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Tinley Park woman aiding education efforts in Peru

LarDeVries (center) Tinley Park Sandburg High School graduate JasCroft(back left) visit with children Light   Leadership Initiative program Huaycan

Lara DeVries (center), of Tinley Park, and Sandburg High School graduate Jason Crofton (back, left) visit with children in the Light & Leadership Initiative program in Huaycan, Peru. DeVries launched the nonprofit in 2008 and its programs have been in Peru since 2009. Crofton was visiting and volunteering. | Supplied photo

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If you go ...

What: The Light & Leadership Initiative five-year anniversary picnic fundraiser

When: 4 p.m. to dusk Saturday

Where: Vogt Woods, 6527 W. 171st St., Tinley Park

Information: Suggested donation $35; RSVP to Lara DeVries by emailing Lara@lightandleadership.org.

Etc.: Donations can be mailed to LLI at 17155 Olcott Ave.,
Tinley Park, IL 60477

Updated: July 25, 2014 6:04AM



The Light and Leadership Initiative, based in South America but with roots in Tinley Park, will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its efforts in Peru with a picnic fundraiser Saturday.

The event will be from 4 p.m. to dusk at Vogt Woods near Tinley Park. Admission — a suggested donation of $35 — includes dinner, group games and raffles. Raffle items include White Sox, Chicago Sky and Chicago Kayak tickets, a Bulls photograph, a signed photograph of Cubs player Luis Valbuena, and restaurant gift cards, among other items.

Tinley Park resident and 2004 Andrew High School graduate Lara DeVries, 28, is executive director and founder of the Light and Leadership Initiative, a nonprofit that helps impoverished women and children in Huaycan, Peru.

DeVries said she made the decision to found the organization while she was a student at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights. She was studying Spanish in Lima, Peru, when a friend took her to visit Huaycan, a shantytown that touched her heart.

Five years later, the Light and Leadership Initiative has offered more than 8,500 classes to women and children through after-school enrichment programs and activities that go a long way in supplementing public education in Peru.

“That’s a true testament to very eager and dedicated volunteers all around the world and Peru who have seen a need in Huaycan,” DeVries said. “That’s a number I’m proud to stand by, for sure.”

The programs remain a necessary addition to the Huaycan residents’ education. DeVries said a recent Program for International Student Assessment study showed Peru to have the lowest-scoring education system. (For more information, visit nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/index.asp.)

DeVries’ goal through the Light and Leadership Initiative is to help the people of Huaycan, especially the children and women, improve their chances for a better life by offering math, English and art classes; sports, games of mental skill and computer literacy, among other activities.

DeVries said the organization is working “to expand our teen program, focusing on creating a safe space for our teen students to get homework help, learn English, gain computer literacy skills and, overall, gain a positive sense of community.”

DeVries said the young people of the community face risk factors such as gangs, drugs and teen pregnancy, which the Light and Leadership Initiative programs hope to combat.

“I just love that people in Tinley Park and the entire Chicagoland area can be connected to an area that is 4,000 miles away and so different, and yet at the same time ... really working toward similar goals,” DeVries said. “We want the best for our kids. We want to always be improving on the education system.

“Huaycan faces considerable challenges. It’s an opportunity for people in the States to get involved in something that has such a wide-ranging impact in our Peruvian communities.”



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