For more than 30 years in the district of Ventanilla, Sagrada Familia has functioned as a small village for displaced kids. In addition to providing safe housing, nutritious food and preschool through high school education, the non-profit refuge offers sports, a trade school (bakery, carpentry, metal work, music and sewing), production centers, and a health clinic. alumni often return upon their college graduation or after years in their career to “pay it forward” as Sagrada Familia staff. Read on about how you can support this true model community helping children in Peru.
“Come to Lima and be inspired! Come and make a real difference!” says Sagrada Familia found and director Miguel Rodriguez. As a volunteer, you contribute to a true model of compassionate leadership and collaborative action in a community refuge for children from the poorest areas of Peru. “The Community” is Comunidad de Niños Sagrada Familia, an institution sheltering 1,200 children, from 1 month to 17 years, who come from especially difficult circumstances. This home-like non-profit organization shelters children at risk, and provides a solid education alongside values helping others and contributing to society. Children arrive after receiving a judicial order, when removed from their homes by the police or a municipality’s child protective services, and by families who can attest to the child’s urgent need.
Since it’s founding 30 years ago, the “graduates” have acquired employment in the broader society and support The Community in many ways, reflecting on the excellent care they received as children. As evidence, “Professor (or Papa) Miguel” navigates the halls, surrounded by affectionate, clinging children, whom he calls by name. Miguel is tireless in returning this warmth and, even after more than three decades, oversees every aspect of the organization’s operation.
“At the end of the 1980s, the youngest of my children, Juan Miguel, arrived in the world with a heart problem that brought him closer to Jesus very early, at six months. He left us a mark and his presence alive among us, his smile and desire to live loving others.”– Miguel Rodriguez, founder and director of Comunidad de Niños Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia began out of a personal tragedy. As a clinical psychologist with a growing family in the upscale Miraflores district of Lima, Dr. Miguel Rodriguez lived as far away from poverty as any other wealthy Peruvian professional. But, when his infant son died of heart failure despite extraordinary medical interventions, Miguel faced the stark limits of education and wealth. The tragedy sensitized him to life’s fragility – especially of the children who sold candy on the highway medians he had passed every day on his way to his clinic. “I had never really seen them before, or realized how helpless they must feel. Just like I felt on the day my son died,” he said. Inconsolable, he abruptly decided to dedicate his life, and to honor the memory of his son, by caring for children who lived alone on the streets of Lima. He closed his practice, sold his house and moved to the barren and desolate mountains of the coastal district of Ventanilla, 90 minutes north of Lima. There, he established a refuge – a safe and welcoming home for the abandoned and neglected children of Peru. He named it “Sagrada Familia” – Sacred Family – to remind himself of and to proclaim to others – the Christian values that led him to this mission of love.
On-Site Profit Centers Fund Community Services to Help Children in Peru
The teenagers who study at the trade school work at the production centers in the fields they’ve learned. These production centers then sell their products, and the income is used to fund The Community. For instance, the bakery produces some of the pastries that the KFC restaurants sell. The Community’s health clinic “Madre Coraje” (mother courage) is open to the public, and has specialists in obstetrics, dentistry, psychology, pharmacy, as well as general medicine. This clinic has its own two-story building with about 12 different rooms.
They also have a house for social reintegration, for minors who grow up over time and must join society, in better conditions. In this house there are about 15 teenagers 17 to 19 years old who continue with their studies and/or work outside the community.
Besides the income from the profit centers, Sagrada Familia survives on the in-kind donations from various companies who want to help the children. For instance, they receive vegetables from a supermarket. Some stores donate sports uniforms. Other surplus building and construction materials are occasionally donated.
Since Global Volunteers’ partnership with Sagrada Familia began in 2018, volunteer have been very generous with their time and treasure. In 2019, the Community started construction on a new kitchen from the generous donations of a volunteering family. Other donations have helped buy materials to construct a preschool classroom building.
Volunteer-Centered Projects Supply Needed Skills and Energy
Of course, painting, carpentry, plumbing, electrical and general building maintenance and repair is always needed. The Peruvian weather takes its toll on our buildings, and so there is so much to be done all year around. No special skills are needed to help out in this way. If you have skills in baking, carpentry, music, and sewing, you can contribute to instruction at the trade school and production centers.
Medical professionals have been very helpful at the clinic, caring for the children of the community and people from the surrounding shanty towns. The clinic employs three doctors, one dentist, one nurse, a pharmacist and nursing technicians. If you have expertise in internal medicine, nursing, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, radiology, dentistry or lab technology, you’re greatly needed to help out the staff, and perhaps perform services that aren’t readily available. Practicing or retired professionals as well as students can assist in this way.
Regardless of your background, you can help children in Peru at Sagrada Familia. English is the language of commerce, technology and opportunity around the world. In Peru, it can be a passport out of poverty. Through daily lessons and English conversations, native speakers of English are valuable classroom resources. While the students are taught English at school, it’s only at a very basic level. You’re needed to teach English for all skill levels and grades. You can work one-on-one with children from kindergarten through high school; primarily through reading, writing and recitation, to encourage their interest and proficiency in basic English. Using your own creativity, you can help older students anchor their independence through conversational English practice and lesson reviews.
Practice is the key to making a difference. The students are very receptive, and enjoy practicing English through stimulating conversation, music, skits, games and special assignments. Teachers at Sagrada Familia have learned English as a second language, and are eager to learn from and practice with volunteers along with their students. They’re models for the benefit of learning English at an early age for success later in life. For instance, one English teacher credits her study of English with transforming her life.
Volunteer teams are led by Global Volunteers Country Manager Daniel Salazar, who is experienced in volunteer management, lives in the larger Lima area, and sustains year-round relationships with all community partners. There is no better way to experience the heart and soul of Peru than a service program with Global Volunteers at Sagrada Familia.
Contact us today to get started: 651-407-6100.