Stories of Implementation

‘Expresarte’ - A Child-led Approach to Tackling Poverty in Peru

Worried by the socio-economic impacts the COVID-19 pandemic was having on vulnerable children, four Peruvian children from the group ‘Expresarte’ longed to support their peers from at-risk backgrounds. They brainstormed on different solutions and finally came up with a combined approach to support education and reduce poverty. The project idea came directly from their own realities and from what they had witnessed during the pandemic.

The children behind the project, two girls and two boys aged 11-14 years, are from the same neighborhood and modest backgrounds, which motivated them to help other children who did not have internet access to continue with their education during school closures and whose parents had lost their sources of livelihood during the crisis.

“We live in Lima, the biggest city. Here in Peru, some children don’t have money, they can’t afford to study. So, what we are doing is a project where children who are in extreme poverty can study and get a better education so they can get ahead and have a better future.” Jhordy Martinez, child from Expresarte

They began looking for the best ways to address these challenges. The children wanted to ensure that families would have their own means to produce food and so they came up with the idea of community gardening. This garden would grow food for the families and by selling some of the vegetables they could raise funds for purchasing school supplies, hereby supporting the education of children.

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However, finding a suitable and accessible garden was a challenge for the children.  After many attempts and discarded options, Sister Esperanza, an adult supporting the group of children on behalf of the ‘Christ the Savior’ church, offered the children to start their gardening project in the parish grounds. This allowed the children to start the project by establishing the budget, finding out about gardening, purchasing the tools needed, selecting the crops and buying the seeds.

However, for the children leading the project, gardening was only one aspect of the bigger picture. With some of the funds raised by selling the produce, they were able to implement the second part of the project and purchase school supplies for vulnerable children. They coordinated with the leaders of the neighborhood to identify 20 children to receive those supplies.

In addition, the children wanted to establish a space for learning for their peers who were left behind on education due to a lack of funds to access the online education, caused by the pandemic. Nonetheless, restrictions on social gatherings made it impossible to gather together to attend classes through their original solution of providing access through a television. Faced with this difficulty, the children decided to adapt the plan and set up a mobile library instead. The library would function as a place where the children of the neighborhood could come to read different books to support their education.

The four lead children selected a wide array of books, from the World Atlas to classic literature. The inauguration of the mobile library was such a success that many of the adults accompanying the children even decided to donate more books for it! Sister Esperanza also noticed how parents and children were brought closer together through reading the books.

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Altogether 10 children from the neighborhood participated in developing the activities, as friends, siblings and parents alike joined the project implementation in supportive roles. The children have big plans to promote urban gardening throughout the neighborhood with a more seasonal growth goal. They hope to extend the mobile library services, which are already growing thanks to additional donations.

Sister Esperanza was moved by the dedication and will of the children to support their peers and the community. She also believed in the value of involving children as decision-makers and implementers:

“I learned a lot from them. It is a beautiful way to start a community-based process where people get involved. Especially when children are leading, it feels and looks different when they can do something to help other children. It is always good to invest in children, children have innovative and fresh ideas that we can learn from. Although they might sound difficult to implement, they learn lessons from their experiences, they adapt and when challenged their creativity will come out.” Sister Esperanza.

This project was one of the 5 finalists from the 37 submissions received for the Children's Solutions Lab program, launched in 2020 by Arigatou international through its initiatives, End Child Poverty and Ethics Education for Children. The Lab has aimed to create meaningful spaces for children to address poverty through solutions focused on education.

To learn more about the Children’s Solutions Lab and how to apply for a micro-grant, visit https://arigatouinternational.org/all-with-children/empowerment/children-solutions-lab/