Smiles, Songs, and Scholarships: Visiting Peru

Thank you for helping SIL LEAD fund scholarships so that indigenous teachers in Peru can earn their teaching certificates so that they may continue teaching students in their mother-tongue languages!

At recess, the children get a bowl of hot milk and quinoa crackers. 

At recess, the children get a bowl of hot milk and quinoa crackers. 

I recently had the opportunity to visit with the leadership of the Asociación Indígena para el Desarollo Integral (AIDI) in Yarinacocha, Peru. SIL LEAD has partnered with AIDI to help provide scholarships to indigenous teachers who are seeking to complete their teaching certificates (títulos). While there I also visited one of the universities and a teaching institute where the scholarship recipients are studying. But the highlight of the visit was having the opportunity to see a couple of the scholarship recipients teaching students in their own language.

Having spent a few years of my youth in Yarinacocha, I was amazed by how much things have changed. Roads that were once dirt are now paved. Land that was once used for grazing cattle is now covered with houses. Sadly, most of what I knew as jungle is now gone. And everywhere I looked, people were talking on cellular phones. But in other ways, things have remained much the same.

One of the constants is that children in the Peruvian amazon are still struggling to get the education they deserve. But, thankfully, there are teachers who are striving to help these children learn. And some of these teachers recognize the importance of helping these children learn in their mother tongues as well as in Spanish.

While in Yarinacocha I witnessed Shipibo and Yine children learning in their mother tongues and in Spanish. While visiting an elementary school, I notice how the children’s eyes brightened and their smiles widened when Jeiser Suarez, the president of AIDI, spoke to them in Shipibo, his mother tongue. Their teacher, Janes Percy Cruz Laulate, also a Shipibo, is a member of AIDI.  The students celebrated our visit by singing a song in Shipibo.

Teacher: Janes Percy Cruz Laulate San José, Ucayali, Perú September 2016
Yine preschools learning to treat headaches with celery leaf paste. 

Yine preschools learning to treat headaches with celery leaf paste. 

While at a preschool for Yine children (many Yine have migrated to this area from southeastern Peru), I watched as these precious children were taught in Yine about the medicinal values of plants. After they treated each other (and themselves) to some soothing mashed up celery leaf paste on their foreheads, I became their next patient. Kelly Urquia Sebastian, a Yine who moved to Yarinacocha as a child, is one of their teachers.  She is completing her título, and once done hopes to become an elementary school teacher for Yine children.

I also had the opportunity to meet Iris Mori Cairuna. Iris is one of the newest scholarship recipients. She is already making headway on completing her título. Although Iris graduated from the Universidad Nacional Intercultural de la Amazonia (UNIA), she could not afford the additional costs associated with earning her título. Thanks to the generous donations that SIL LEAD has received in support of this scholarship program, Iris should complete her thesis and earn her título this year. Once she does, she will be able to apply for a full-time position as a bilingual elementary school teacher.

Thanks for helping to make the dream of teaching children in their own language a reality!

**A brief video with pictures related to this post can be viewed here or below.  Please be sure to turn the subtitles on in either English or Spanish if you’d like a bit of an explanation of what you are seeing.