Empowering Girls in Rural Peru
During her time at Haverford, Elizabeth Levitan '11 made sure that she took advantage of the opportunities offered by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC). As a freshman she participated in a CPGC-sponsored Israel and Palestine reading group, and she traveled to Mexico City during the 2011 winter break to work at La Casa de los Amigos on a CPGC field trip about migration. Even after graduating in May and receiving a bachelor's degree in Religion, Levitan has continued to utilize the resources of the CPGC. This summer, she is interning at the Sacred Valley Project in Ollantaytambo, Peru thanks to a grant from the CPGC Senior Bridge program.
Founded in 2009, the Sacred Valley Project works to provide Native American girls from the rural highlands of Peru with education, skills and resources to become leaders in their communities. Access to education is limited in the indigenous villages surrounding Machu Picchu. Many communities have primary schools, but secondary schools are scarce. Boys often leave for education or work, while the girls are left behind. In order to overcome this obstacle, explains Levitan,“The Sacred Valley Project has created a dormitory in the larger town of Ollantaytambo where girls can stay during the week and attend secondary school, and still stay close to home, even go home on the weekends.”
Levitan, who is interested in pursuing a career that combines education, international relations and community service, is serving as a grant writer, fundraiser, community relations representative and tutor for the dormitory at Ollantaytambo.
So far this summer, Levitan has enjoyed her work and found it rewarding.“There are 11 girls at the dorm between the ages of 13 and 15 and they are very sweet,” she says.“I've been doing homework help and teaching English classes as well as theater classes.”
During English lessons, Levitan has helped the girls build their vocabulary and improve their understanding of English grammar and sentence structure. Levitan also helped the girls perform a puppet show in theater class. When she isn't in the classroom or fundraising, Levitan is enjoying the culture of Peru. She took her girls to a dance festival called Ollanta Raymi and she helped them make a huatia, a stone structure used to cook potatoes in the ground. Levitan also took six of the girls to a dentist in Cusco, who offered free dental work.
While at Haverford, Levitan was a four year member of the women's varsity soccer team and was also named to the Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll multiple times.
--Jacob Lowy '14