SKIP is a non-profit organization helping economically-disadvantaged families in the impoverished districts of El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo on the north coast of Peru realize their right to an education.
SKIP: HELPING ECONOMICALLY-DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN REALIZE THEIR RIGHT TO EDUCATION
Ryan and I decided to spend some time in the town of Huanchaco before moving further down Peru. While enjoying a cup of coffee at our favorite local spot, Chocolate Cafe, we came across a brochure about an organization called SKIP. Since we only had a couple days in town and wouldn't be able to volunteer a full six weeks, we decided to reach out to Liz Wilson, the director of SKIP, and interview her about the organization. Liz wasn't in Huanchaco at the time, but passed on our email to Cheyne Bull, the Manager of Volunteer Coordination. She eagerly replied to our email and agreed to meet us the following day at Chocolate Cafe (yet again) for an interview. Here is a summary of questions and answers from Cheyne about SKIP.
P2P: How long have you been involved in this organization?
C: I've been involved with SKIP for a year and a half. Before SKIP, I volunteered at several other organizations in Latin America. After working at these organizations, I decided to move on to SKIP because of their incredible reputation. They were known throughout Peru to have a stable structure and strong company culture, and I was excited to join their team.
P2P: How would you describe SKIP's main focus and/or mission?
C: We promote quality education and foster the capacity of children and families to be the principal agents of change in their own lives. We work in partnership with families through holistic programmes focusing on the educational, economic, emotional and social development of each child and parent or carer.
P2P: Specifically, how do you work with these families and children?
C: We work with a set amount of families - around 150. Education is free here; however, there are numerous hidden school expenses that are burdensome to families with less income. We raise money to be able to pay for the school fees such as uniforms, shoes, and school supplies. We also hold after school programs for the children. The families are an integral part of our program. Parents have to attend a certain amount of meetings each month and can also access economic develop opportunities and skills training. The children involved have to participate in a specific amount of activities per week. It's a very interactive program ensuring that the families we work with are involved and invested.
P2P: How do you select the families you work with?
C: The Social Work team that initiate and follow through with this entire process. They have to meet with the families, discuss everything that's involved with being a part of SKIP, complete a house visit, as well as assess the poverty level of the family. There's a several month trial period where families need to attend events and follow through with certain requirements. The families know exactly what is expected of them by the end of this process. It's a big commitment.
P2P: What have been the biggest challenges working with this community?
C: I would have to say the floods in March 2017. It was crazy. Some places went without water for over a month. There was so much rain for days and days. Many families lost most of their belongings. Other people couldn't work because their wasn't any transportation. SKIP went from a school and economical focus to swiftly responding to a true humanitarian crisis when the floods came through.
P2P: Wow, that's horrible. How did your team react to this event?
C: I was so proud of our team during everything. The volunteers responded with determination and abundant energy. We focused on raising money for emergency relief with the families we work with, but also for all the Peruvians in the outskirts whose lives had been severely devastated. All the different NGOs in the area shared resources and helped each other figure out ways to source different necessary goods. We raised money from people across the entire world. Everyone just wanted to help in any way that they could.
P2P: How have you been able to sustain having consistent volunteers to assist with SKIP?
C: Actually, our volunteer numbers have dropped recently, especially after the flooding. Many of the volunteers were not comfortable pursuing volunteer work in a place where catastrophe had engulfed an entire area of the country.
We're always seeking more long-term volunteers (preferably a six week minimum). People can go to our website here if they want to fill out an application form and send an inquiry to the team with any questions they have about volunteering.
We have permanent Peruvian staff members that have been around for years, which really helps with consistency of people who are in and out of the lives of these children. We also have mothers who train to become volunteers and help as teaching assistants in the different programs we offer. Click on the 'Parents as Teaching Assistants' to learn more about this concept.
P2P: What country do most of your volunteers come from? How do you find volunteers?
C: I'd have say most of our volunteers come from England, America, and Peru. We post our volunteer positions on our websites such as Idealist, skipperu.org, and at the different universities throughout the world, as well as various social work placements.
P2P: What are some of the initiatives your team works on?
C: We have a regular education program where students come three days per week which focuses on English, Math, and Spanish. We also have lunch programs designed where three to four mothers are employed to cook for the kids after school. This is a huge support to make it easier for families struggling in the aftermath of the floods and a great incentive for the kids!
We have a holiday program that runs in January and February when the kids are out of school for break. The children attend four days out of the week and participate in classes focused on education. There are also programs focused on more fun activities - skating, art, photography, and music. We also have field trips to the beach. It's education focused, but definitely has an emphasis of fun in there! If you're interested in learning more about the projects we have, click here.
P2P: What can people expect when they volunteer with SKIP?
C: Volunteers can expect to work directly with the children in teaching English, helping with various activities and classes of our program. We have a timeline of all the projects we have going on throughout the entire year such as the Education and Economic Development programs or our Rocking Holiday Club that runs from January to February during the student's holiday break. Click here for more information on what exactly your volunteer experience will look like.
P2P: What other information would you like us to share about this organization for people looking to volunteer in Peru with SKIP?
C: I just want people to know that volunteering at an organization like SKIP can truly change someone's life. Volunteers often gain a new perspective on life, learn about themselves, and experience a new culture. It's extremely impactful.
If people don't have time to volunteer, there are still ways to help. You can check out different ways to donate to this organization. If you're curious on how to fundraise to cover the costs of your time with SKIP, send an email to email@example.com. We have a breakdown of our financial report if people are wondering exactly where our money goes on a yearly basis. If you simply have questions about volunteering or how to become involved, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.