliers there were also adverts for a clothes range that Christian had been planning to expand into!
This small amount of seed money along with hard work and self belief as led to a very promising and inspirational story of success in a poor district outside of Lima. Personally, to see how a little money from the UK can help towards building the future of generations of a family was very motivational in and puts things into context. I know for a fact that there is plenty of determination and talent in those districts outside of Lima and beyond. All those young people need is more access to the funds and support that EDUCA can provide!
Sheila is 18 and training to be a nurse. We met her outside of her rented building in the back of which is a small factory in which they sew together pre-cut pieces of material to make shirts and blouses. While her Father paid for much of the equipment, Sheila learned a lot about business from the discussions she had with other young people in the EDUCA training. ‘We received a lot of motivation from fellow students and we motivated each other.’
We went through to the small factory where four people were sewing, including Sheila’s uncle. It’s a family business as many small businesses are in San Juan De Lurigancho. It was a pleasure to see people making things so expertly and I was happy just watching their deft hands working.
Sheila said ‘All of this has given me a vision for the future which I didn’t have before.’
This wouldn’t have been possible without the work of EDUCA and the support of CAFOD.
In all of this I saw how good education was making a huge difference in people’s lives. Not only in the act of transferring knowledge, but also in inspiring self-esteem, self-confidence and hope for the future.