Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
In the marginalized urban communities in Peru and across Latin America, residents face a lack of opportunities for work and study as well as nonexistent or deteriorating infrastructure and public services. Meanwhile, domestic violence and gang activity threaten the lives and livelihoods of many. Children follow the example of young adults and adults, and without many positive outlets for sport, art, or other creative activities, the negative cycle continues and they model the bad behavior of their elders.
The education and labor systems in these communities do not emphasize creative or entrepreneurial endeavors, and the opportunity for professional or specialized work is rare. For example, in Manchay, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Lima, 30 percent of adults are construction workers. Women in particular are excluded from income generating opportunities, making it difficult for them to feed their children or send them to school. In some cases, children are expected to contribute to the family income from a very young age. Furthermore, remnants of the political violence from the 1980’s are still present, whether expressed through domestic violence or in organized gang activities.
With regards to women, the statistics in Peru are alarming. 76 percent of those illiterate are women; income for women is 35 percent less than men; and 94 percent of victims of sexual violence are women (77 percent of these under the age of 18). Children are equally vulnerable, experiencing violence at home, or being raised by single mothers.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Juan Diego Calisto is starting a citizen movement in the poorest and most marginalized urban communities in Peru. His organization, Ruwasunchis, is based on the four values of community, humility, commitment, and openness to change. Unlike other programs that deal with one or two aspects of marginalized communities, Juan Diego’s approach is comprehensive and starts at the roots. By training community leaders from a very young age, he “raises” them to be changemakers in the community, ultimately receiving the prestigious designation of Tarpuq – “one that plants.” In that way, the very DNA of the community is changing as the Tarpuq become role models and multipliers of the skills and values they have learned.
The Ruwasunchis model works with each age group, offering age-appropriate workshops in the realms of personal, professional, and family life. Running throughout all workshops is an emphasis on overcoming the many barriers in the community, as well as creativity. While most community development projects focus on the effects of poverty, Juan Diego’s model works to prevent it, seeding new habits and integrating them closely with families. By working with all family members (and ages) on a Personal Development Plan (PCP), he meets community members where they are, but involves them continuously in the process of iteration. From the womb to old age, the Ruwasunchi activities develop both values and skills, while also generating income.
All along, Juan Diego’s model treats the community residents as change agents, capable of improving their own situation and training others to do the same. By strengthening social fabric, Ruwashunchi is making it easier for external allies to help. Volunteers, businesses, and other partners join in to support the communities, providing channels to push change forward. In this way, Ruwashunchi is institutionalizing the formation of new role models, and accelerating change by setting a baseline of activated citizens to attract and engage other allies.