Most of the key issues affecting Peruvian citizens stem from the socio-economic inequalities that are present around the country. This has caused there to be gaps regarding access to healthcare, education, as well as stable employment. All of these issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused NGOs around the country to step up their efforts to target these needs and serve the Peruvian population. I had the opportunity to speak to Diana Crousillat (Executive Director) and Katja Montagne (General Director) of Fundación OLI in Lima, Peru.
I was able to learn about the organization, which tailors itself to the needs of Peruvian citizens and local NGOs. Peru has numerous NGOs around the country that address various needs and diverse sectors of society. Fundación OLI is an organization that recognizes this abundance and works to connect and support existing NGOs by organizing donations and offering administrative support. Their work makes sure that aid work is not duplicated, but rather, the work that is already being done is highlighted and reinforced.
They also work on their own campaigns, such as Al Cole Con Todo (Going to School with Everything), Contra el Frío por los Nuestros (Against the Cold for Our People), Navidad Solidaria (Solidarity Christmas), and their emergency campaign Yo No Voy a Parar de Donar (I Won’t Stop Giving). Through our conversation, Fundación OLI explained how it is is adapting to the demands of aid work during the COVID-19 pandemic in one of the hardest hit countries in Latin America.
LR: What is Fundación OLI’s mission and what are the activities you do?
DC: Our mission is to connect with people and institutions for equal opportunities. In our experience, we have found that many people have the desire to help but don’t know how to or it takes too much time to find organizations. Validating the issue of trust in our social world is very important because otherwise you can imagine, it is very hard to blindly deposit funds.
For us, it has been very important to work on the issue of transparency and reliability. Above all, we work on the diversity that OLI has as a platform to host and develop projects and campaigns that are not only our own but also support initiatives and campaigns of third parties. What we do is capture different initiatives and projects that add value to the platform so that we can also add value in different ways, meeting needs directly or indirectly.
KM: Our work is based on the four pillars that we’ve identified, which are education and culture, the environment, poverty reduction through empowerment, and health. The organizations that we support cover those four pillars and that is the first filter to see if we can support them and if they fit into our organization.
LR: What is the role of Fundación OLI among the different NGOs in Peru? How is your work different from others?
DC: OLI stands for Organizing the Initiatives. This allows us to be flexible and for any figure of help that we encounter, we look for a fast and sustainable way to support them. There are other organizations like ours that are also non-profit, but we manage to connect help with need by having them participate in a large solidarity network and including their needs and dreams as a part of a whole. We have three lines of action. The first is the Strategic Solidarity Alliances.
Thanks to those we have a radius of action covering 75% of the country without having to found or establish subsidiaries of OLI in other areas of the country. With this alliance, we can derive help, be present through these organizations, and join the efforts of these organizations.
As a platform, OLI receives large donations, which allows us to refer these to various organizations, versus if some of our sister organizations receive this type of donation, they may only be able to use a small percentage of it.
Oftentimes, we are given these donations directly so that we can take care of assigning those resources to the different organizations that are a part of OLI.
“The pillars are distinct but we only have one sentiment, that of wanting to help.” – Diana Crousillat
The second line of action are Solidarity Projects and Initiatives. Here, we mostly give infrastructural support in the form of legal, logistic, and administrative support. These are usually initiatives, people, or groups of friends that come together and want to do something. We support them so that their plans don’t stay as an idea or so that they don’t have too many difficulties and they can have a greater scope and have better results than if they are alone and without support.
Our third line are the Campaigns of Humanitarian Help. We have four campaigns during the year, right now because of the pandemic we have the emergency platform that is active and will continue to be active throughout the year and perhaps next year as well. We activated the emergency platform in 2017 when Peru was hit with the Coastal Niño, which affected many different areas and we were then able to donate to 18 different parts of the country.
The platform is always active, receiving volunteers and material and economic resources. We don’t create events independently, but if someone is having a concert and there is an opportunity for us, we have the experience and ability to support a producer or someone that would like to join us.
LR: How do you determine the projects you work on as well as the distinct needs of different communities?
KM: OLI’s philosophy also includes the idea of not duplicating, when you want to help there is no competition. So, if someone else is already doing something and is doing it well, we are here to reinforce, complement, and support what they are doing.
If there are new organizations or initiatives, we analyze based on our guidelines and if they fall under the four pillars, we accept them and evaluate them. However in this case right now, the campaign that we have going on is the emergency campaign that is activated when necessary, when we see that there is a need for it.
