You may recall my article about spending a week in Yauya, a Peruvian village to small to show up in Google Maps, and the amazing work Consuelo Pasco has done to bring a library there and fill the schools with books.
While in Lima, I was able to meet Consuelo under different circumstances. I had a nice dinner at her apartment in Lima and met her wonderful daughters. We had a nice dinner and she told me that her organization, Jatun Nani, doesn’t just work in Yauya. They work in Lima as well.
I didn’t understand as the project in Yauya is rural libraries. How can there be a need for rural libraries in Lima?
Consuelo explained that a friend of her daughter has a successful construction company up and running called Marcan.
The employees, though grateful for their jobs, have it pretty tough. Despite the construction happening throughout Lima, unskilled laborers are in surplus. The Marcan construction workers live on the outskirts of the city and spend 1.5 hours going to work in the morning in a bus, and 1.5 hours returning. Combine this with the brutal 48-hour work week in Peru and there isn’t a whole lot of leisure in their lives, nor is there much family time.
Enter: Jatun Nani.
Consuelo organizes a few events throughout the year to bring the families to the construction site (whichever building they happen to be working on at the moment). The men work a half-day on Saturdays, so the wives and kids come to enjoy an afternoon of activities – whatever Consuelo has organized.
Apart from being wonderful bonding time for the families, which have so little time together as it is, the kids get to see what their dads do. I’d imagine a five-year-old boy being amazed that his dad helps create what must look like skyscrapers for them. It doesn’t fix their little time together, but maybe it helps that the boy knows where and what his dad is doing all week.
Mother’s Day Event
While I was there, the event Consuelo organized was for Mother’s Day.
After having a big Peruvian lunch, the kids and families were treated to a professional storyteller. You can see him in action below telling his stories with and without the use of a guitar!
Besides the storyteller, the dads and kids separated from the moms. The moms traded tips on various child-rearing things (I think) and the dads and kids decorated cards for their moms for Mother’s Day.
If the images above were a little surprising, seeing all of this happening at a construction site, then what’s below will be even more shocking.
One of the ways to combat the poverty cycle is through education. The construction workers’ families are not poor, per se, but by most national and international definitions, they are living in poverty – the working poor.
Consuelo teamed up with the owner of Marcan to do something to change the fortunes of these families in the long-run. Actually, the owner heard Consuelo talking about he project on a Lima radio station and that’s when the idea hit him – libraries at the construction site…a mobile library!
The libraries would mostly have books for kids, but also books for adults. It’s been well-documented that reading to kids helps them excel academically. But it’s the bonding in the family that they are after.
Besides the bonding, it’s access to books. As I wrote about here, books are very, very expensive in Latin America. Having a mobile library on-site puts books within the reach of these children via their fathers at work.
While there, I asked the employees if they used the library and many of the men with families said they definitely did.
There are plans to expand the mobile library, but as they say in Spanish “poco a poca” (bit by bit).
It obviously takes a generation to see if these efforts pay off, but one of the beautiful things about being out my being of the boardroom of the corporate world is that people in the real world often don’t ask what the return on investment is. They just do it if it feels right, and doing it is an understatement for the amazing Consuelo!