Jun 4, 2018

Building Begins For Indigenous Youth's Student Centre In Iquitos

Dear Friends and Supporters,

After so many years dreaming of their own land and an indigenous student centre, indigenous youth of the Peruvian Amazon are now finally starting to see their wish turning into a physical reality, and you are part of this!

In early May, the building of a computer room and office space officially began on the land which the regional government granted a 10-year lease to indigenous student organization OEPIAP, which represents over 120 indigenous youth from 13 Amazonian peoples. This exciting advance has been made possible thanks to your donations as well as a grant from the Liechtenstein Development Service (LED).

This office-computer building will provide an important study space for the indigenous youth, who still very much lack the spaces, tools and conditions to adequately pursue their studies while in Iquitos. The office room will also serve to strengthen and empower OEPIAP as an organization by providing its student leaders with a professional and physical base in which to carry out planning, meetings, and management duties for the organization.

The building is set to be finished and inaugurated by the end of June. It constitutes an important part of the students’ dreamed and self contained centre, and it is hoped to serve to pressure the regional government in fulfilling its long-standing commitment to provide housing for the youth who have left their remote communities to come to Iquitos in order to pursue their dream of higher education and becoming professionals.

“We want the regional governor to prioritize and approve the construction of the temporary malocas for the indigenous students”, says President of OEPIAP Edgar, referring to the regional government’s promise months ago to begin building two temporary malocas which would together accommodate up to 80 students and provide a temporary solution. The design plans are finalized and the regional governor has approved the project but the students are still awaiting the start of the construction, which has been postponed several times. The government has hinted that construction may begin this June.  

In order to celebrate the acquisition of the land lease, and with hopes to visibilize the students’ struggle locally, we organized a minga (communal work) with the students of OEPIAP prior to beginning the building of the computer room. Equipped with machetes, rakes, and blow guns, around 100 indigenous students attended the minga and began cleaning up the 0.6 hectare land, demarcating its perimeters with tape and wooden poles, and planting a few mamey trees with the help of Chaikuni’s Permaculture team. For many, it was the first time visiting the new land. “We come from very far away and we have great necessities – that is why this land is so important for us”, says Leonarda, a Ticuna student. “We have been struggling for this land and student center so that future generations that come after us have a real space and won’t be suffering like us, they will have a proper space to study, they will be able to feel stable in their studies as well as in the space in which they are living”.

Your donations have also contributed towards supporting writing skills workshops for the students and individual psychological support sessions led by Chaikuni’s Student Monitor. We also organized a lively series of bicycle maintenance workshop led by Profesor Juan from the Iquitos School of Cycling, as part of our pilot project “Conduce tus sueños” (“Drive Your Dreams”) which aims to provide an ecological and alternative mode of transport for the indigenous youth. Currently, and thanks to your gifts to this campaign, OEPIAP has been donated 10 bicycles. But to meet the transport needs of the 120-plus students who often don’t have enough financial resources to pay for their transport to and from the university, this isn’t nearly enough, and we hope to continue to increase the number of bicycles with your ongoing support and sharing of this campaign with your friends and family!

As part of Chaikuni’s vital work to increase the visibility of indigenous students in Loreto, we are also proud to have helped edit and publish an important testimony by talented indigenous student and Vice-President of OEPIAP Elisvan, entitled: “I Travelled To The Tigre River”: An Indigenous Student’s View On Oil Contamination in Loreto”. Read the article here, it has already been republished nationally and internationally by the likes of La Mula, Servindi, Truth-Out, and Intercontinental Cry.

We'll keep you updated with the latest news as we continue to run our campaign for the full goal of $24,000.

We thank you for everything you continue to do to support indigenous youth, who are the future of the Amazon.

Sign up to The Chaikuni Institute newsletter here for exclusive updates on the project and news on our work in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon.

