News Archive 2010

December 26, 2010

posted Dec 28, 2010, 4:58 AM by Henrik Mitsch   [ updated Jun 2, 2013, 3:06 AM ]

Dear friends of Building Dignity,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Villa El Salvador, Peru! Our names are Madeleine Willis and Laura Stockdale. A little over a week ago we arrived from Australia to live and work full-time, for 5 weeks, as volunteers at the Center for Development with Dignity.

Along with Jesús, Martha, Emily, and the rest of the team here in La Encantada, we hit the ground running, continuing the ongoing English classes and preparing for the 10th annual Chocolatadas. Armed with hundreds of toys and a taxi full of milk, sugar, chocolate, and panetón (holiday bread), we hosted Chocolatadas in the communities of Pachacamac, Oasis, and La Encantada. Nothing could have quite prepared us for the rush of hundreds of children (and the occasional parent!) clamoring for “chocolate!” or the ability of some to consume twice their body weight in panetón.

The Chocolatadas were a fantastic way to bring an afternoon of fun and festive spirit to these communities. Thanks to generous donations, we were also able to begun building a series of playgrounds. We began this year with swings and slides (see photos), and will add more equipment each December for five years, until the playgrounds are complete.

We would like to thank those of you who so kindly donated to the Chocolatadas and Building Dignity’s other projects this year. If you have not yet donated in 2010 and would like to, please visit to contribute. You can visit to see the 2011 projects your donation will support, like a new Leadership Academy.

January will be busy, as we begin the (Peruvian) summer vacation program. The two of us will continue to teach English, and will also offer a dance workshop, culminating in a music clip shot on location in Villa el Salvador! Another volunteer, Naomi Nanez, will be conducting an empowerment workshop for young girls, which will engage its students in a myriad of creative activities aimed at forming strong leadership skills. Plus this Tuesday, December 28, we will host the inauguration of the Biblioteca de Dignidad ("Dignity Library"), which the neighbors are quite excited about, since no library exists in the area (Spanish-language books can be donated through Paul Dosh).

Feliz Navidad from Villa El Salvador, and hasta luego!

-- Maddie Willis and Laura Stockdale

Building Dignity: Raising the Voices of Young Women in Peru

posted Nov 22, 2010, 3:22 PM by Henrik Mitsch   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 8:41 AM ]

The below attached article is reprinted with permission from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Published: 2009

September 24, 2010

posted Oct 16, 2010, 3:36 PM by Henrik Mitsch   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 8:39 AM ]

Dear friends,

We’ve been busy at Building Dignity! Recent highlights:

  1. Growing library. Susie Taylor, currently a grad student at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, gave a boost to the library at the Center for Development with Dignity by shipping hundreds of dollars of human rights-focused books. And Andrea Galdames brought a beautiful array of new children’s books to La Encantada. What wonderful contributions.
  2. Emergency daycare. Since the local “Wawa Wasi” daycare got evicted from its space by a corrupt local leader, the Center for Development with Dignity provided our space for seven months (free of charge) to keep this vital community service going.
  3. Running water. In Lima, Martha Huamán and Jesús Valencia completed installation of piped water. Showers at last! Plus new desk, shelves, and folding tables for the Center, as well as improvements to the guestroom for visiting volunteers.
  4. Survey of Community Needs and Solutions. In La Encantada, students from Peru’s Catholic University conducted a pilot survey designed by the U8 group at the University of Oxford. A key tool for setting the agenda of the Center for Development with Dignity, this survey asks neighbors to identify problems and propose community solutions.
  5. "Voices of the Youth." In Lima, Emily Hedin launched an exciting new program: "Voces de la Juventud." Its goal is to empower young women, give them the tools and the confidence to assume positions of leadership, and encourage them to participate in their community.

    Emily writes: “We organized 2 workshops a week for 5 weeks for a dozen amazing girls, ages 10-16. Through games, art, and discussion, we encountered the topics of universal human rights, women’s rights, female leadership in Latin America, and the challenges girls face in cultural contexts around the world. Finally, we hosted a community dinner and the girls presented their work. After evaluating and improving the curriculum, the workshops will resume in October.”

