I have worked in Peru for going on three years now and am familiar with it from north to south and east to west though I have spent most of my time in the north and feel as home here as I do back in North Carolina (if not even more so at this point), where I was born and raised.
I started off as a volunteer English teacher here in 2012 in Chachapoyas, Amazonas, Peru, and from there moved to Huanchaco/Trujillo to continue working in TEFL and with Non Profit/Non Government Organizations in 2013 and on throughout 2014. I have also worked in archaeological conservation, sustainable tourism, permacultue, sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, organic and fairtrade farming, environmental protection, clean up, conservation, literacy and empowerment of women, and various other missions and projects in places such as: Chan Chan (with UNESCO), Cerrito de La Virgin in Huanchaco, Kuelap and Gocta in Amazonas, Tarapoto in San Martin, Cordillera Blanca in Ancash, and have even lead a group of near 30 individuals across southern Peru from Lima to Arequipa, Puno, Cusco and Sacred Valley, hiked the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu and ended in return to Lima.
Enough about me... about the work we're doing here:
GET: Girasol Education and Training Centers
Centers set up for fostering positive, productive and progressive change in the multidimensional and multifaceted world around us. Empowering communities via the CREATE approach. Community Research, Education, Action and Teaching English.
We are currently seeking to establish a community centre in Los Pinos, Zorritos, Tumbes, Peru while expanding to provide community service and educational workshops in other towns and communities across northern Perú; Tumbes, Tarapoto, Trujillo is our target triangle for action and activism. Why? We know the area well and have experience working with the community in this area for more than three years. There also is a great lack of support of this nature provided to rural communities in northern Peru. Most aid to Peru, of this kind, is centered around Cusco and the sacred Valley. Zorritos is a small fisherman/touristic beach town in Northern Perú and while there is a lot of money flowing in and out of Zorritos, the majority of the people here do not receive and/or benefit from it. This is often the case all over Peru with respect to where money flows from tourism. Local communities rarely benefit from the tourism going on in their areas. From here we hope to establish centers that can serve as spaces for education, development and sustainably reinforce and recycle resources within these communities. 2015 in Zorritos is just the beginning of a ten year plan of expansion to 5 sites by 2025.
Our history and current developments at Girasol:
We began with repairs on a dilapidated and flooded school here in Contralmirante Villar, Zorritos, Tumbes, Perú. After restructuring and investing approximately 1,000 volunteer hours (between 6 people: 4 on site and 2 abroad in USA and Canada) as well as physical repairs to the school, training the teachers, etc. we were able to move on from our first successful project and expand into other services. A month ago we began teaching English to approximately 370+ primary grade students (ages 5 to 11) at the local Colegio Mixto, which is a public school without many resources for even basic education much less providing skilled English curriculum. We're now being requested to begin teaching English to all secondary grade students as well which will put us at a total of over 600+ students. We also host weekend activities to teach our kids here in Zorritos about environmental stewardship; cleaning the beach, what is organic vs what’s not, what is biodegradable vs what’s not, how to properly dispose of trash, recycle, reuse and renew, etc. We also teach them to swim, surf, and play team sports on the beach as well as other fun activities where they can get to know themselves, each other and us, too!
This stage is incredibly vital for us to move into our next phase which is actually opening our centre, a one hectare space on the beach in Los Pinos with two houses, plenty of space for classes of all kinds: English, gardening, composting, yoga, Falun Dafa, meditation, dance, games, etc. The sky is the limit here. Note: It should be mentioned that Tumbes, Peru is one of the most heavily HIV/AIDS, Dengue, Yellow Fever and Malaria infected areas in all of Peru. These needs are also within the realm of addressing and classes will be planned around educating the public about risk, decrease of such via preventable action and proper treatment and care. Therefore, it should go without saying, volunteers and other associates working with us in this area need to take great care for their own health while working here. So, at this stage we’re working towards inviting the community into our home as volunteers to live on or close by the property, and more importantly, their Girasol Education and Training Centre. We must get to know the community around us as well as them get to know us. Building trust and networking is of absolute necessity for a project like this to be successful. Also, every two to three months, we try to plan a service trip to other parts of northern Perú to maintain awareness of other communities with great necessities for English and other services like those we provide in Zorritos with hopes to establish a second center in May of 2016. Right now we have a trip planned (pending funding) to Chazuta, Perú, rural jungle town outside of Tarapoto.
Community service assistants and volunteering is currently needed. Your help allows us to continue our programs and provides volunteers and service workers a unique immersive learning opportunity to work in a nation, culture and language outside of their own. To work with mothers and children to teach nutrition, conservation, sustainable practices, etc. is a direction we'd like to further explore along as well as permaculture, organic farming, and fair trade opportunities. Fund-raising within and outside of Perú is absolutely necessary at this time. Please contact us immediately if you are interested in helping us fund and/or develop into any of the said areas to further discuss the possibilities of working together.
This is a bottom-to-top project in its first year and working towards registration as an American NGO with 501 C status and so we are excited to be able to share this experience with you. We seek to establish our second base in Chazuta (a rural community in the jungle outside of Tarapoto, San Martin) come May 2016. We will be doing this by repeating our base model from here in Zorritos. Of course every centre will also develop its own unique functions as needs vary regionally, geographically, and culturally across northern Peru. The goal is to train and educate locals (especially the children), leaving them the capacity and space to create positive and progressive change for themselves and others. Focus in our projects is more towards women and children but we in no way seek to exclude men from our services and volunteers. From there, the center and its services should eventually be completely handed over to the community it serves, having met all needs and sustainably so. The target time for this to occur is 10 years.
We are very glad to include you all and hope everyone can be a part if it! More information to come as we go, grow, and change. We hope that this can be proven to be duplicable in other towns and villages throughout the world.
(Note: Girasol is an independent project. Although we remain welcoming to all volunteers and donors, We are not a religiously nor politically affiliated group.)
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