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July 2020 Updates from Peru

posted Aug 14, 2020, 8:56 AM by Andrew Mueller

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To support Building Dignity's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru and sustain programming and development activities after the crisis, please make your 2020 donation now if you are able.

Updates from Lima & Our 

COVID-19 Response

Since our last e-mail update in March, the situation in Peru, and in Villa El Salvador in particular, has remained bleak. 

Despite swift lockdown measures led by President Martin Vizcarra, the official COVID-19 count in Peru has reached over 400,600 cases, with more 18,000 deaths. These official numbers are likely a vast understatement, and numbers continue to rise. 

Peru's stringent lockdown measures were thwarted by a combination of factors, including an unprepared healthcare system and a largely informal economy (around 70% of the employed population work in the informal sector), which meant that many family members had to continue working in markets or other informal settings, and those who lost jobs were unable to receive relief. 

This perfect storm of vulnerability and precarity has only deepened socioeconomic divides in Peru. These dire circumstances make our commitment to supporting our community in Villa El Salvador even more resolute.

We continue to regularly communicate with our team members on the ground in Villa El Salvador, and are adapting to provide urgently needed supplies to combat the spread of COVID-19. Currently, we are coordinating relief efforts in the form of baskets containing hygienic supplies and other necessities for families in our community. We remain committed to continuing to pay all of our staff, who are providing innovative lessons via our Facebook page to kids in our community. These children need educational enrichment now more than ever. Additionally, our Advisory Board is meeting on a monthly basis to direct our fundraising efforts to support work in Lima.

Stay tuned for more updates on our on-the-ground relief efforts and how you can continue to support our mission.

Joscelyn Garcia and Jonah Watt
Board Members, Building Dignity


A Note from Ana María Mejía Huisa 
Director, Building Dignity 

A special note of appreciation from all of us that are part of Building Dignity for the support provided to our community in Villa El Salvador in these trying moments. This solidarity unites us and makes us one.

We hope that at some point this situation will change, and we are striving for it to get better. Thank you all of the open-hearted donors for thinking of us. The children, youth, and neighbors of La Encantada send you a big hug.

God bless you!

In Memory of Enrique Quique Valdez


On July 6, we lost a beloved member of our Building Dignity community. After several weeks battling COVID-19, music teacher and friend, Quique Valdez, passed away. Quique was loved not only by the kids whose lives he brightened with his love for music, but by the entire community of Villa El Salvador and Lima at large, where he was a prominent guitarist and leader in the folkloric community.

Quique sparked a love for music in countless children who took his classes in our community center. He had a magical ability to transform students through zampoña, guitar, and cajón, sharing his love of Peruvian music and culture and instilling the same passion in others. He will be dearly missed by all who were touched by his music and his presence, but we know that his spirit continues to live on in the hearts of the hundreds of children, teens, and families who had the honor to learn from him.

Below is a video of Quique performing "Valz de Villa," recorded and produced by Jenna DeLaurentis. We know that his love for and commitment to Villa El Salvador is shared by many. 


"The Waltz of Villa"

“Villa, when I was a child, you were poor, sad, and without electricity. And now all the people remark how your beautiful streets are filled with youth. In Villa I was born, in Villa I grew up, in Villa I studied, and in Villa I should die. On the day that I die and they bring me to be buried, I’ll leave my grave and run about Villa.” 

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Copyright © 2020 Building Dignity, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Building Dignity,1622 Hague Ave., St. Paul MN 55104, USA
Center for Development with Dignity / La Encantada, Grupo 2, Manzana J, Lote 13, Villa El Salvador, Lima, Peru 

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March 2020 Covid-19 update from Peru

posted Aug 14, 2020, 8:54 AM by Andrew Mueller

View this email in your browser
To support Building Dignity's response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Peru and sustain programming and development activities after the crisis, please make your 2020 donation now if you are able.

