My name is Eva and I am 23 years old. I studied tourism and now I’m living a tourist’s life. I’ve enjoyed being a tourist since my first trip to Australia. If I see a tempting trip, I simply can’t resist and I get on a plane.
There are many people like me who travel around the world with a backpack on their backs and realize that in other countries there are things that are organized differently or do not exist at all or are seriously lacking in organization. Sometimes, these people arrive at a place where there is no hot shower or money or health care; places where there are stray dogs and children living on the streets. After seeing these things, they come back to Holland, safe and sound.
In Peru, I visited two women: Marjan in Arequipa and Leonie in Lima. Both decided to leave behind their lives in Holland and stay in Peru to help people. In this blog entry, I will tell you how, what and why they did it. These women deserve recognition, they deserve to have people know about them and their work and they, at least, deserve a place on this blog.
Visiting Leonie, from Con Pazion (non-profit organization)
Man! I was impressed after spending a day in the slums with Leonie, a day that consisted of a yoga session, visiting people’s houses and running around with twelve kids. These children are not just children, but twelve fun, loving and fantastic creatures. Most of them live in little wooden houses, do not attend school and, in some cases, don't even have parents. These children live in Manchay, one of the most deprived areas in Lima. In this place, education is not taken seriously; people are too busy trying to survive to think about the future of the children. And that is exactly the task that Leonie has taken on through Con Pazion.
The beginning of Con Pazion
A little over a year ago, Leonie left Holland and moved to Peru. In her country, Leonie had a comfortable life, including her own house, a good job in education and friends. Despite having all of that, she felt something was still missing. After spending a month in Nicaragua on her surfboard and yoga mat, she discovered what she really wanted to do: help deprived children in developing countries. She started working at a Dutch school in Lima; however, she didn’t only teach there, she also helped children in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods: Manchay. Her goal became to make a significant change in the lives of these children. According to Leonie, the change starts with education, and yoga plays a very important role, too. Because of this, in December 2017, she created Con Pazion. This non-profit organization has grown so much that Leonie dedicates all of her time to it. Some YouTube stars, Adidas and, very soon, some multinational Peruvian corporations believe in her project and support it financially and have made Leonie almost a celebrity.
Con Pazion’s Projects
Con Pazion has started several projects in Manchay. One of them is that they are working on the realization of the first Con Pazion Primary School. And this is necessary because most schools are poor quality. Not only the buildings, but the quality of education also needs to be improved. Con Pazion School will not only be a place where children can learn to read and write, but also where they will learn values and rules, how to take care of themselves and how to take care of the planet. By providing yoga classes, environmental awareness lessons and nutrition lessons to kids (and also to their parents), a sustainable change could happen in their lives. Another project that has been launched is a collaboration with one of the richest schools in Lima, building bridges and connections not only between Europe and Peru, but also between the rich and the poor within the same city.
Leonie believes that yoga creates a connection and gives the children the opportunity to work together and have fun at the same time. Every Sunday, Leonie and a volunteer go to Manchay to give them love, attention and yoga lessons. I got the opportunity to participate in this activity, and it was an amazing experience.
That Sunday, I saw children running towards Leonie when they saw her coming. It was obvious that they were happy to see her and that the feeling was mutual. We picked the other children up from their homes. That part of the day left me in shock: those houses hardly deserve to be called ‘houses,’ as they are hand-built sheds. They are small, dirty and damp. We met one of the kids’ grandmothers who could hardly walk and her backpack was covered with fungi, due to the poor conditions they lived in, but she had prepared a basket full of candies to sell on op of the mountain. “But how……?”, I wondered.
The children of Manchay
Along with a group of twelve children with their yoga mats, we walked across the soccer field and passed gangs and streets full of litter on our way to the playground. There we did tree pose, sun salutations, downward dogs and other yoga poses. The kids seemed to enjoyed it, especially the acroyoga moves, when they got to fly on top by their teacher's feet or practice together with other kids. The attention span seemed short and after twenty minutes, it is time to run around, chat and play soccer. I am amused, I played soccer with the boys and girls and they share their favorite reggaetón hits with me. We sang, we laughed, we drank Inca Kola and I forgot about their circumstances. It seemed the kids were able to forget that, too. As we were on way back, I learned more about the kids’ lives and their worries, and that peaceful feeling I had was immediately gone. These children are between the ages of eight and fifteen years. One kid cuts herself, another just lost her sister and there is another girl whose mom forgot to sign her up for school this year. Besides this, there are probably many other problems that I don’t want know of……I find it unfair. These kids are so great, they are giving so much love, and they all want to live a normal life. The contrast between these beautiful children and their environment is huge. Why should they live in these circumstances?
That night, when I was back in the tourist part of Lima, I was completely blown away when I witnessed stray cats are taken good care of in a park, while in Manchay a whole district full of people is been ignored. The cats are been hugged, cuddled and fed by a special organization, while in Manchay there are no police, or even a normal school. Life is unfair. And I have so much respect for Leonie, who follows her heart without any fear and who works so hard to give these children a fair chance in life.
Although Leonie is the founder of Con Pazion, she wants to emphasize that she isn’t doing this alone. She gets help from a lot of people now. There are many people who want to participate and who believe in this project. Leonie has found her purpose in life and she has given up a lot to do this and she seems incredibly happy that she’s able to do this. I don’t believe Leonie wants eternal fame, a medal or fan mail. She does what she feels she has to do, and what she does, is for the children. Leonie is just awesome, not a Mother Teresa.
Would you like to help Leonie and the children of Manchay? Follow Con Pazion on Instagram or Facebook, take a look at their website and donate some money if you can afford it. Are you traveling to Peru and are you willing to stay for a longer period of time? Maybe you can help Leonie with her work in Lima. Also from the Netherlands (or elsewhere) help is wanted, for instance, Leonie can always use help with the website, fundraising or marketing.