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.

First Four Scholarship Recipients Successful: Peru Update

SIL LEAD is pleased to announce that four out of the first six Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship recipients have successfully completed their thesis requirements. The other two recipients are continuing to make progress on their research and writing. One of them will likely defend his thesis in August. Thank you for supporting this important effort to help keep minority language teachers in their classrooms.

SIL LEAD is also pleased to announce that its local partner, AIDI (Asociación Indígena de Desarollo Integral), has awarded six new scholarships. The awardees—three women and three men—represent the Awajún, Kakataibo, Shipibo-Konibo, and Yora language communities.

SIL LEAD’s Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship program was established to provide assistance to current and aspiring teachers who have completed four years of undergraduate coursework and who are seeking to complete their undergraduate thesis requirements so that they can receive their títulos (teaching credentials). Until recently, teachers in Peru were permitted to teach without títulos. Recent policy changes, however, now require that teachers obtain títulos in order to remain in the classroom.

The additional time to complete their theses and the significantly higher costs associated with this process make it especially challenging for indigenous teachers to complete these requirements. As a result, many indigenous teachers are losing their teaching positions.

Because SIL LEAD believes that children learn best when they are taught by teachers who speak their community’s language and value their culture, we initiated this pilot program to provide support to up to twenty-four teachers.

Through the generosity of a foundation and twenty-one individual donors, SIL LEAD has raised just over $40,000 (about 70 percent of the total goal). Based on the twelve scholarships already awarded, SIL LEAD is currently able to provide funds for six more scholarships. Read more about the program on the Peru page.

Photo Credit: AIDI

Peru Update: Doubly Grateful

We are pleased to announce that the very generous challenge donation of $4,000 offered in December was more than fully matched! As a result, the Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship project will be able to fund scholarships for an additional six teachers. We are halfway to reaching our goal of funding twenty four scholarships!

Chris Weber recently had the privilege of meeting four of the first six scholarship recipients via Skype. They expressed their excitement and gratitude for the opportunity they are being given. One of them said, "Please thank the people who are helping to make it possible for me to get my título." Thank you!

Before awarding scholarships seven through twelve, we have asked our local partner AIDI to focus on helping the first six recipients start off well. This will also give us an opportunity to ensure that our scholarship expense tracking system is functioning properly and to make any adjustments needed before doubling the number of recipients being assisted, advised, and monitored.

Thank you so much for your generosity. Please let others know about this wonderful opportunity to help bilingual teachers get the credentials they need to become teachers or continue teaching in their communities.

We are now well on our way toward having sufficient funding for the third group of six scholarships. Please consider a donation of any size to help us reach this next milestone. Secure donations may be made electronically on the donate page* or by sending a check to SIL LEAD: 7500 W Camp Wisdom Rd, Dallas, TX 75236. Simply include a separate note stating that your donation is for Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarships. *This program is now fully funded. At a later date more scholarships may be added. 

To read more about SIL LEAD’s Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship project, please see our most recent blog post or visit the project webpage.


Double Your Donation with Matching Funds

We are excited to announce that a member of SIL LEAD's Board of Directors has pledged to match all gifts to our Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship fund between now and December 31, up to a maximum of $4,000!

Given that we have received about $20,800 in pledges and contributions, this matching fund will allow us to complete the fundraising needed for six more scholarships.  But to do this we need your help to raise $4,000 by the end of this month. $2,400 is needed to fund each scholarship.  We have raised sufficient funds for the first six scholarships and the recipients have been notified by our Peruvian partner AIDI of their awards.

If, with your help, we can meet the matching fund challenge, we will be able to authorize the next six scholarships. Please consider a donation of any size to help us leverage this very generous matching fund. Secure donations may be made electronically on the donate page or by sending a check to SIL LEAD: 7500 W Camp Wisdom Rd, Dallas, TX 75236. Simply attach a separate note to your check stating that your donation is for the Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarships.

To read more about SIL LEAD’s Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship project, please see our most recent blog post or visit the project webpage.