Updates from Lima & Our 

COVID-19 Response

During the last week of February, I had the opportunity to visit the Center for Development with Dignity in Peru. As with many of my recent visits, I continued to be inspired by the passion and dedication of our staff and the joy that free summer break programming brings to the young people that show up each day to the community center. I had the chance to meet with a group of mothers as well as local leaders who are continuing to organize and make progress on development initiatives like paved roads, community safety, and the revitalization of La Encantada's central park. In addition Ana María Mejía, was elected president of the board in Peru and is now officially assuming the role of community center Director.

The update I was planning to share with you following my visit looked very different than the message I am sending today.  Below is a timeline of events in Peru:

March 6th | The COVID-19 pandemic reached Peru with the first case.
March 12th | By national decree, all schools in Peru were ordered closed, initially through March 29th. The Center for Development with Dignity, during the final week of summer programming, closed its doors for the safety of staff and students.
March 15th | Peru declares state of emergency, closes its borders, and launches the campaign #YoMeQuedoEnCasa urging people to stay home.
March 18th | Nation-wide curfew is put in place between 8:00pm - 5:00am

As of today, March 21, Peru has a total of 318 confirmed cases and is tracking onto the same trend as countries such as Spain (the grey line in the logarithmic graph below):


Our Response

As with many organizations around the world, Building Dignity's first priority is our people. First and foremost, we have communicated with part-time and salaried staff and will ensure full employment and pay throughout the crisis even while programming is on pause. 

We have also been in regular contact with Ana Maria as well as with Martha and the family. Currently, all are in good spirits, healthy, and staying home. As an organization that is based on the foundation of community-led development, we are following the guidance of our staff and community leaders on how best to respond to emergent community needs. Consistent with our ten year history of work in Villa El Salvador, as needs are articulated by the community, we are prepared to divert resources accordingly. 

If you are able, please make a financial gift.
We also recognize that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you. If you are in a position of being able to help, please consider a donation today. We plan to not only respond to the current crisis but also ensure that we are ready to continue programming once the community center is able to open again. 

Thank you for your continued support. 


Andrew Mueller
Board Member
Co-founder, Building Dignity
Donate via Paypal
Donate via Venmo @building-dignity
Copyright © 2019 Building Dignity, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Building Dignity,1622 Hague Ave., St. Paul MN 55104, USA
Center for Development with Dignity / La Encantada, Grupo 2, Manzana J, Lote 13, Villa El Salvador, Lima, Peru 

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September 2018 Newsletter

posted Sep 30, 2018, 8:03 AM by Andrew Mueller

Development with Dignity 
September 2018

Barrio Nuestro: Participatory Census 

We have moved on to a new phase of our community-based development initiative, Barrio Nuestro ("Our Neighborhood"). Since July 15th, Building Dignity and community leaders of La Encantada have been knocking on the doors of each home in the La Encantada Grupo 2 for a participatory census. The census consists of a series of demographic questions, as well as questions about community members' perspectives of La Encantada and their vision for the park. Through the census, we have been informing neighbors of the park improvement project, listening to their suggestions and opinions, and engaging community leaders to work with us to mobilize the community of La Encantada around this project. 

Community parents chat with psychologist Ernesto Reaño

On July 20th Building Dignity hosted psychologist Ernesto Reaño, director of EITA (Team for Asperger and Autism Intervention and Treatment), with whom we have signed an Agreement of Cooperation. This meeting had a record attendance due to great interest in topics such as how we understand and apply discipline, forms of punishment that do and do not work, video games, and the “thermometer of emotions,” among other related themes. Parents engaged in a dynamic conversation with Ernesto, and they have asked that we hold this talk again.


Every week children have gotten to enjoy various workshops at Building Dignity. On Monday, the more advanced musicians get to practice guitar with our music professor, Quique Valdez. Students in our Thursday introductory class are enjoying learning how to play the zampoña (an Andean wind instrument) and the cajón (an Afro-Peruvian percussive box). 

Plastic Arts

On Wednesdays, students work with Hugo Espinoza, our plastic arts professor, on a range of projects. Recently, students made marionettes with moving parts, and now they are working with ceramics. 

Introducing Jonah!

