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September - October - November 2011: Welcome to Building Dignity's Blog!

posted Nov 14, 2011, 12:10 PM by Andrew Mueller   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 8:47 AM by Henrik Mitsch ]
Hola! Welcome to the Building Dignity blog! This blog will serve as a way to communicate the many things we're working on here at the Center for Development with Dignity (CEDED) so you can (at least vicariously) be a part of the action. Feel free to share your comments and thoughts with us by email. In this first post, I'll try to sum up an exciting 2 months of activity here at CEDED. Here goes ...

It didn't take too long for me to settle in to the rhythm here at the Center for Development with Dignity (CEDED)--or maybe the rhythm settled into me. Since arriving at the crack of dawn on September 15th, my work at Building Dignity has been fast paced and full of inspiration. By the end of September, I had met with a national congressman here in the Center, coordinated with City Hall to get our first Leadership Grant project off the ground, and gotten to know the many leaders and neighbors who are working on the development of Lomo de Corvina (the hill at the edge of Villa El Salvador where we are located).

Meeting with Sergio Tejada
A meeting with national congressman Sergio Tejada (right) and his legal aid (center) at the Center for Development with Dignity.

To date, we have successfully implemented our spring (here in the southern hemisphere) season of workshops for youth and adult leaders. These workshops range from math and homework tutoring every weekend, music classes on Saturday mornings, our leadership school for young women, and computer classes and weekly meetings with dirigentes (elected neighborhood leaders). We are also partnering with an Italian NGO here in Lima called CESVI ( which facilitates a workshop for youth every week focused on entrepreneurship and implementing projects and events for the community. At the beginning of October, the CESVI group put on a movie showing that brought over 100 people through our doors! The group is currently working on promoting a neighborhood festival this coming Saturday (November 19) with a theatre and arts NGO called Arena y Esteras and another movie showing in December.

The line outside our door right before the "CEDED Movie Theater" gave it's inaugural showing featuring Los Pitufos ("The Smurfs!"). 

One of CEDED's most important programs is the Leadership Academy which trains local leaders of all ages to better serve and improve their community. I have been in charge of organizing our leadership circle for young women (ages 11-16), along with the support of some volunteer study abroad students from the U.S. There are approximately 7 girls who attend consistently and we have been discussing the issues of human rights and women's rights along with playing leadership and teambuilding games. November 25th we will have a closing event for our Level 1 class where the participants will get a chance to present to their parents what they've learned. Beginning in January, we will start a new Level 1 class for boys and girls as well as continue with our current group on to Level 2.

The group of young women (plus one younger brother) in Level 1 of our Leadership Circle. Also in the photo are our awesome volunteers (from left to right), Hannah, Nikita, Matt, and Elizabeth.

These past 2 months have also seen CEDED expand its connections in the community. Recently, I had meetings at City Hall in Villa El Salvador and met with the directors of Urban Development as well as Citizen Participation with the goal of developing a better relationship with local government. In the future, I plan on inviting representatives from City Hall to speak to groups of dirigentes to help facilitate cooperation between the two important community stakeholders. This will also be a part of a larger initiative to develop a leadership curriculum for dirigentes to better prepare them to lead successful development projects and initiatives.

Speaking of mutual cooperation, CEDED has been fortunate enough to sign an agreement with the María Elena Moyano Institute of Technology (ISMEM) which is currently providing free computer classes for dirigentes from Lomo de Corvina. In return, some of our volunteers are teaching weekly English workshops for the students at ISMEM.

This was one of the first projects I worked on after listening to the dirigentes in September when they told me about computer illiteracy as a major barrier to development. Many dirigentes are experienced leaders and activists with long histories in Villa El Salvador, but as electronic communication and information gathering are becoming the norm, they are feeling this important tool passing them by. We have already seen the benefits of the computer classes at ISMEM as just the other day, a dirigente named Jorge, came over to use our computer to type a professional letter to City Hall. Usually, he would have to pay someone to type it for him but now that he is more familiar with computers, he was able to do it all by himself!

Our first day of class brought 20 dirigentes through the door, many of them using a computer for the first time.
Dirigentes participating in the first computer class we offered in partnership with ISMEM (the María Elena Moyano Institute of Technology). The first class brought 20 students through the doors and we've had consistent attendance of around 15 since then.

Speaking of dirigentes, Betty Lozano, who won our first round of Leadership Grants, is continuing to make progress on her project which is to put a new roof on the preschool in her neighborhood. Through our connections at City Hall we have succeeded in getting a detailed architectural plan and cost analysis. Now all that is left to do is secure outside financial support and donations of materials. Other than the $500 that Building Dignity is financing, Betty's neighbors are pitching in and Betty is soliciting cement, bricks, and rebar donations from local businesses and the municipality. Below is a preliminary architectural plan that we obtained after a municipal architect visited the school back in October.

The PRONOEI building has 2 classrooms, both of which are in desperate need of a new roof. 

The last bit of action that I'll share with you in this blog entry is our newly budding musicians of Villa El Salvador. On Saturday, I had 7 guitar players come to learn form Andy and Alfa (two volunteers, friends of mine, and and fellow neighbors) as well as a few students interested in the Cajón (an Afro-Peruvian percussion instrument resembling a wooden box that you sit on and play, hitting the front panel with your hands). Thanks to a generous donation from Patty and John Mueller, we have been able to purchase a guitar, 7 cajones, and an amplifier. In the future I plan on giving local artists in the area around La Encantada a space at CEDED to perform and share their art. This music class will hopefully be the beginning of that process.

Andy Ventura (Left) teaching some beginner guitar students

Our master cajón player (cajonera) and volunteer Angiela giving a lesson to some aspiring cajoneros (myself included!)