About Us

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

Lima is a vast city. On its southern outskirts sits the district of Villa El Salvador, which as of the 2007 census was home to 381,790 residents. Villa El Salvador was first formed in the 1970s as a shantytown — the result of a land invasion movement similar to those that were sweeping across the rest of Latin America. In the years afterwards, the district developed by sheer force of self-organization and persistence, eventually gaining official recognition and access to services like running water and sewage.

In 1996, Jesús and Martha helped organize 500 families to create the neighborhood of La Encantada in Villa El Salvador. 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. On the right, you can see Jesús and Emily!

The Center

In 2009, Jesús and Martha generously donated their land to the construction of el Centro para el Desarrollo con Dignidad (CEDED), or the Center for Development with Dignity, which now operates as a community resource center for La Encantada and as the home of Building Dignity's efforts in the area. 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. Pictured above is a gathering at CEDED!