With Gratitude & Love,

The Chaikuni Institute Team & Indigenous Students of OEPIAP

 

Mar 12, 2018

Indigenous Students Pressure Authorities To Move To Their Promised Land

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Perseverance can take us far. The youth of Amazonian indigenous student organization OEPIAP are a great example of this: in the face of obstacles like discrimination, unequal opportunities and life in Iquitos city, for the large majority a several days boat ride away from their communities, they continue to pursue their dream of higher education and becoming professionals, come what may.

Over the past months, the students have been hard at work pushing the regional government to determine how to move forward with the land lease granted to them in late 2017. The students are eager to move to the allocated land plot as quickly as possible, and are also planning construction and alternative actions with our team this month, with the hope to pressure authorities to comply with their promises to initiate the design and construction plans for the permanent student centre. Discussions with the regional government have been underway about construction plans for two large malocas which would hold up to 80 people and provide a temporary solution.

Turning the student centre from dream to reality is a gruelling process, and we are working tirelessly with the students to ensure all steps keep moving forward. The bureaucratization of processes, as is involved in the allocating land and construction development, often delays advances. But the students keep the faith: “We are determined to move to the land as soon as possible”, says Edgar, President of OEPIAP and indigenous Kichwa student (pictured on the left, below).

Your donations and support to this campaign continue to provide a much necessary fuel for the realization of this youth’s dream and to cover some of their most urgent necessities – such as lobby work and covering the travel costs of OEPIAP student leaders to meetings with different actors. Over the past month, student leaders have been in intensive meetings to define the terms of a new agreement between the regional government and University of The Peruvian Amazon (UNAP). Much like the former agreement, which expired in December 2017, the new agreement being drafted outlines the regional government and university’s commitments to cover or contribute to housing, food, transport, security, health, admission and interculturality for the students. With so many previous commitments left unfulfilled, the students know that constant political pressure will have to be maintained in order to ensure that the authorities stay true to their word and honour intercultural education beyond signed papers.

Your donations also mean we’ve been able to reinitiate a regular women’s circle, following the request of indigenous female students of OEPIAP. Aged between 16 and 24 years old, women represent just 10% of the indigenous student organization and often face gender discrimination in their communities and in the city, making it all the more difficult to access higher education. “Every indigenous woman has the right to study”, says Leonarda, a Ticuna student. “The women's circles provide an important space for empowerment and personal development for these young indigenous women”, says Sandra, Chaikuni’s Student Monitor who guides the women's circles through thematic discussions, experience sharing, education, art, healing and music.

Empowerment of the indigenous student organization OEPIAP is at the core of our mission. Strengthening identity, honouring indigenous knowledge and increasing the visibility of indigenous students in Iquitos and beyond are a vital part of this empowerment work, and find beautiful expression in the newly released music video ‘Babel’, a production created in collaboration with indigenous media Radio Ucamara, OEPIAP and with support of Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM). This unique and exceptional music video unites 9 indigenous youth singing and rapping in 7 indigenous languages including Kukama, Wampis, Kandozi, Awajún, Kichwa, Ticuna and Shawi. Read about it here and watch the video now!

We'll keep you updated with the latest news as we continue to run our campaign for the full goal of $24,000.

If you gave a gift to the campaign during our End of Year Fundraiser, then we hope you’re enjoying listening to our sister organization The Temple of The Way Of Light’s new album of Ayahuasca Ikaro songs featuring indigenous Shipibo healers, sent as a thank you for gifts over $33 made during this period. You can also now get the album here, 50% of all proceeds will go to Chaikuni’s Intercultural Education program.

We thank you for everything you continue to do to support indigenous youth, who are the future of the Amazon.

Sign up to The Chaikuni Institute newsletter here for exclusive updates on the project and news on our work in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon.

With Gratitude & Love,

The Chaikuni Institute Team & Indigenous Students of OEPIAP

 

Dec 7, 2017

One Step Closer To The Indigenous Student Centre Becoming Reality

Dear Friends & Supporters,

Great things are on the horizon for 2018. Last time we wrote to you, we shared with you the indigenous students’ objective to secure the land for the student centre, which local authorities promised many years ago. We are excited to tell you that following the students’ strong organizing and sustained efforts, the land has now officially been handed over! This is a great victory for the Peruvian Amazon’s indigenous youth.

