Building Dignity was founded in 2008 by Paul Dosh, Emily Hedin, Jesús Valencia and Martha Huamán. 

In 1996, Jesús and Martha helped organize 500 families to create the neighborhood of La Encantada in the district of Villa El Salvador (Lima, Peru). More neighborhoods grew up alongside La Encantada, forming the broader community of Lomo de Corvina. Together with their neighbors, Jesús and Martha have worked to bring electricity, water and public transit to Lomo de Corvina, as well as improve health, education and security. 

In 2001, Paul Dosh, Professor of Political Science at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) began conducting research in Villa El Salvador and supporting the work of the district’s local leaders. In 2007, Emily Hedin began working with the Villa El Salvador Human Rights Committee as an Upper Midwest Human Rights fellow from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Human Rights. Through their work in Villa El Salvador, Paul and Emily met Jesús and Martha and became increasingly involved in the neighborhood life of Lomo de Corvina.

After collaborating on a number of participatory research projects, human rights campaigns and local development initiatives, Paul, Emily, Jesús and Martha founded Building Dignity with the vision of supporting neighborhood development by empowering local leaders.

© James Lerager 2002
In 2009, Jesús and Martha generously donated their land to the construction of the Center for Development with Dignity. Today, Jesús, Martha and their family live on the second floor of the Center and ensure that Building Dignity’s work responds to the evolving needs of this dynamic community.