Peru Pilot Project is Taking Off

We are pleased to announce that through the generosity of individual donors and a foundation, we have raised $18,235 for SIL LEAD’s Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship program. As a result, we have authorized our local partner AIDI (Asociación Indígena de Desarollo Integral) to award the first 6 of 24 scholarships. These scholarships will be awarded to 4 women and 2 men who will now be able to research and write their theses in order to receive their títulos (teaching certificates).

These six teachers come from three distinct indigenous groups in the Peruvian Amazon: Shipibo, Awajún, and Yine. There are relatively few women who are bilingual teachers in the Peruvian Amazon. We are especially pleased that a majority of the first six scholarships are going to women.

It is a wonderful jumpstart to fund the first 6 scholarships and also to be well on our way to funding the next 6! We are still lacking $10,565 in order to fund these scholarships. With partners like you and your family, friends, community group, school, church, business, etc. to help, we believe we can reach our goals. Any amount will help. Or consider pooling donations to help fund ¼ ($600), ½ ($1,200), or all ($2,400) of one scholarship.

The dedicated leadership of AIDI, our local Peruvian partner.

The dedicated leadership of AIDI, our local Peruvian partner.

The goal of this pilot project is to award up to 24 scholarships to teachers who have already completed all four years of their university educations but who have been unable to complete their thesis requirements for financial reasons. Due to changes in Peru’s educational system, teachers who were previously permitted to teach without títulos are no longer permitted to do so. Because of the much higher cost of this additional year of education, many indigenous teachers are unable to earn their títulos and are now losing their teaching positions.

Students learn best when their teachers speak their mother tongue and value their unique culture. Because of this, it is imperative to help these hard working teachers go back to school so that they can continue to teach the students in their communities.

Fundraising Goal

Secure donations* may be made electronically on the donate page or by sending a check to SIL LEAD: 7500 W Camp Wisdom Rd, Dallas, TX 75236. Simply attach a separate note stating that your donation is for the Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarships. *This project is now fully funded. More scholarships may be added in the future. 

It would be wonderful if 6 more students could be notified of their awards by year end so that they can start on their theses in January. Please consider this wonderful opportunity to not only help these teachers but the countless students whose lives they will impact.

Thank you for your interest in and support of SIL LEAD and our efforts around the world.

Help Peruvian Teachers get Back to School

The indigenous languages of the Peruvian Amazon are seriously threatened because of pressures toward Spanish and a lack of mother tongue school books. Children who no longer hear their language in school are rapidly losing not only the ability to speak their heritage language; they are losing their ability to read their language. So much is at stake!

Due to recent legislative changes in Peru, teachers will no longer be permitted to teach unless they complete their undergraduate thesis requirements and receive their títulos (teaching certificates). These changes disproportionately affect indigenous teachers due to the much higher costs associated with the thesis completion process; the distances these teachers must travel from the villages in which they teach to their universities; and their very limited financial resources. Many indigenous teachers now being forced from their jobs are being replaced by teachers who speak only Spanish and frequently do not value indigenous people, their languages, or their cultures.

By some estimates, one-third to one-half of the indigenous teachers in the Peruvian Amazon may soon be forced from their jobs.

Nehemías is a teacher from the Shipibo-Konibo language community and he is one of the candidates for scholarship. Nehemías studied at the Universidad Nacional Intercultural de la Amazonía. His parents sacrificed a lot to help him become the first in their family to go to college. Although Nehemías was able to complete all four years of coursework for a degree in Primary Bilingual Education, he could not afford the additional cost of completing his thesis requirements in order to receive his título.

“My purpose and aspiration after receiving my título is to help my community, family, and indigenous children that so desperately need bilingual education so that they can learn in their mother tongue.” Nehemías also shared that, "One of the greatest difficulties for obtaining my título was the even higher cost of completing the thesis requirements and my parents did not have the resources to help me.”

Just $2,400 is all it takes to fund a full scholarship for Nehemías or one of the other 23 teachers initially selected to be a part of this pilot project with our Peruvian partner AIDI. Please consider funding a scholarship or a portion of a scholarship. You can read more about the partnership and scholarships here. Please donate today to help us reach our goal! **This project is now fully funded. More scholarships may be added in the future.