A few weeks ago, one of our Givologists, Helen Tang, interviewed Liz Wilson, who is the CEO and director of Skip Peru, a non-profit currently helping economically-disadvantaged children of the impoverished district of El Porvenir, Peru, realize their right to an education. This is the transcript of the[url=https://soundcloud.com/givology/skip-peru] podcast[/url].
[b]Q: Can you share with us the history of your organization?[/b]
A: Our founders were in Trujillo, Peru working when they identified a need within the communities for children to access education. The barrier for this is the cost of sending children to school, which includes buying uniforms and shoes and providing school supply. This meant that although education is theoretically free, many parents face the problem of not being able to afford this cost, therefore not sending children to school. Our program began with providing grants to 80 children so they have their school costs met and were able to go to school. Personally, I arrived in 2008 and became the CEO ever since.
[b]Q: What is unique about SKIP Peru?[/b]
A: Looking at the international development arena for small nonprofits, we use a methodology that is holistic. We recognize that parents and carers are the key influences in the lives of the children. Thus, if we want to enable children to take advantage of the educational opportunity, not only do we need to provide support for the financial costs for children, but also the support of the parents. The messages that we bring to the children are also messages repeated at home. In that, we can provide sustainable change. For this reason, our program not only works with children but also parents and carers at the same time.
[b]Q: What are some key assets of your organization that support your cause?[/b]
A: For our program, we work with international volunteers and employ qualified local professionals. There are currently 13 people in our paid team staff, supported by three that are international. Having qualified staff that works in Peru have key benefits. For example, local professionals would help create sustainability to our organization whereas international professionals might be less committed, although they are equally passionate. Furthermore, the people that we are working with would see people from their own communities creating changes, which is much more inspirational. This gives local children a goal that could aim for and a job they might do.
[b]Q: Why did Skip Peru choose the city of El Porvenir as the target community?[/b]
A: Our founder already had a personal connection with the community. Through that, they developed the passion to ultimately fundraising for the community. Eventually, the development of Skip Peru comes from identifying the needs of the community, improving opportunities, finding out the real desires of the people, which is for them to make sacrifices for their children to go to school, and recognizing how important that was.
[b]Q: Can you elaborate on some of your programs?[/b]
A: The programs are fairly simple: the key focus is sending children to school. We take care of the financial costs of uniforms and school supplies, sending children to school. In addition, children can attend after-school classes and have access to libraries. We would also assess the children and identify learning difficulties, providing support through psychological programs. Parents and carers could also attend counseling programs, access microfinance loans, and develop projects to generate some more income.
[b]Q: Can you elaborate on the programs on nursery and health care programs?[/b]
A: We run a nursery for one and two years old children. We work with another nonprofit to fundraise the money we need to provide for 12 children to participate in lessons five days a week in the morning. In terms of our health programs, that one doesnt run all the time but at the moment we formed partnerships with two nonprofits. Some of our partnership provide health care and medications, while others do full health assessments on children and their parents and carers.
[b]Q: Other than this community, I've noticed that you worked on the satellite project in Trujillo, can you elaborate more on that?[/b]
A: Yeah sure. So that service was really set out because we identified that the area that we were working in since we started in 2003 is rapidly changing. The tourist communities are really the most recently migrated. What we were increasingly seeing is that these areas are much farther from the community centers where we worked. And it's very diffcult for these children to walk 40 minutes to an hour to get to our center on a regular basis to get to class. And so we formed a partnership with a school. We actually work Trujillo, Alto at the moment, which is another school that only run classes in the mornings and afternoon facilities are empty, so weve been using their classrooms to bring our services. I think weve got about 25 children registered there at the moment who were able to attend extra-curricular and classes but closer to their home. This is what were increasingly hoping to do in the area- this issue of people needing to travel too far to make it to the community center.