  6. Dinner strikes a chord with generous guests. In Minneapolis, we organized a dinner at the home of David Hong. Joe Christenson and David shared their vocal and guitar talents, and Bryan Frantz backed them up from the kitchen. Guests liked the music, food, and vision so much they donated $1,520. Thank you!
  7. University of Nebraska visit. In Lincoln, Emily and Paul shared the work of Building Dignity with students, faculty, and community members. As guests of Julia Schleck and the Women’s and Gender Studies program, we enjoyed a visit brimming with fruitful discussions, especially with the Transnational Feminisms working group. Read more in the Daily Nebraskan:
  8. Seeking donation of digital camera. If you have an old digital camera to donate, the Center of Development with Dignity needs one.
Finally, photos. I especially like the last one, which shows the beautiful space that we've created.


August 1, 2010

posted Aug 23, 2010, 1:26 PM by Henrik Mitsch   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 8:39 AM ]

Dear friends,

The Center for Development with Dignity is a busy place this summer with each of us spending 5 weeks there between July and September. Since June we've been working on a research project that explores the strengths and weaknesses of NGOs similar to Building Dignity in La Paz/El Alto, Bolivia and Lima, Peru. The objective of the project is to contribute to the literature on development NGOs while also learning from the experiences of others so as to improve our own work. Our Bolivian colleagues are excited about our work in Peru. Henrik Mitsch and César Flores finished the Spanish version of our web site ( and community leaders in Bolivia have loved looking at the colorful site and reading about the work of the Center.

Building Dignity is also very excited to welcome a new member to our team: Kayla Richards. A 2010 graduate of Macalester College, Kayla will be moving to Lima in September for six months to be our new program coordinator. Kayla will be helping us to improve the Center for Development with Dignity and expand our programming.

During the two months that all four Building Dignity directors will be in La Encantada, we have a number of projects we hope to undertake. We have begun a series of community workshops and events and we will be conducting a survey of the neighborhood (developed by Oxford students this past year) that will provide valuable information about the community and its needs. We also have a few projects in which we invite all of our supporters to participate:
  1. The Building Dignity Library: The Center for Development with Dignity is already the home to a small collection of human rights information, educational materials, and children’s fiction. The library will get a boost this summer when Paul and Emily arrive with new contributions of Spanish-language children books. With the help of donations, we hope to establish a vibrant and relevant library collection that meets the needs of activists as well as students.

  2. The Activist Resource Center: The principle objective of Building Dignity is to provide support to La Encantada community leaders. We are happy to offer laptop computers for public use. This summer, we plan to install Internet in the center so that our neighborhood activists can organize and connect.

  3. Furnishings: We plan to continue improving our physical space through the addition of bookshelves, tables, and a colorful sign on the building exterior.

  4. Program Budget: With Kayla moving to La Encantada to work full-time for Building Dignity, we are hoping to establish regular programming for leaders, young people, and students. We are hoping to raise funds for the curriculum and resources necessary for these services. The first program offered is a five-week series of workshops for adolescent girls, focused on leadership and human rights. It began this past Thursday with a great turnout on the first day!
Martha, Emily, Jesús, Pablo, and Kayla are looking forward to the work ahead. We thank you for your continued support of the La Encantada community.

--Pablo and Emily

April 11, 2010

posted Apr 11, 2010, 8:53 PM by Henrik Mitsch   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 8:38 AM ]

Dear friends of Building Dignity,

Amanda Dixon, of Chicago, writes about her experience working at the Center for Development with Dignity (see photos below):

My time working with Building Dignity in La Encantada not only changed my experience living in Lima, but also changed my life. I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to work with an organization like Building Dignity at some point throughout his or her life. In an area like Villa El Salvador it is very easy to look around and only notice the negative. It is very easy to focus on the poverty and what seems to be a lack of possibilities and hope for a better future. However, my experience with Building Dignity showed me how La Encantada is an area with many assets and is an area where people are working to better their situation, their community, and their future.

