Aim: to provide support to indigenous higher education students in Puerto Maldonado to ensure that they can successfully complete their studies.
Location: Casa Miraflores is located in the outskirts of Puerto Maldonado, the capital of the department of Madre de Dios, in south-east Peru. The tropical rainforests of Madre de Dios are widely recognized as the most biologically rich locations on the planet and the most culturally diverse in Amazonia.
Institution: Casa Miraflores is the ‘home’ for higher education students owned and run by the Federation of native peoples of Madre de Dios (FENAMAD). FENAMAD represents the interests of a few thousand indigenous peoples spread between 7 linguistic groups, living in 37 indigenous communities in an area a third the size of the UK.
Beneficiaries: Casa Miraflores is home to students (aged 17-22 years old) from indigenous communities spread across Madre de Dios - to reach some communities involves a week long journey from P.Maldonado. The students represent many different ethnic groupings: Ese’eja, Harakmbut, Machiguenga, Shipibo, etc. They have come to the city to study for careers in law, nursing, teaching, tourism, forestry, etc at the only higher education/ University establishments in Madre de Dios.
Many of the students do not have family in Puerto Maldonado and need somewhere to stay. Casa Miraflores can provide accommodation for up to 24 students. These indigenous students are the ones who will go on to play important and may be leading roles in the future of indigenous affairs in Madre de Dios.
The students face many, often challenges in leaving their remote rainforest communities and coming to study in Puerto Maldonado. For the students to succeed in their chosen careers they need to receive significant additional support to adjust to living in a large urban area, enrolling in a higher education institution, establishing relationships with the wider society, handling their personal affairs, support with their studies, etc.
*House support: in 2015 TReeS provided funding to undertake basic repairs to the house to make it more habitable. It had fallen in to such disrepair that only 8 students remained living in very poor conditions. As a result of the repairs and renewed interest, FENAMAD was able to secure additional funding from a German/Swiss NGO to undertake more extensive repairs and further improvements. Subsequently, TReeS has funded the acquisition of additional computer and kitchen equipment, and financed other minor repairs. Consequently, the house is now home to 24 students and has a waiting list.
*Study support: in the last pre-Covid academic year, ending in December 2019, TReeS supported additional English and IT tuition. Specialist English and IT teachers were recruited who came to the house to provide additional lessons for two hours each week. Most students have undertaken their pre-higher education studies in schools in their communities with very limited facilities and non-specialist teachers. Consequently, they often commence their higher education studies at a disadvantage to those who have been to secondary school in an urban area.
*Educational psychologist support: In the academic year ending December 2019, TReeS funded a psychologist to act as co-ordinator to support the students. The psychologist was a final year Phd student from a major Lima university who undertook the role on a voluntary basis. The co-ordinator ran regular individual, small and large group sessions to discuss issues that arose within the House, with their studies, adapting to living in a large urban area and more personal matters. The most successful way of offering this support proved to be through small and large group sessions. Traditionally, the indigenous groups of Madre de Dios had no written language and would resolve matters through group meetings in which everyone would be encouraged to speak and have a say - following this approach proved successful with the students.