In October this year, we took our intercultural education program another step forward by starting to work with the Shipibo community of Santa Clara. This community is geographically close to other communities in which we have been working and enables us to connect together permaculture projects in all these communities, which is part of our overall vision of landscape regeneration in this area.
Activities have been initiated in Santa Clara that we have successfully pioneered in other communities:
The work in Santa Clara has been greatly helped by Lucy, one of our long-term volunteers living in the community. That has enabled her and us to better understand the needs of the community and gain their trust. Through the relationships that she developed with the local children, and the involvement of an artist friend of hers, she was able to facilitate the painting of two beautiful murals on the outside walls of the local primary and kindergarten schools.
We are very excited for the coming months, as the rainy season arrives and the kids will be getting their hands dirty planting lots of trees in the Permaculture Living Classroom.
Dear Friend of the Amazon,
I would like to invite you to participate a unique opportunity to have a huge impact in the lives of indigenous youth in the Amazon: all new & recurring donations made to our project before midnight on Wednesday, September 10th will be matched!
Indigenous youth in the Shipibo communities we work with have a constant need for support to continue their educations. Our program combines the best of traditional wisdom with modern knowledge to help these young people strengthen their cultural identities while increasing their access to education and sustainable livelihoods in the future.
Double your impact today by supporting culturally-relevant edication initiatives for indigenous youth in the Amazon!
With your help we will:
You can make this, and much more, possible by becoming a recurring collaborator with this project today and making your impact count two-fold! Make sure you select "monthly recurring" when you make your donation, as only these will be doubled by a generous supporter.
Why wait?! Share this opportunity with your networks now!
Paul & the Alianza Arkana team
Just under two months ago, we set up the second stage of a project in the indigenous Shipibo community of Puerto Firmeza where last year a Mexican nutritionist, Mariana, was working with us to run workshops for a group of mothers to teach them about balanced and healthy nutrition for their families. Mariana did this through the medium of cooking meals together with the women of the communities and adapting traditional recipes to include the nutrients that she had identified were missing in their diet as they changed from a traditional diet to a more Western based diet (including more carbohydrates and sugars into their diet).
In this new phase of the program we are supporting the mothers to continue to cook together and also to offer a lunch of high nutritional value once a week to the children at the local school, which uses produce locally grown at the permaculture project attached to the community. The delightful thing to see is how the mothers are implementing what they learnt in the first phase in this second phase without needing the support of a nutritionist. An additional exciting development is that the program is now run coordinated by two young Shipibo women, Liz and Marleni. Liz is our administrative assistant and has always dreamed of becoming a nutritionist or a pediatrician. Marleni is a trained nurse who brings her scientific knowhow about the human body to these classes, all in their indigenous language. Additionally, Marleni will be continuing her studies into the masters level with a scholarship through Alianza Arkana later this year. We are very excited to see these Shipibo women emerge as community leaders.
The dedication and progress the mothers are making towards the promotion of healthy diet choices in puesuit of seeing their children thrive is really an inspiring one to watch. It is thanks to the support of people like you that this project continues to be such a success!
Dear Friends of the Amazon,
We would like you to meet Judith, 18 years old, from Puerto Firmeza Community. Judith is a recent graduate of the intercultural school that Aliana Arkana supports in her community. Now that she has finished her highschool studies, Judith wants to pursue a degree in Intercultural Education at the Intercultural University of the Amazon (UNIA).
"I chose to study Intercultural Education because I love to teach, especially children. I am the second of 8 children, 4 girls and 4 boys, and ever since I was small, I loved to teach my siblings art, jokes, and songs. I like to sing, especially ballads and masha -happy Shipibo songs sung at events, at home, or in the garden.
"I want to teach primary school and I want the kids in my school to learn how to speak and write in the Shipibo language. Many schools are only teaching Spanish now, but it's important that our culture and language are not lost, so I want to change that, and bring quality teaching in Shipibo.
"I have seen people who have failed at higher education, and that will not be me. When you are committed, everything is possible!"
Support true intercultural education today!
Your contributions to Alianza Arkana will help us give Judith a scholarship to get her college degree, and return to her community to make a difference in the lives of those she loves through her strong teaching, her humor, and her traditional songs.
Irake! Thank you so much!
Shilpa Darivemula is a volunteer who worked with Alianza Arkana at our intercultural school in Puerto Firmeza, as part of a one-year international educational program to study the use of dance as a healing medium in work with young women.
Please read about the workshops she held at the school and her reflections about intercultural issues and self-esteem for young Shipibo girls below.
