Published: May 4th 2011May 3rd 2011
A few years ago I had been spending some time in the beautiful beach town of Mancora, a backpacker paradise in Northern Peru.
I hadn't been there long when I met a young woman named Magda, I was immediately taken by her positive energy, endearing charm and wicked sense of humor, we quickly became friends and started spending our paradise holiday, doing yoga (attempting would be a more accurate word when describing my efforts) Vigorous walks on the beach and generally hanging out.
As I got to know her better, her story and connection with Mancora became clear, she was on a mission.
A few years previous she had paid a fair amount of money to volunteer with a program to teach local children English. It wasn't long before her excitement turned to despair as she realized that the program she was working for was merely masquerading as a a non profit organization designed to benefit the local community, It was a business lining the pockets of individuals and doing nothing to help the community she had come to devote her time to and help in her own modest way.
Whilst this realization was happening Magda noticed
that although in Peru the constitution states that there is a place for every child, there was a group of children mostly with learning difficulties who were receiving nothing from the general education provided in the national schools, leaving them behind educationally and therefore reducing their prospects in the employment market or just generally getting ahead in life. The idea for the Robin Hood Project was born at this stage in her imagination only.
Returning to London where Magda had a very successful career her experience in Mancora remained in the forefront of her mind, she was determined to do something. Taking her own money she returned to Mancora and persuaded the school authorities to give her 2 classrooms including rudimentary desk
s and benches, after all each child is entitled to an education in Peru.
Her objective was to create a facility that would concentrate on children that may otherwise fall below the radar for various reasons, some of these children had been abandoned, some malnourished and all had a common thread with these kids was that each child was impoverished. The plan was to set up a program tailored to each child and the individual needs
of these children.
It took a year to write up a plan, deliver objectives, gaining the support of a partner of another NGO, Magda used 50% of her own money to supply the school and Robin Hood was born. She returned regularly to London maintaining her career whilst throwing Masquerade balls with all proceeds going to the project and hassling family and ever generous friends to contribute.
The first reaction of the community of this small town was of confusion, Magda feels that they didn't really understand the concept of charity, that it was free, some of the poorer families felt their children should be working because even the small contribution they could make to the household could make a difference to what went on the dinner table at night.
Robin hood Project is now 4 years old and the communities attitude has changed completely, Families now approach Magda in the hope that she may have a place for their child, She has the capacity for 50 children and few are ever turned away.
Robin Hood Project is 4 years old the kids are accepted between the ages of 9-12 so so far there have been no
children that have reached college age but I have no doubt there will be many in the coming years who will return to Mancora clutching their degrees and diplomas.
Magda is now a well known figure in the local community with its residents having nothing but the utmost respect for her and her efforts to benefit and give every chance to their next generation.
Magda has now started a Spanish school, a large amount of its proceeds going to the project, other sources of income are Family and friends, Benefit nights back in London, Donations from kindly travelers or just some of their time to help out but as for the last 4 years the majority of the money to run Robin Hood Project comes directly from her own pocket.
Strangely enough her biggest expense is feeding the kids.
It costs approximately 4500 sterling pounds per year to run the program.
Some of the children Magda had at the beginning were suffering from acute self esteem problems, problems with concentration, and debilitating insecurity, many of these kids now regularly win maths competitions, perform in plays and generally are successful in their classes. The school had
2 trained educators who are marvelous with the kids, educating with a perfect mixture of nurturing discipline and the ability to recognize the needs of the individual childs needs.
Magda future hopes for Robin Hood Project is that the language school will be successful enough to fund the project, that the volunteer project will work out and that she can set up a business model in various countries throughout the world that will be self sustainable to run similar projects therefore doing her bit to educate every child.
Magda is a very special woman, her selflessness is admirable, she is also a tough cookie which I believe is why she has come so far with this amazing undertaking. So maybe if your in Mancora with an afternoon to spare look her up, I know from experience the kids are always up for a few rough and tumble games.
There are more photos below