It follows a whirlwind past two months. After months of lobbying and protesting for the land at the regional government, the situation reached a boiling point when students received notification they would be displaced from their temporary base to yet another temporary location in Iquitos. In the 15-year history of OEPIAP, the indigenous student organization representing over 120 indigenous youth from 15 Amazonian peoples, this is sadly nothing new. “Since 2012, we have been fighting for the implementation of a student centre, which will dignify indigenous students”, explains President of OEPIAP, Edgar Peas Garcia, referring to an agreement signed with the regional government and university years ago, in which authorities pledged to respect the youth’s right to adequate living conditions and intercultural education. Time and time again, this indigenous youth has endured repeated relocations and unequal opportunities. Is that the price to pay for having left their remote communities to come to Iquitos in order to pursue their dream of higher education and becoming professionals? It shouldn’t be. But a lack of political will from the part of the authorities continues to impair access to higher education for the indigenous youth.

Nevertheless, the students’ remarkable perseverance has finally resulted in an important advance, with the regional government officially granting land to the organization. “When people organize, things can be achieved. This is our strength”, says OEPIAP´s Vice-President Elisvan Greffa. Although much remains to still be clarified with local and national authorities on the subject of funding, building is set to start up in 2018 using your donations to this campaign and a fund from The Liechtenstein Development Service. We will be accompanying the students in the exciting design and implementation process to build this centre, which will guarantee adequate living and studying conditions for at least 150 indigenous youth. “As indigenous students, our aim is to prepare ourselves academically and thus contribute to our people, to our society, to contribute to the change that we want and that we are all looking for”, explains Elisvan Greffa.

Your contributions and support to this campaign continue to be an invaluable part of this process to improve access to higher education for Peru’s Amazonian indigenous students. Thanks to your donations, we also recently launched the pilot project “Conduce Tus Sueños” (“Drive Your Dreams”), an initiative that seeks to promote the use of bicycles as alternative and ecological transportation for the indigenous youth. Part of building the student centre means finding solutions to the challenges which the youth face while studying in the city: a key difficulty has always been the lack of economic resources to meet their local transportation costs. Many of the students walk several hours daily to reach their educational institutions.

With smiles all around, the launch event saw indigenous youth cycling at the front of the 30-strong convoy joined by three local cycling collectives who regularly gather to cycle around the motorbike-filled streets of Iquitos. The initially procured 10 bicycles are now being stored and managed by the students for their travel. “Everyone enjoys the bicycles and using them as transport”, affirms Orfelinda, an Awajun indigenous student from the Amazonas region. The indigenous students, in alliance with the local cycling collectives, also hope that the project will lead as an example for ecological alternatives and better living in the bustling city of Iquitos. Read more about the initiative here.

Building the student centre with initiatives such as “Drive Your Dreams” also plays an important part in raising awareness about indigenous peoples in the city of Iquitos, where racism against indigenous peoples is rampant and the existence of the indigenous youth in the city is little known. Standing up for their peoples and raising their voices is something the indigenous students feel very strongly about. Their most recent action involved joining the indigenous coalition of five river basins affected by oil pollution, which mobilized outside a local radio station to denounce increasingly discriminatory broadcasts insulting indigenous peoples.

The road ahead is never easy. Building strategic alliances, both indigenous and non-indigenous, is crucial for the students’ empowerment and the building of the student centre. Amongst the alliances in motion, an exciting creative collaboration with local indigenous media Radio Ucamara has just been initiated - stay tuned for the fruits of this work in an upcoming new music video featuring 9 indigenous youth from OEPIAP and 7 indigenous languages - a beautiful incarnation of the incredible cultural diversity and richness of indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon.

We'll keep you updated with the latest news as we continue to run our campaign for the full goal of $24,000.

Sign up to The Chaikuni Institute newsletter here for exclusive updates on the project and news on our work in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon.

With Gratitude & Love during this holiday season,

The Chaikuni Institute Team & Indigenous Students of OEPIAP 

 
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