Jonah Watt joined Building Dignity at the beginning of July and will be working with us for a year as our Princeton in Latin America Fellow. Jonah graduated from Bowdoin College this past May with a degree in Latin American studies and a minor in earth and oceanographic science. At Bowdoin, Jonah conducted an honors thesis on the history of the Chilean student movement with a focus on the past decades of mobilization following a semester abroad in Valparaíso, Chile. While in Chile, he studied at the Universidad de Playa Ancha and conducted an internship with an organization dedicated to science and technology education and outreach. At Bowdoin, Jonah interned with the Maine Mobile Health Program, which provides mobile medical care to Maine's migrant and seasonal farmworkers, many of whom are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Jonah also led his campus’s climate action group for four years, where he combined his passion for community organizing with his commitment to climate justice. He is thrilled to spend the next year in La Encantada working with Building Dignity, and he looks forward to learning about social justice and community organizing in Peru!

NEW: Donate to us now via Venmo! Find the app on your smartphone and search for @building-dignity to send a donation.

Donations made in September go towards a $10,000 matching challenge grant in support of the 8th annual Craig house party on September 29th!

Donations can also still be made by visiting

June 2018 Newsletter

posted Sep 30, 2018, 8:01 AM by Andrew Mueller

Development with Dignity
June 2018

People's Congregational Church Provides Support for Barrio Nuestro project!

With an $1,800 "Blessing Fund" grant from People's Congregational Church in Bayport, MN, Building Dignity's new community-based development initiative called Barrio Nuestro ("Our Neighborhood") continues with a boost of additional resources. The goal of Barrio Nuestro is to use community participation as a tool for identifying and addressing neighborhood improvement opportunities, namely, to revitalize the central park of La Encantada.
To facilitate the first stage of the diagnostic and planning process (between March and May), Building Dignity staff partnered with Maria Eugenia Maguiña, 
a social psychologist who oversaw a similar neighborhood revitalization project between 2012-2014 led by Susana Villarán, our Executive Director, while she was mayor of Lima.
Neighborhood leaders gather for one of the preliminary meetings in March led by Maria Eugenia Maguiña to review the map of La Encantada as a starting point for the visioning and design process.

Voices of Youth: Creative Visioning

Voices of Youth participants are engaged in the community-wide needs assessment as a part of the Barrio Nuestro project. Young people are using the creative outlet of photography to document and identify opportunities for improving the neighborhood. These photographs along with neighborhood mapping by adult leaders are informing the visioning and design phase of the project.
With the help of the youth-led photography activity, neighborhood leaders identified development opportunity areas on a lot-by-lot map of La Encantada. The main park and soccer pitch photographed above is labeled with a letter "V". 

La Encantada Family Festival 

On May 20th, Building Dignity hosted a family festival in La Encantada's central park to promote the reclaiming of public space and highlight what is possible when the community gathers around a common cause. In a community where recreation is often limited by time, resources, and a lack of accessible and maintained public spaces, the success of this event was not only apparent in the turnout but in the opportunity to engage and educate families about the Barrio Nuestro process.

Final Notes

We are excited to announce the addition of new Advisory Board members joining the Building Dignity team! As an Advisory Board member, the individuals below have generously volunteered their time and talents to support the Building Dignity mission:

Alexis Alvarez Franco
Annie Virnig
David Smeath

Emily Franks
Michale Ángel Vásquez
Nicole Epps

Get to know the Advisory Board by visiting the Building Dignity website:

March 2018 Newsletter

posted Sep 30, 2018, 7:54 AM by Andrew Mueller

Development with Dignity
March 2018
A huge thank you to everyone who donated in 2017! It is through your support that we are able to carry out this important work. In our recent December campaign, generous donors and supporters like you helped us raise over $22,500! Stay tuned in the coming months for the full 2017 annual report to learn more about all that was accomplished last year. 

Summer in Lima

Welcoming New Leadership and Strengthening Community Initiatives

While we are bundling up and digging ourselves out of the snow in the North, Villa El Salvador is enjoying a vibrant, productive Summer. We just finished the second cycle of the year, and are excited to share some of the changes and developments taking place under the leadership of the Center for Development with Dignity's new Executive Director and former mayor of Lima, Susana Villarán. Enjoy this brief look at what we have been up to for the past few months!

