Marisol in front of her home in the Pueblo de Dios community in Peru.
*With hard work, says former sponsored child Marisol Camargo
Marisol Camargo wants you to visit Peru
, but not the way tourism is done today. “Tourism is not just telling our history to people,” Marisol says. “It’s about caring for and maintaining our history.” The way the 21-year-old university student sees it, that’s not happening. When you come, she would like your visit to be different. What she’d also like is for more people in Peru to feel the economic benefits of tourists. That’s why Marisol is studying tourism—learn about it, then help fix its problems. But can she really spearhead changes in the third-largest industry in her country? After talking with Marisol one day last July at her campus, I was convinced she has the right qualities.
It would be easy to brush aside the ideas of someone so young, but Marisol’s confidence and accomplishments alleviate doubts. Marisol is the president and a founding member of a youth group called Alianza Juvenil Sin Fronteras (“Juvenile Alliance Without Borders”). The group promotes child rights and campaigns for issues in local and national politics. A World Vision staff member formed the alliance in Marisol’s community of Pueblo de Dios
, which is in Cusco, the city where tourists come to when they visit Machu Picchu
. Marisol joined Alianza Juvenil when she was 13, liking the idea that an adult cared about the opinions of teens. Being part of the group helped Marisol overcome her fear of sharing her ideas in public, which may have turned out to be the first step in her career in politics—recently Marisol accepted an invitation to run in a municipal election.
Having adults listen to children is a regular feature of World Vision’s work in Peru. “For many years, it was in the culture that we only heard from adults. Girls, boys and women suffered discrimination. To solve this, we work with children to recognize their rights,” says Teofilo Silva, manager of the Pueblo community. “The authorities not only hear from the children, they are learning from them.” The hope is that the success seen in Marisol’s community will be replicated in other ones with the support of sponsors in Canada.
Before joining Alianza Juvenil, Marisol benefited from being sponsored by a Canadian. But before that, she had been struggling, so the timing couldn’t have been better. “Sponsorship came at a very special moment in my life,” Marisol says. “When World Vision came here, there were many problems in my family.”
Marisol prepares dinner for her family.
When I spoke with Marisol at her home, she was cooking dinner for her family and paused to reflect. She wept thinking about that time. Her family was poor and lived without electricity and a source of water at home. Also during that time, her parents temporarily separated, while Marisol struggled in school. When her parents fought, Marisol thought she was the reason for it. The problems at home became so bad that Marisol failed Grade 4. She was scared to tell her mom, fearing her anger. Instead, Marisol’s mom hugged her and told her that she would be okay. Her mom’s reaction was a relief. From that day forward, Marisol dedicated herself to becoming a better student.
As her family worked through their problems, Marisol took part in different sponsorship workshops and World Vision helped make her community better. The organization built a reservoir in her neighbourhood, hooking up each home to clean water. World Vision also helped community leaders in negotiating with electricity companies to power homes in Pueblo de Dios. Marisol’s family finally had power at home. Over time, Marisol’s attitude about life changed too. “In the past, I didn’t care about my future. I lived in the present,” she says. “But now I was able to dream. I thought about my goals. I learned everything is possible, but you have to work hard.”
Marisol inside a classroom at her university.
Marisol is stronger because of her hardships. “I thank those events in my life,” she says. “Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am. I think there’s a purpose for everything in life.”
Change a major industry in Peru? It will take hard work, but Marisol is up for the task.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Childview Plus
. A version of the story appeared at Connecting with Communities