January 30, The School Day of Non-violence and Peace
On January 30, the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, the International School Day of Non Violence and Peace is held. Entreculturas wants to remind the importance of living in a peaceful context to guarantee quality education among the youth. The presence of gangs is usual in many of the Latin American capitals, disrupting normal citizen life. The eradication of violence among these youth groups is possible. An example is the Martin Luther King Association, a community project in Lima, Peru, to help the youth leave violence behind.
A family situation with violence, an education system unable to cope with youth problems and the need to look for protection are some of the reasons why the youth join the gangs, according to Chiqui, the Jesuit coordinating the project in Lima. "The gang becomes their home" he says. This can become the first step of a delinquency career and eventually they become part of the organized crime.
The experience in El Agustino, an area of Lima, is an example of how one can leave the circle of violence. Fifteen years ago, the area had more than 36 violent gangs that often fought among themselves. The young members of these gangs spent their time stealing and 95% were addicts to some kind of drug.
With joint work, this district has changed radically."One day, the leader of the gang "Los Picheros" came up to me. He felt responsible for his boys. He wanted to open a new horizon for the young gang members. He was just out of jail where he had spent a year. He proposed the creation of the Martin Luther King Association. He talked to me about his aspirations to abandon their life of violence, to change their lives, to have a good job, to be able to walk the streets without fear". There were four lines of actions that they wanted to promote: education and training, sports, restoration work for the community and employment.
One of the first activities was to have an education programme to renew their primary and secondary school studies. The experience started in 2004 with a small group of students and voluntary teachers. Today there are almost two hundred students and more than ten voluntary teachers.
"Sports has been very effective" explains Chiqui. "More than 300 football players participate in different official competitions. ", One young ex gang member said" If we had this opportunity, maybe we would not have gone through so many things..." "Through sports, we try to transmit values and generate habits such as discipline, hygiene and we also provide nourishment and health aid" says Chiqui.
On the other hand, the youth carry out community activities such as cleaning and restoration works, organizing Christmas parties and Mother´s Day to involve the families of the ex gang members. "We tried to make the ex gang members realize the harm they had done and take on responsibility for it. However, this intention was not much appreciated by the community".
Lastly, we wanted to offer an alternative through employment. According to Chiqui, "It is very difficult to accompany ex gang embers if there are no job opportunities, since they have to tackle living in poverty". Through a previous training programme, out of the more than one hundred youngsters who have gone through the programme"I have a dream", almost sixty have a dignified job and with all the social benefits. Drug addiction has been one of the main problems for employment, so there was an immediate response: create a network of attention and rehabilitation for the young drug addicts.
"After more than twelve years of work, we can say that the Martin Luther King Association in El Agustino has broken the logic of the young gangs up to the point that nowadays, they are on the verge of disappearing" says Chiqui. The starting point: to believe in people.
The Martin Luther King Association has just received a prize for its work with the youth. The Agustino has been a pilot experience that is inspiring others in other areas of the country: the programme is been carried out in other areas. Entreculturas supports a network made up of various centres of the Society of Jesus in Lima, Ayacucho, Cuzco, Piura, Tacna and Moquegua, where the methods of El Agustino are being applied.
Entreculturas offers didactic proposals for January 30
On January 30, School Day of Non Violence and Peace, Entreculturas offers different didactic materials to approach the issue. Different proposals are directed to: Kinder Gardens, primary and secondary students, teachers and families.
This year the documents are focused on intercultural issues. "We see ourselves as different people who understand each other and participate in the construction of peace", says Entreculturas.