Model Neighborhood

Developed in coordination with local leaders, our new "Model Neighborhood" initiative aims to to make the La Encantada neighborhood a successful model of urban development for other communities to emulate. A crucial part of this project includes reclaiming public spaces for cultural enrichment activities and improving environmental infrastructure. This summer 53 trees were adopted by children as part of this project's commitment to building a green, healthy, and safe community.

Voices of Youth

Our Voices of Youth Program continues strong in the two communities of Oasis and La Encantada.  One of the key themes addressed this summer was the high rate of gender violence in Peru. During November and December, participants designed, photographed and uploaded posters to their Facebook pages to protest this violence as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Improving Academic Programming and Family Engagement 

Our commitment to providing quality academic programming  is grounded in our comprehensive approach to education. This year, our after-school tutoring program highlighted the success of this approach, as students enrolled showed measurable academic improvement in all subjects.  As we move into 2018, we are furthering this commitment by offering an even more personalized tutoring program, which will increase the availability of psychological counseling services for each child and also provide a space for increased  family involvement. 
Recent graduates of our Academic Enrichment program pose with their certificates alongside Ana María, the Program Coordinator. 

Investing in Infrastructure

As our organization continues to grow and develop, so do our infrastructure needs. This Spring, we invested in major infrastructure improvements. We built new offices, added a new community space for legal and psychological consults, and renovated the building's existing facilities, including the kitchen, bathroom and entryway. The Center also received a fresh coat of paint and banner which really brightens up the block. 
Community members gather in front of the newly repainted community center to receive their trees as a part of the adopt-a-tree community greening initiative. 
Thank you to Advisory Board founding members, Bryan and Amy, for their outstanding service!

After over six years of outstanding service, two founding members of Building Dignity’s advisory board are rotating off the board to make space for new members.  

Amy Hill Cosimini began her involvement in 2009 when she performed in our inaugural fundraising concert at Macalester College, to pay for the construction of the community center in Peru.  In 2013, Amy was instrumental in bringing a Global Studies Student Association (GSSA) delegation of University of Minnesota students to Lima to volunteer.  Both in Lima and in Minnesota, Amy has worked hard to ensure Building Dignity’s success and long-term viability.   


Bryan Frantz has supported social justice initiatives in Peru since 2001, and joined our inaugural board in 2011.  Bryan provided legal guidance, worked on taxes and payroll tasks, co-hosted many fundraisers, and supported our partnership with Wayzata Community Church.  He is unfailingly generous with his time and we have always appreciated Bryan’s attitude of “I’ll do whatever is needed.”  In 2014, he even ran a marathon to raise much-needed funds!!


Amy and Bryan look forward to staying involved and continuing to share their talents with Building Dignity.  We are deeply grateful for their vital contributions to our work in Peru.

¡Muchas gracias!     

December 2017 Newsletter

posted Sep 30, 2018, 7:48 AM by Andrew Mueller   [ updated Sep 30, 2018, 8:07 AM ]

You can read our December 2017 Newsletter in the mailing list archive.

August 2017: Winter Newsletter

posted Oct 1, 2017, 2:01 PM by Henrik Mitsch   [ updated Sep 30, 2018, 8:04 AM by Andrew Mueller ]

You can read our August newsletter in the mailing list archive.

July 2017: 2016 Annual Report

posted Oct 1, 2017, 1:48 PM by Henrik Mitsch

Please read our July newsletter in the mailing list archive.

Additionally, please find the report in our Annual Report section.

July 2016: Building Dignity's 2015 Annual Report

posted Oct 1, 2017, 1:47 PM by Henrik Mitsch

Please read our July newsletter in the mailing list archive.

Additionally, please find the report in our Annual Report section.

June 2016: Building Dignity isn't hibernating this summer

posted Oct 1, 2017, 1:45 PM by Henrik Mitsch

Please read our June newsletter in the mailing list archive.

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