Interview with our Project Manager Maurelena
Maure, tell us a bit about yourself and your background. How did you become involved with Tepui?
I am an anthropologist, and I have worked for about 30 years with rural and indigenous communities, as well as, on issues related to the conservation of biological diversity and natural areas.
When the president of Tepui, Yelitza Baetiig, invited me to be part of the organisation (practically since the activities first started in 2016), I did not hesitate. I got involved with the projects, from the design to the coordination and execution, in two areas of Venezuela.
Tepui's vision is of doing things with respect, ethics, responsibility, dedication, and collaboration. Fundamentally its about a commitment to the alleviation of the conditions of vulnerable populations in developing countries, with values, training, and technical support - in this case from my country.
Since then, two work proposals have advanced. The first one is called ‘Open Air Classroom’ for the creation of capacities in teachers and indigenous children of the Añu ethnic group, in a school located in the Sinaaica lagoon in Zulia state. After two consecutive school years with this project running (culminated in July 2018), today the school gardens promoted by Tepui are maintained and strengthened, and the knowledge imparted - concepts and methods - transferred to teachers and children who have in turn passed it onto their families, contributing modestly but effectively towards obtaining agricultural items for food interest.
In February 2017, we started the second project in the Guayana region in Venezuela, with the establishment of the first school ‘Ludoteca/ Toy Library’, which served as a guide to inaugurate the second one in another school in 2018. We are aspiring to open a Ludoteca soon that is outside the school environment. That can offer a specialised service to children from different communities of the same city of Puerto Ordaz in Guyana.
In all these experiences the vision, mission, and associated values have been the same: approach the uniqueness of each case with respect, work, cooperation, responsibility, commitment, integrity, honesty, effort, and quality.
Why does Tepui work in Venezuela? What is the situation in Venezuela at the moment?
Over the last few years, Venezuela has been going through innumerable political problems that unfortunately have affected the worsening living conditions of the population. One of the most vulnerable groups of the population is children, for this reason, Tepui has focused its work on supporting activities to alleviate this adverse situation.
As I previously mentioned, in the case of the school in Zulia state, the management of Tepui was oriented towards the theoretical and practical training of teachers and children in the field of school gardens, and the creation of ‘Tepui members’ to spread and share these lessons and actions throughout their schools and in their own families.
Meanwhile, the toy libraries are a fantastic platform that allows Tepui to support learning processes, behaviour, and development of children's personalities. Books, games, and toys are provided by Tepui to be used by children in friendly spaces, designed for this purpose - the enjoyment and active recreation of children.
In both cases, Tepui has specialised technical teams ensuring the proper organisation, training, and support and monitoring of management in each area. Ensuring the proper functioning, and excellence and quality of the service provided (the latter especially in reference to the school toy libraries).
Despite the conflict in Venezuela today, the school garden project continues, now in the hands of its own leaders: teachers and students of the school in Sinamaica. Also, the Ludoteca network aims to continue growing for the purpose of joy and enjoyment and to support the construction of citizenship in the country.
It has not been easy or always gratifying. Due to the complex problems that the country suffers, schools and communities, in particular, many challenges exist, many challenges arise, and many will surely continue to emerge along the way. However, we remain steadfast, convinced, and willing to contribute to leveraging useful initiatives in favour of the dispossessed and most vulnerable, taking into account the values and principles of our organisation.
What work does Tepui do for their communities? How do the projects benefit them?
Although the focus of Tepui’s work in the past three years has been in schools, they serve children from low-income communities lacking in opportunities. Often many of these children come from families that have low levels of integration and/or are dysfunctional, for various reasons including poverty, absence of one or both parents (by separation, death, or imprisonment), family violence, and more recently some of the family members (sometimes the heads of families or older siblings themselves) have migrated to other countries in search of better opportunities than those found today in Venezuela.
For this reason, both projects, Open Air Classrooms and Ludotecas, although they focus their activities on the school children themselves, share their benefits to the families and therefore the communities where the projects are set up.
Like any training and development project, the expected attitudinal changes are far-reaching, but even at this stage of incubation and implementation, there is recognition from the community of the benefits exhibited by the management of Tepui, especially with the Ludotecas. Guidelines given in such spaces facilitate children, young people, and their families in harmoniously enjoying the right to play, the development of creativity, and autonomy. Bonds are strengthened, opportunities for encounters are created, and values for living together and coexistence are experienced. Support networks are woven into the community, in a participatory environment that favours individual and collective development.
To support these outcomes, in the toy libraries of the two schools, traditional commemorations and school events are used to carry out activities that promote the exchange and rapprochement of the family through the game. We hope that next year the Ludotecas will start at ‘toy traveller’ program, that is simply extending the loan of the book, game, or toy, outside of school, in the community itself. On the basis of respect, trust, and responsibility.
What do you think is the future of Tepui?
Without fear of being wrong, I believe that Tepui will remain active as long as there are children, schools, and communities that demand support to relieve their needs.
We must understand that what is done is a modest contribution, but yet still is valuable, selfless, useful, and supportive.
As I said at the beginning, even in the face of so much adversity for project management - or perhaps precisely because of it - we do not get discouraged or not support each other, we seek a consensus for the resolution of undesirable situations, and we move forward with the certainty of providing quality assistance to children, which constitute a highly important population segment for a family, for a school, for a community, for a region, and for a country.