Posted by: Ali | August 31, 2009


Today we went on my very first placement visit!  And it was super-exciting because it was an organization that I found and emailed and arranged a meeting and we went to visit them!  We went to an organization called ASPED Perú, which stands for something that translates into English as the Peruvian Civil Association for Personal, Family, and Community Development of Peru (yes, they say Peru twice).  They work in a slum called Jose Olaya, which you may have read about in my other post.

Us in front of the ASPED office

Us in front of the ASPED office

Well, it was really interesting to meet with them.  I don’t have a lot of experience working with NGOs in anywhere other than Southern Ontario, so it was a bit different, shall we say.  The organization is really a one-man show.  There is a director, a guy by the name of Jaime Vargas, who is the guy in the white shirt above.  He is the only person that works there full time, and he does work there like 24/7.  The part that I don’t understand is how he makes enough money to survive.  They don’t have any sort of funding, they are completely funded by private donations and fees from the workshops they put on.  Ana Maria was explaining to me that they might charge 1 sol for a workshop on hygiene.  If thirty people show up, that’s 30 soles, or like, ten dollars.  I’m sure there’s no way he can put on one of these workshops every day so… *shakes head.*  I’m clearly missing something.

Anyways, I did a whole bunch of research before hand.  Their website is really really horrible to navigate and it’s all in Spanish, (for those of you who speak spanish it’s here) and a little rambly, but they seem to do good work and really have their hearts in the right place.

Some background information:  Distrito de Independencia is the part of town that the NGO is in (which is like saying “It’s in Scarborough to someone in Toronto”).  Independencia is not a great part of town.  For starters, it’s not exactly prime real estate.  The ground is more or less loose dirt, it’s very dry, so imagine building your home on loose dirt.  Without a basement.  Sketchy, yeah.  The district also extends up into the foothills, so imagine your home on loose dirt, on the side of a hill.  Because it’s dry in Lima most of the time, some people even build their houses out of mud bricks or cardboard.  So imagine what happens when El Nino comes around every 6 years or so and brings rain.  Or when an earthquake happens, as Peru is fairly prone to (I think there have been two minor earthquakes since I got here).

There are lots of shantytowns or slums in Independencia, called PUEBLOS JOVENES (young towns) or ASENTIMIENTOS HUMANOS (human settlement).  ASPED Perú works specifically with one called PJ Jose Olaya, which houses about 6000 people, most of whom are migrants from rural communities who came to the city looking for a better life.  Lack of resources made them settle down here, and get sucked into the vicious cycle of poverty.

The Long Walk Home

The Long Walk Home

ASPED Perú works mostly with the youth of this community, providing things like English classes, workshops for crafting artesanias which are later sold, sewing, computer lessons, talks about hygiene, basically anything to give these kids a better future.  They also do work with single mothers and pregnant women, who rarely have anything in the way of pre-natal classes.  According to these guys, they say that the mothers don’t know how to raise their children, which I think is a very problematic statement.  What I think they meant was that a lot of kids just roam free through the neighbourhood and become more or less street kids because their parents might have to work long hours.

So we had a big meeting and talked about how volunteers might be able to help the situation, and we talked about two potential placements.  The first is a teaching placement, which would take place at the local community center, where volunteers would give English lessons and computer lessons.  I even did a write-up for it, now it’s on the BaseCamp website and you can read about it and volunteers can even apply for it!

The second placement is a medical placement that you can read about here, it’s at the nearby medical clinic that caters to the whole pueblo joven.  To be perfectly honest I was terrified about going to a medical clinic in a slum, but it turned out to be very clean, well-maintained, and even quaint!  It was very small, it only had one doctor for the 6000 people, but she works very hard (each day from 8am to 6pm).  Have a look!

Medical Center - Puesto de Salud Jose Olaya

Medical Center - Puesto de Salud Jose Olaya


  1. […] we were going off on a placement visit to ASPED Peru, a new organization that I found (see other post to read about it).  It is in another part of town called Distrito de Independencia (District of […]


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