“How many more can we reach?”: improving education for children in Peru

Matt Jeppesen (USA, AC 05-07)

The UWC belief is true: a very small group can make a significant, long-term impact on the lives of the world’s most disadvantaged. The UWCs also mislead: it won’t happen simply because we care deeply, speak passionately, and vaguely pledge our awareness. It won’t be straightforward and the final result may bear little resemblance to the original vision.

That said, it can happen. Together with startup Peruvian NGO Wasiymi Wasiki, Katie Marney and I have carved a path that has already improved education for 750 kids in just one year. As of November 2010, three schools in Peru will be logging on to the internet for the first time at newly-installed computer labs. Teachers and students are discovering how technology can revitalize the otherwise lethargic classroom experience. Parents and their children are reconnecting through their shared learning process. The immense barrier to educational and work-related opportunities is being undone.

It’s all about risk. After AC, I planned a gap year in Peru and had no idea what to expect from it. By the end of that year, something was underway. Without any guarantee that Wasiymi would even survive its first year, Isaac Pucllas and Jorge Merma made huge investments of time and money to register the NGO in Peru and establish a focused work plan. We worked with extremely constrained human and financial resources. It took almost a year to create a viable project, but in 2009 we made concrete steps towards execution. Later that year, instead of looking for internships to advance personally, Katie took a risk and came on board a fledgling project. We called it Conectados (Connected), based on the project’s goal of connecting students to information and families to each other. Back home, my small church made a significant pledge of $5500, enough to eventually install our first computer lab at a school in Cieneguilla, Peru. By March 2010, the Davis Projects for Peace grant entrusted us with $10,000 and our second lab was made reality. Katie and I travelled down to Peru for the summer to teach computer skills to both parents and kids in the communities. And now, by November 2010, lab three will open with combined funding from the Davis grant and my church.

750 kids have internet access at school for the first time because of four people.

Clearly many, many more were involved in the project, but they came as a result of the unexpected determination of just a handful of people. As the network of those involved grows, how many more can we reach?

You could be part of this. Wasiymi is welcoming volunteers to all three projects (soon to be four in May 2011). If you speak Spanish and want to put the UWC ideals into action get in touch with us. What can you do? Form a summer project or risk it all and come down for a gap year. Volunteers can join the project and teach classes using the computer to raise awareness on social issues or run fundraising initiatives to help Conectados grow. The first time one person did that, 750 kids saw their education become a path to opportunity. What will happen because of you?

More on Conectados at: http://www.connectedperu.com.

-United World Colleges School Magazine-

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