My time at Building Dignity involved working directly with the children of the community. While it was a hard and tiring experience it was also incredibly rewarding. I was fortunate to work with the future leaders of the community and see, first hand, the hope for the future. I am a strong believer in the power of children and the importance of providing children with opportunities to be involved in productive activities, and that is what Building Dignity does.
Building Dignity provided a safe space for 60+ children to come during their summer vacation, a place for the kids to use their creativity and apply it to arts and crafts projects, as well as the opportunity to enhance their English skills. Building Dignity provided opportunities for the children of the community to be involved in productive activities that will enhance and better their lives.

The mission of Building Dignity is to strengthen the community by training and motivating new leaders, a crucial step in fighting La Encantada’s poverty. My individual experience evidences the ways in which Building Dignity is putting this mission into practice. The children are the future of La Encantada and Villa El Salvador, and after my time working with kids, my heart is filled with a deep happiness and satisfaction because I see a bright future full of potential and opportunity for La Encantada.

When I look back at my 14+ months living in Lima, Peru, my experience working with Building Dignity in La Encantada will be one of the first experiences to come to mind. It is an experience that I will carry in my heart and I am so thankful to have been a part of Building Dignity.

Amanda Dixon

After over a year in Peru, Amanda now heads off to UC Berkeley to begin a law degree. We wish her the best and look forward to her next visit to Lima!


January 16, 2010

posted Jan 30, 2010, 2:29 PM by Paul Dosh   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 8:39 AM by Henrik Mitsch ]

Dear friends of Building Dignity,

Laura Spencer of Seattle, Washington spent the past five weeks living in La Encantada at the Center for Development with Dignity, helping with our 9th annual Chocolatadas and other work, and teaching swing dancing to the community.  Included here is a final update from her, a few photos, and a link to an awesome 3-minute YouTube video of her students dancing to Zoot Suit Riot!

From: Laura Spencer

I came to Latin America in my year off after college unsure of what I wanted to do with my future but with a yearning for adventure, growth, and new experiences, and in Villa El Salvador I certainly found it all!  Experiencing Peru from the periphery of its capital gave me a much fuller understanding of the country than one I had previously gotten in visits to only the most tourist-friendly parts (Miraflores in Lima, Machu Picchu, and some surrounding archeological sites).  

Remarkably, in Villa -- the one area that I did NOT feel was catering to me with tour guides, signs in English, souvenir markets, and Starbucks -- I felt most at home.  I loved that in Villa I didn´t feel like anything was fake. In Miraflores, there is a lovely clean, ordered plaza with flowers and artwork where you see tourists sitting with coffee and looking at guidebooks.  Unfortunately, this nice image is a very small sector of Lima, especially when contrasted with the Villa district of half a million residents with dirt roads, houses that flood, no running water, and garbage strewn about.  One can´t help but feel a bit deceived by the image of the central plaza in Miraflores when it is such a small part of Lima, and Villa is such a large one. 

Yet in Villa, despite the discomforts that come from lack of infrastructure, I felt more comfortable and at home than I have since my travels began (I recently spent a month in Buenos Aires, and several weeks in Chile).  The Valencia Huamán family was so kind and attentive that I felt a deep connection to them in the short month I spent in Villa; try as I might I couldn´t hold back the tears yesterday at my departure. I became attached not only to my family, but also to my friendly neighbors, and the kids in my dance class who were bright, full of energy, and never failed to make me laugh.

Swing Out Villa El Salvador

As a traveler and a writer (hopefully one day a published one) what most inspires me are the human connections I make, and after living in Villa I feel like I could write a novel!  Thank you so much Paul, Emily, Jesús, Martha, and everyone else responsible for this wonderful organization and giving me a chance to me a part of it!

--Laura Spencer

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