Alumna’s Organization Continues to Meet Needs in Peru

DeVriesImagine heading to the local library, one shared by approximately 180,000 people, and finding only a closet-sized section of books. A couple of years ago, this used to be the situation in Huaycan, Peru. But thanks to Trinity alumna Lara DeVries’ dedication to education, this is no longer the case.

DeVries ’08 is the founder and executive director of the Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI), an organization she started the year after her graduation from Trinity. LLI provides free afterschool and weekend education programs to children and women in Huaycan, a community located outside of Lima.

The motivation to help the people of Peru that began with DeVries’ community development internship in Lima never waned and continues to grow as LLI recognizes and meets more challenges each year—a lack of library books being one.

After noticing that the reading levels of students in LLI’s after-school program were not as high as they could be, DeVries discovered a disturbing lack of books available to students, and LLI responded.

“In January 2012, we held our first ‘biblioteca,’ or library, session for several kids in of the areas we serve,” said DeVries. “The response was exciting. Kids were interested in exploring the world of reading.”

Since then, LLI has offered hundreds of library sessions and has expanded the program to four different areas.

The addition of library sessions is not the only expansion LLI has experienced since its founding five years ago. While the number of participants in the program has stayed consistent with around 140 children and women, the strength of those relationships has grown significantly.

“LLI has definitely been re-shaping its programs in the last few years to concentrate on the values we want to develop and the goals our participants want to achieve,” said DeVries. “We’ve really focused on nurturing those relationships and making them long-lasting within the community.”

The story of Eduardo illustrates the impact LLI has on students. Eduardo, who started in the program three years ago, participates in private English classes, art and chess classes, the reading program, and contests.

“He is such a great example of our kids and their thirst for more education,” said DeVries. “Most importantly, his family is highly involved in his success in school and with LLI. Thankfully, it’s not just Eduardo. Though he’s a great example, we have tons of kids who are excited about our programs and we are really starting to see the difference.”

One reason LLI has been able to succeed and help students like Eduardo is through the support of the Trinity community, in both donations and volunteerism.

“We’ve had several volunteers from Trinity come through our doors in the past five years, including an Interim group and students on their spring break. Plus, we’ll be welcoming a Trinity alumna, Jess Wiltjer, this August,” said DeVries.

For their fifth anniversary, LLI will be holding a picnic fundraiser on June 28 to celebrate the success of over 8,500 classes offered. DeVries and LLI thank the Trinity community for all the support they continue to give.

“It’s great to see so many familiar faces at our fundraisers, and many of them are from the Trinity community,” said DeVries. That’s really incredible when I think about it—to think about all the people, specifically professors and friends made in college, who have contributed to LLI’s success. For that, I am always grateful.”