Lara DeVries ’08
Fall 2010 TRINITY Magazine, Career and Calling: Called to Lead
Lara DeVries ’08
Title: LLI founder and executive director
From a distance, the faded yellow, green, and blue shanties stand out against the base of the rocky hills like shell fragments in the sand. A perpetual ceiling of dust blocks the sun and coats the feet of the children as they trek to their art class. There they will leave the gray landscape outside and dip brushes into bright red and purple to paint hearts, flowers, and the word PAZ—peace—on some of the rocks that form the terrain of Huaycan, Peru.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the children, most of whom, like their parents, will not attend school past the age of 16 and have little hope of rising above the poverty that surrounds them like the dusty hills.
During her time at Trinity, Lara DeVries ’08 completed an internship in Lima, Peru, studying Peruvian history in relation to community development and involvement. She expected her four months of study abroad to provide an experiential learning opportunity but not for it to provide the means by which God would call her to change lives.
Just one year after graduating from Trinity, DeVries, with a bachelor’s degree in history and four months of experience, co-founded the Light and Leadership Initiative, a non-profit organization offering education programs to women and children who are struggling to survive let alone be educated.
“Within the space of one year, I saw how God changed the course of my life drastically,” said DeVries, who serves as executive director of the organization. “My relationship with God transformed into one where serving God by helping others was my sole purpose in life.”
Taught by volunteers from around the world, Light and Leadership’s programs reinforce what the schools are teaching in Huaycan, whose 180,000 inhabitants nearly all live below the poverty line. Today the organization serves over 150 participants with classes for children in English, art, physical education, French, and dance. Local women take part in Spanish literacy, health, and trade workshops.
“Education makes a promise to the community that soon it will no longer have to live in extreme poverty,” said DeVries. “Everything about our program, from our goals to our volunteers, promotes education as a form of leadership to change the community.”