LR: How has Fundación OLI’s work changed as a result of COVID-19?
DC: The biggest challenge has been managing everything from a distance, coordinating with our team and our actions in society if we know that we have the capacity to respond when facing a situation of this type. Just like what happened with the Coastal Niño, OLI responds with its emergency platform and will give support in whatever society needs.
It seems that this has passed from an emergency into a reality and our organizations finds itself being of service to society so our work will always adapt to provide support.
Another challenge is that there are many organizations that have been affected and they are orienting themselves to another type of work. For example, the organizations that worked on education and suddenly there are no schools anymore, so now they have to see how these students with few resources will at least have a cell phone or a tablet so they can listen to class.
We have activated a campaign called Juntos Desde Casa (Together From Home), I see this campaign as being a response given the latent need and if tomorrow it isn’t COVID and it’s a famine, then we’ll make a campaign to address that need.
“The campaigns are created because the population asks us to serve as a connector between the need, the situation, and the desire to help.” – Katja Montagne
LR: Have the needs of the communities you work with changed in the last few months?
DC: We have addressed this through these campaigns, not only the COVID one, but we have also created other campaigns. Entre Peruanos Nos Cuidamos (We take care of ourselves among Peruvians), seeks to serve those who protect us in the streets, from police and firefighters, and also the informal civil society like the street and market vendors.
These are the people that go out on the streets because they have to work as they don’t have all the benefits that could help someone that works for a company so they have to manage themselves, they don’t have a fixed salary, or have been left unemployed.
The campaign seeks to give protection to these people that are out in the streets daily by giving them facial protectors and cloth masks. The campaign was born thanks to companies or people that would say “I want to donate cloth masks” and since those can’t go to the medical professionals of our campaign Juntos Desde Casa, we decided to activate this campaign to be able to derive aid in another way.
This is how OLI rapidly works and activates itself to find a place for opportunities that are presented, in this case create a campaign and see the way in which we can connect this help, analyze it to give it life, give a place to everything that comes in and continue the virtuous circle of help. The latent needs that we have seen have been with food and medical protection.
As a platform, we prioritize this issue because that is how our COVID campaign started, we focused on sanitary personnel, however that did not cause us to be oblivious to other needs that we identify along the way.
Barrigas Contentas (Happy Bellies) is a campaign that seeks to deliver food and basic necessities to families in vulnerable areas and community pots organized in settlements. We have already supported 2 community pots and more than 100 people.
“The needs haven’t changed much, maybe now they’re more visible. The reality for the most vulnerable sectors has not changed because they’re always fighting to get work, a plate of food, or better medical assistance, but today we can see the reality more closely.” – Diana Crousillat.
LR: How do you think the pandemic will affect the long-term work of Fundación OLI?
DC: We are prioritizing a lot in our health pillar through our protection kits and the other related campaigns. There is a lot of need and different fronts to cover in vulnerable sectors, which is the reality for many Latin American countries, and today the pandemic has made these more visible.
We are also aware that an era is coming where we have to reinvent ourselves in order to keep organizing initiatives and be sustainable in our management. We see changes as a positive and they will help us accelerate our plans to keep developing our platform of solidarity so that it will be of service to our society in an active and innovative manner.
Our work and goal as OLI is to search for sustainability and not stop being a support for others. We also have a larger goal of generating opportunities and taking advantage of them. Even in times of crisis there are opportunities and there is light and there are many people that want to help and take concrete actions that will benefit those that need it most.
To learn more and get involved in Fundación OLI’s work in Peru, check out their Facebook page. If you’d like to help people in Peru as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic, consider donating to Fundación OLI’s emergency campaign here.
Featured Image:Donations through Fundación OLI’s campaign Contra el Frío por los Nuestros. Source: Fundación OLI
Sofia Munoz | Scripps College
Sofia is a rising junior at Scripps College pursuing a major in Politics with a concentration in International Relations and a minor in Foreign Languages. Raised in Silver Spring, MD, a suburb of Washington, D.C., she is the daughter of two Bolivian immigrants. Her interest in Latin American politics stems from her connection to her family’s culture and her experience living in Brazil. She is interested in exploring the different sides of international development work and looking at the ways local people and organizations impact their communities. As a Latin American correspondent, Sofia is excited to delve into the unique stories and passion that fuels the work being done to address inequality, human rights, and community development.