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  • Writer's pictureMartijn

Traveling through charity, to Lima

Today, I would like to introduce you to my compatriot Leonie van Iersel who is a very special person. Leonie used to teach in a secondary school in the Netherlands and felt that something was missing in the education system. She introduced yoga lessons to make learning a more holistic experience and saw many pupils flourish, in particular thanks to reduced levels of stress. She then realized that this approach to education would probably have even better results for pupils with more stressful lives, such as children in disadvantaged environments. Fast forward.... and Leonie is now living in Lima, where she has set up the Con Pazion foundation to promote public holistic education in the city's poorest neighborhoods, where children need it the most.

After much efforts, Con Pazion has started a collaboration with the community of Manchay (a slum on the outskirts of Lima) and the Peruvian Ministry of Education to deploy holistic education in a pilot-school there. I had heard about Leonie's dream in 2018 through a network of Dutch women living abroad and decided to get in touch with her. She immediately reacted and I was able to meet her and visit Manchay during one of my professional trips to Lima. I went back with Alex in August last year to witness Leonie's unlimited enthusiasm again, as well as her advances and we have supported Con Pazion ever since with donations, management advice and grant-writing, so we feel a very little piece of us is already in Peru :)

As for most projects in this area of the world, progress has been slow but it was steady until Covid-19 hit. All schools in Peru have now been closed since March (i.e. the 2020 school year has not started at all) and everything is on hold. Living circumstances in Manchay were already dire but now they are even worse because most parents lost their incomes and do not benefit from government support since their work was unofficial to begin with. In one of her Instagram videos, Leonie interviews the father of a student who used to repair moto-taxis for a living and has no clients anymore since no one is circulating, not even in the popular moto-taxis. Zero income, zero savings, zero food for his wife and 2 children except for small donations from neighbors.

So, instead of preparing the holistic curriculum for the 2021 school year, Leonie pulled all the strings she could to organize food distribution for the 320 families of "her" school. Last weekend, she completed the fourth bi-weekly delivery of food baskets, together with school staff and the local authorities so that 620 students could eat better. To get the food basket, families just needed to signal their house using a garment from the school uniform.

Volunteers would then take the food to the uniformed houses on foot, by moto-taxi or with the municipal guard vehicles.

Below are some more pictures and a thank you message from Con Pazion. If you would like to see more images describing Manchay and Leonie's work, you can find her and her insightful stories on Instagram (con.pazion).

Although we are planning to reach Peru only towards the end of our round-the-world trip, I am already very much looking forward to meeting Leonie again and seeing her continuing progress.

Thank you very much Leonie for your work!

PS: Leonie is also responsible for introducing Alex and me to yoga and Adriene!

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