Rurapuk – People Helping People

Project Description

Rurapuk´s vision is to give people the abilities to resolve life’s problems so they can be happy. Our mission is to provide methodologically sound, theoretically driven educational experiences in a variety of academic subjects to increase students’ critical thinking. 

Rurapuk is an educational and health social service project of AMURT-Peru that has hosted many programs in its 20 year history. Our current program “Growing to Think”, a program to teach children critical thinking skills, was beginning its third year when Covid struck. Growing to Think met three times a week to teach 23 children ages 7-12.. It was located in Paraíso Alto, which is an area of extreme poverty on the outskirts of Lima. The program offered a nutritious snack, weekly yoga classes, and a main class lesson taught by one of three different teachers trained in critical thinking. We also trained teachers in critical thinking skills for our program and opened the training to any Lima teacher with the goal of helping all teachers to build analytic and reasoning skills so they can pass these skills to their students. When Covid struck we had to suddenly stop in-person classes. At that point, we wanted to teach on-line, but it seemed impossible as the kids did not have computers or internet access. But we tried and found that what we thought was impossible was possible. Now we teach an on-line class once a week. The kids use a parent’s cell phone to receive the class and we subsidize a purchase of data so the phones have an internet connection. Our in-person teaching staff has learned and perfected on-line teaching skills and has taught the kids and parents to be tech savvy. We are now teaching children who live in extreme poverty, who don't have computers, who don't have internet and who before didn’t have tech skills ón-line classes in how to think better with the goal of making leaders for tomorrow’s Peru.
 
Outcome

We’d like to start communication with programs with children of a similar age and with other people starting online educational programs. It would be interesting to see how the project could be replicated in other South American Spanish-speaking countries especially. 

Community Project History

Rurapuk was started in 2001 by a mother and her two daughters from Villa María del Triunfo, Lima Peru. In its first 12 years, Rurapuk was a soup kitchen that fed hundreds of children and families. Since then, Rurapuk has run a daycare, a youth support group, tutoring and after school homework help program, a summer camp, and health campaigns.

In 2006, Rurapuk became a project of AMURT-Lima, which is an association aimed at improving social conditions of marginalized people in Lima. AMURT is one of the many branches of Ananda Marga, an international non-profit organization that teaches yoga and meditation and provides social service. 

Covid hit just as Rurapuk was in its third year leading Peru’s only locally-based critical thinking social service program Growing to Think that teaches language arts, science, and math to 23 kids ages 7-12 in our afterschool center. We had just completed a teacher training program and had just expanded this training to educators from the larger community when Covid-19 struck. Rurapuk´s goal can be summed up by our vision and mission. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Rurapuk is the only project that specifically teaches critical thinking in Peru. The conception and realization of this program is a milestone in the history of education in Peru. At Rurapuk we are interested in long term change that high quality progressive education can provide. We are looking to make leaders who will not only make their own lives better, but will help make a better society. We want to teach “how to fish” not just give “fish.” With this in mind, I can say that our biggest highlight has been seeing the changes in the children.
 
Normally children who live in extreme poverty have a tendency to be shy and timid. Because the Rurapuk classes focus on helping children communicate their thoughts, and provide explanations for them, as well as increase listening to many opinions, the Rurapuk children in Growing to Think have shown an above average sociability and curiosity. One example of this was when a group of children were selected to attend an annual fundraising art exhibit from Lima’s prestigious American Women’s Literary Club (AWLC) in 2019. Members of the club were stunned at the sophistication of art critiques the children provided, the self confidence, and the sociability they showed when they interacted with the art tour. They were able to say which art pieces they liked and to give an explanation of why they liked it. There were other groups of children present but ours were the only ones who were giving their opinions. In fact, they were the only ones talking! The adults present were quite impressed. This year, the children were sponsored by the AWLC to attend a storytelling event at the same fundraiser. The Rurapuk kids were the ones actively participating, sharing their local languages, answering all the questions, and even talking in English with the other participants and the presenter. We were proud! Guest teachers, who have come to Rurapuk, have also expressed surprise that our children show interest in their presentations, listen quietly and ask thoughtful questions. 

The teacher training that we have been able to provide is another highlight for us. Our last teacher training in Feb 2020 was open for Rurapuk’s teachers and interested teachers from Lima’s public and private schools. Training teachers from public and private schools opens a window into making education better in general in Peru. 

SHARINGS

  1. We are interested expanding and perfecting our teacher training.
  2. We are currently teaching Zoom classes for adults about interesting topics from a critical thinking point of view.
  3. We have a video about critical thinking, invitations to Zoom class

How to Pointers or best practices to share?

  1. In planning and executing a program I have learned it is very important to first define “What” and “Why.” It sounds simple but it is so important that everyone has a clear idea of what is being created and why it is being created.
  2. Clear definitions are very important. For example if you are starting a social program, you need to know, “What is a social program?” This has to be defined and agreed upon by all players. If you do not do this later, you will have many misunderstandings and will have no clear pathway forward. For example, I was once running a business and I also wanted to help the employees make their lives better. This became a mess as it was never clear whether it was a business or a social program. In the end the venture was not successful either as a business or social program.

We offer critical thinking workshops for groups and businesses.
 
What is Critical Thinking? Video that explains critical thinking (2min 30 seconds) 

Relationship of Critical Thinking and NHE — Explanation that NHE education is based on
rationality and thinking. Critical Thinking provides tools and a system for teaching
rationality, for becoming more skilled at thinking, solving problems, and balancing
emotions. 

Short explanation of the program “Growing to Think” especially the on-line classes and
the possibility that the classes can be streamed to hundreds of children. This program
also has the interesting feature of helping children who might not otherwise have the
chance become tech savvy.