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September 4, 2009

posted Jan 23, 2010, 7:23 PM by Henrik Mitsch   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 8:41 AM ]
Dear friends of Building Dignity,

After five months of construction, we inaugurated the Center for Development with Dignity with six days of programming on August 8-14, including workshops, a lecture, a poetry reading, a dance performance, a concert, tours of the building, a community meeting, and the unveiling of a permanent photo exhibit. I was in Peru on a research trip and was delighted to attend the last three days of activities. For me, possibly the best moment of my week was my first visit to the Center. Emily, Jesús, and Martha have been working incredibly hard, 6-7 days a week, 8-10 hours a day, since March, and they were beaming with pride as they gave me my official tour of the building. I hadn't been in Lima since December and had only seen photographs, so getting to see the finished product was inspiring.

The ground floor now includes an assembly room, a garden (accessed via cool sliding glass doors), a library/technology room, a patio, a public kitchen, an office, a corridor, and a bathroom (there is also a room that will eventually be a second public bathroom). The ground floor is finished and painted, but not yet fully furnished. The second floor contains three bedrooms, a living room, a family kitchen, a bathroom, an office, a corridor, and a guest room (I'm lobbying for them to paint the guest room purple...). And the roof has a short wall encircling it so that the kids will be able to play there safely (once there are no longer piles of bricks they can climb to get over the wall!). The view from the roof is stunning, since the Center is on a hill and is, for the time being, taller than all the adjacent buildings.

Community members were excited to see the 18 framed photos (by James Lerager) that capture scenes of organizing and political struggle in La Encantada. Emily's English workshops were overwhelmingly popular, and resulted in a daily stream of interested parents showing up to enroll their children. I gave a talk about my research in Ecuador with Jesús and Nicole Kligerman and I also did a Spanish performance of poetry from our March fundraising concert at Macalester. It was great having Jesús present for my poem "La Historia de Jesús Valencia". The sixth and final day of programming was especially fun. We needed a large performance space for the dance group and the Colectivo Circo Band, so we set up on the soccer field, a block from the Center. We spent a few hours that day walking the streets of La Encantada handing out fliers, and thus had a great turnout of a couple hundred neighbors. Rainfall (in the Lima desert!) eventually drove us indoors and forced the music to end early, but we had food waiting to keep everyone smiling (if a bit damp).

THANK YOU to all of you for making the Center for Development with Dignity a reality! Work remains ahead for us, but with the building complete, Emily will soon head to Oxford for grad school, with management of the Center in the capable hands of Jesús & Martha. I am so impressed with the leadership shown by Emily, Jesús, and Martha, and wish you could have all been there in Lima for this exciting week.


Speaking to a Peruvian audience, Paul Dosh describes the organizing tactics of Ecuadorian popular organizations

Pre-dance pep talk

The Colectivo Circo Band got everybody dancing, despite the rain!