Name: Ana Hurtado Abad
Where: Mazuko, Amazonia, Peru
What she does: Youth worker
Impact: Has enabled young girls and boys to learn to live together respectfully, to bring change into their families and communities, to grow and aspire to and achieve a better life
Nominated by: Yolaine Labbé, One World Action staff
Ana Hurtado Abad is co-Director of the association Huarayo and works in the Peruvian Amazon jungle with young girls and boys. Gold mining has completely devastated this region over the past decades: through the accelerated destruction of the environment, but also the wild increase of prostitution, and in particular children and adolescent prostitution.
Looking for the precious metal, thousands of miners have invaded the region, and as soon as they receive their pay they run to the small villages to spend it on drink and sex. A lot of adolescents, mostly girls – usually minor – come to them, attracted by this easy money, and become victims of sexual exploitation.
Ana has been working days and nights since 1998 when Huarayo was founded, together with her husband Oscar Guadalupe Zevallos and others, to promote a better future for the region’s youth, to empower them to achieve a better life.
One of Huarayo’s big successes is the “Albergue Juvenil de Mazuko”, which Ana runs. Ten months a year, it is a home for about 30 adolescents – girls and boys – (more than 150 since its beginning!) from remote villages in the Amazon forest who come to Mazuko to attend secondary school. Their life in the “Albergue” is a unique and turning-point experience. There they are truly empowered – their work and ideas are valued, their participation stimulated – and that’s how they grow in confidence and learn to make decisions for themselves and collectively. An essential concept of the “Albergue” is that it is a place where these adolescents restore their values. In a country, in a region which has been living for years and years with all sorts of violence, with terrorism and corruption, with incest and prostitution… it is important that these adolescents can believe in other truths. In the “Albergue” they learn, experience and make their own positive values such as the dignity of work, horizontal relationships, without machismo, the virtues of dialogue and exchanges in harmony, solidarity with each others, tenacity, participatory management of a project with shared responsibilities, etc… In this stimulating environment they grow and thrive, and they want to work to build a better future for themselves as well as their families and communities.
This translated for example into opening up a small helpdesk for girls, boys and adolescents victims of violence in Mazuko. Since then Huarayo has managed to set up a network of volunteers in the villages of the area offering accompaniment, psychological and legal support and protection for the children and youth of the gold mining area, and also work with the police to denounce situations of abuse.
Quite a few of the adolescents who have lived in the “Albergue” have been able to go to University (which is very rare for adolescents from this region so remote). Some have started new initiatives on their own such as social work in their home communities, a farmers’ organisation promoting sustainable development etc. A great success!