We are making our contribution
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Letter to Friends around the World # 101

Since I was a child, I have been around street children whom my parents support. Sometimes they would stay and have lunch with us. Theater has also been with me since I was a child: I studied anthropology while wanting to be a great actor.

My first experience with a group of children made me understand that my vocation was not to be a great actor, but that theater allowed me to share learning and experiences. I then started working with the association «Pasa la voz» which offers workshops to children and adolescents in difficulty to acquire social skills for life. Because of my experience with them, theater has become a tool rather than a goal.

When a young person moves from silence, from shyness, and starts talking, we are encouraged because they express their opinion. Through the workshops, children have the opportunity to participate, express themselves and reflect on what they can do to make a difference, on what kind of person they want to become.

Unfortunately, the «Pasa la Voz» project has closed. But the young people asked us to continue and we couldn’t just tell them that it was over. They motivated us to carry on. With the people who stayed behind, we decided to create a collective called «Simpay», where we work as community educators. We focus on the Marcavalle Minors’ Center. Juvenile centers are almost like prisons, children have to do everything they are told, and there is no one to tell them, «You did well» or «Now what do you want to do?» Many arrive in these centers because they have been alone, they have not been accompanied, and that is why they make mistakes. Many have been manipulated by adults to commit crimes.

In this Marcavalle center, we have developed workshops,  alternative learning spaces useful for life and citizen participation, and strengthen the social skills of young people. We continue with the same quality as if we were receiving remuneration. I get a lot when I meet a young person who has left  the center and says to me: «Now I work in a hotel and am finishing my training in catering» or «If I hadn’t met you, I would have been a criminal». We are told that we are too involved with these young people, I say that the relationship goes beyond that, they make us a part of  their life, they rely on us. We are making our contribution.

Eduardo F., community educator, Cusco-Peru