The girls all sat in a circle and stared up expectantly at me. We were under a cool thatched roof in the school on a beautiful yet hot day in Puerto Firmeza. It was the first of four workshops that I, along with three amazing women, developed to help improve the self-confidence and self-esteem of the young Shipibo girls ages from 9 to 15 years old. Rebecca and Kaity, two young Shipibo women, and had been discussing the idea of starting a series of workshops for the Shipibo girls in this community for a while.
Rebecca had participated in a workshop aimed at empowering girls run by 'Girls for the World' a wonderful organization from the U.S.A., and noted how it positively impacted the young Shipibo girls of the San Francisco community in Pucallpa who participated. I met Rebecca and Kaity at Alianza Arkana and we, along with Rebeca and Teresa, two Alianza Arkana volunteers from Germany who worked at the school in different projects, decided to support the girls in Puerto Firmeza with a some dance, music, and art workshops.
I was a bit nervous. I had picked a series of what I had thought were a good set of icebreaker games, but then realized how complicated they are to explain in English, let alone in Spanish and then Shipibo. But the team we had was well equipped for the challenge. We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, stating our names, how we feel with a movement, and our favorite color. When the girls stared at my Spanish explanation with a bit of confusion, Rebecca and Kaity and Rebecca's sister Liz, stepped in and translated, which was a huge gift.
We then played a few icebreakers, angering a few of the boys who wanted to join but were told it was only for girls. The girls seemed to really enjoy the workshop and worked very seriously on the unique paper bracelets we made. We had each of the girls try to define self-esteem, a word that resulted in a lot of stares and confusion. So we talked about being confident instead with the idea of developing their understanding of self esteem through further workshops. Each girl made a paper bracelet and began by first writing down 8 sentences about themselves. Interestingly, the girls were unsure of what to write, so we had to give examples, like perhaps our favorite foods, our favorite color, etc. They ended up following those suggestions strictly, oftentimes asking us if what they wrote was alright.
It made me wonder about how in the United States and other western countries, we are always encouraged to "express ourselves", to find our "identity", to "describe ourselves". (Remember that piece of paper you would get at the beginning of each class each year, including in college, asking you to describe yourself in some way? I'm honestly very sure that my professors never read a single one of those surveys, but it always felt good to be able to tell him or her that my favorite color was pink, that my favorite band was 'One Republic', and my favorite class was Science). We begin early and we begin strong, slowly shaping us into exactly what our society wants us to be: independent, self-assured, and "aware" of ourselves.
While looking at these girls, I realized that perhaps our confidence in being able to list off attributes gives us only the façade of self-esteem. In some ways, it makes us more fragile. We are less accepting of changes in ourselves ("When did I stop liking pink and start liking green? But there is only one line for favorite color? Oh my god...can I like TWO colors?"), we are more prone to defining ourselves in linearities rather than circles, single options rather than a plentitude of views, and in the end, all that talk about ourselves....really gets annoying and bit egotistic. I am not saying that we should not do so or that our self-esteem workshops were useless, but I'm saying that perhaps there is an excess of those first-day papers and a lack of open conversations about change, about ourselves, about our interconnectedness.
In these workshops, we tried to pull away from the paper defining and hard and fast rules. We had a few conversations about what we liked and how we felt. The girls enjoyed being able to choose colors, to design their bracelets, and to wear them as well. We left them saying that these bracelets were the first step into learning how to express themselves and learning more about themselves. The girls giggled and smiled, asking us when the next workshop would be. In short, the self-confidence was practiced not through creating definitions or giving examples of how to write about yourself, but in the games, the giggles, the movement, and the arts and crafts. It was in the details where we saw the beginnings of a very long process of finding oneself and we were extremely excited that we could create this moment in Puerto Firmeza with the girls.
We had three more workshops that focused on different arts and aspects. We had a theater class focusing on several theater exercises that the girls liked quite a lot, a dance exchange between classical Indian dance and traditional Shipibo dance and created a choreography together blending both arts, and finally ended with a mask making workshop in which each girl made two masks representing how they felt inside and outside. The girls were not as quick to "define" themselves and at every moment when I asked for undefined self expression, they usually began by staring at me expectantly to show them "how".
Most of their movements and expressions centered around modelling and being happy, which makes me wonder if they pick up what they see as "right" mainly from television and the city. Only when I began jumping around like crazy, did they start to jump around as well and explore other forms of space and expression. I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to let them know that they know what they know and that they shouldn't be afraid of being wrong.
In a world where school consists of rote memorization and being told instead of exploring on one's own, the challenge is mainly learning to be confident to be wrong and to think for oneself. I think the four workshops were useful, but more workshops and more time with the girls, who got more comfortable towards the end, would be wonderful and a true positive impact on their lives.
Many thanks to Alianza Arkana for this amazing opportunity. Thank you to Rebecca, Kaity, Liz, Rebeca, and Teresa.
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