[b]Q: How to measure the impact and effectiveness of these projects?[/b]
A: Obviously, impact evaluation is a challenge for nonprofits. Tangible outcomes are difficult to measure unless it is something clear and coherent like building a school. We use different measures and we are trying to search for the perfect one. Commitment to collecting data is what we put our priority on. We need to know what percentages of time children are coming to classes and whether its consistent. We also do exams at the beginning and ending of the school year, and our results are particularly encouraging- children have consistently improved. Some were unable to read in the beginning and ended the year being able to read confidently. We also did consultations with parents and carers, something weve done for three years. We asked a lot of questions on if our program is working for them, exploring their experiences. The answers to the questionnaires are quite powerful, especially in their repetition of the word, family. They talk about SKIP like their family. We have a migrant population, about 73% are not born in this area, 30-35% do not work nearby. So the community were trying to create with Skip replicates the bonds of their family relationships.
[b]Q: How has SKIP Peru made donations or raise funds for these programs?[/b]
A: We have a model for eight years, and weve been developing strengths mainly through our volunteer programs. Volunteers are our key fundraisers and sources for income. At least two-thirds of our income are generated through our volunteers. Ten percent of income come from government grants to trained social workers, and a small percent from individuals and companies. We really benefited from the resources that you guys offered us.
[b]Q: How did you get interested in education at the time?[/b]
A: I think traveling was a big eye opener. You realize how much of a bubble you live in. I think for me it really started for me to realize things about inequality. I didnt grow up in a wealthy neighborhood or the poorest, but when I left the UK and visited other countries, I realize some of the benefits I had as a child, in particular in education. Growing up more, I realize how powerful my educational experience had been in empowering me and building up my career. I wanted to be able to bring that to other children as well. Its a gift to be able to offer that to other children, even simple things like giving children a book.
[b]Q: What do you do in your role as CEO? What are some of the changes you bring to your organization?[/b]
A: A lot of the times I step in to have an overview. If something doesnt happen, you should be able to pick it up and run with it. I do a lot of different things, such as supporting the staff and being able to be involved in everything in a small degree. For example, this Monday and Tuesday Ive been in a store in Trujillo giving out vouchers to the families and helping them choose things for their kids. I was literally in a stationary store helping them choose pens and pencils, figuring out they want to give. I also do supervisions with members and staff. I do recruitment cases and liaise with universities internationally we receive volunteers from. These partnerships are what I spend my time focusing on. So Im really not too involved in the day to day delivery, but then I do train social workers from the UK. Its a diverse job.
[b]Q: How do you view the overall goals for SKIP Peru?[/b]
A: We want to be able to bring these services to as many children as were possibly able. I view our goal in the projects we have optimistically. I definitely have a caring bond with the team, volunteers, staff, and who we work with. So thats really beautiful. I guess in terms of the bigger picture, itd be amazing to bring these services to more people and offer more families this kind of support. Whether or not were able to complete service delivery, that one Im waiting to see whether we get there.
[b]Q: Looking back in hindsight, for the many years in SKIP, what have you learned from your time there?[/b]
A: Im capable of working more hours than what I think I could. I think what I learned when I came out here was that we have very different kinds of people. The things that motivate me are feeling a sense of bringing a benefit to the people and seeing the impact of the projects that we are running, giving the opportunity to those that are really working hard to change their lives, and helping them in these times of needs. This leads me to being able to work very very hard. I think its really finding that motivation for me.
[b]Q: Do you have any advice for people who are interested in nonprofit management?[/b]
A: Being a manager is being able to step in and understand each component of the project. You dont necessarily have to be the best at every aspect. Having holistic experience like having teaching experience, and taking more gradual leadership position before youre responsible for a whole project. One of the biggest mistakes is thinking that doing your job well means being a good job manager. The more you take on the responsibility the better. Whatever you learn in university is relevant. The example for me is that I have social experience before coming here, yet my Spanish isnt really good for the first couple of years. So be honest with yourself about what your weaknesses are. What I should've done is teach English here and learn Spanish that way. In the end, its really taking it slow and identifying great managers and work with them, learn from them, and sometimes identify things you dont like as well. Your managers can have a key influence on you. [b]
Q: How can your listeners support SKIP Peru and children of El Porvenir?[/b]
A: Donations, translation work, fundraising, come out here and volunteer with us. Thank you!
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[/font][font=OpenSansRegular, arial, sans-serif]by Macy Huang[/font]
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