Fifty miles from Lima, Peru, in the small beach town San Bartolo, children sleepily saunter out of bunk beds as the sun comes up. They search for their school uniforms, and zip up their backpacks while volunteers in the kitchen prepare cups of oats, and pan de palta. At 7:30 a.m. a white van pulls up to the home for the school drop-off. “Lucy!” the kids yell when they hear a honk come from outside.
Behind the wheel of the car sits Lucy Borjas, 76, from Lima, a social worker and co-founder of communal house and shelter Casa Generación, a non-profit that USF’ Ministry (UM) has partnered with for almost 20 years. Casa Generación is a home for adolescents, but it proved to be a home for all when it opened its doors to protestors who had traveled to Lima to march against classism, racism, and inequality.
The non-profit operates three voluntary homes with around 60 youth living among them — San Bartolo’s house, Veronica’s Home for Teenagers, and Magdalena’s House in Lima — and offers these spaces for children, teenagers, and young adults to live, sleep, eat, and study, for as long as they need.
In December, when civil unrest broke out after President Pedro Castillo was removed from power, Casa Generación housed protestors at their Magdalena house in Lima. Castillo, a left-wing school teacher with no prior political experience, was elected on the promise to represent the Indigenous and working class population of Peru. Without support from Congress, Castillo was unable to deliver on many of these promises. After two impeachments and a third underway, he was removed from office immediately after he attempted to dissolve Congress.
For protestors, the political manifestations were just a tipping point in a long battle over the rights of Indigenous people and those from rural communities in Peru. Representatives of groups from Cusco and Ollantaytambo were able to contact Generación to organize housing with the help of Congresswoman Ruth Luque.
Over spring break this semester, the UM was scheduled to lead an immersion in Peru for undergraduates to learn from community leaders, and participate in social programming with at-risk youth. UM postponed the immersion because the political situation was deemed too unstable to condone undergraduate student travel. Graduate student and Resident Minister Jesús de la Torre Cañadilla told the Foghorn, “It was a bit risky because we didn’t know if there would be demonstrations.” While approval for Castillo’s replacement, Dina Boluarte, remains low, widespread protesting has since declined. USF’s immersion has been rescheduled for June 3 according to the UM.
Luis Enrique Bazan, “Kique,” associate director of immersions for UM and son of Casa Generación’s founders, advocated for the immersion to be rescheduled when the trip was canceled in March. “Times like these are the point of immersions, this is what the Jesuits meant by social justice,” he said. “We should encourage students to learn about inequalities and political movements.”
Bazan has worked with the University to help facilitate immersions since 2004. The immersions to Casa Generación over the years have allowed students to learn about nonprofits’ work, advocacy, and the lives of those currently living at the homes. USF alumna Hannah Mora went on the Peru immersion as a second-year in 2007. “It was a really transformative experience to see the impact a local community organization could have on the lives of children who now had a safe space to live and pursue their dreams,” she said.
After the immersion, Mora changed her major from business to theology to learn more about how interfaith organizations could support local communities. “I think we make assumptions about what people need, but people know what they need and this was our opportunity to learn from them,” Mora said. For Mora, the immersion was not about perpetuating paradigms of aid from the Global North to the Global South, but about learning from leaders in the Global South who had successfully organized to help their communities.
Casa Generación was founded in 1988 by Lucy and Enrique Borjas as a response to the lack of governmental help for youth in precarious situations. Lucy worked for youth focused NGOs before realizing she needed to get out of an office and find a way to offer what children needed most: a place to sleep at night. Casa Generación was founded by outside donations and continues to run on the generosity of volunteers and grants from international organizations, and private donors. Finding financial support for the organization remains the greatest challenge for its survival.
To an onlooker, Casa Generación might look like a summer camp. Surfboards line the walls, teenagers play fútbol on the patio, and art lessons take place in the front den. Each afternoon children work on their homework together, sometimes with tutors and groups. Across the street, boys and girls skate tirelessly for hours in the skate park. Before coming to Casa Generación many of these children faced homelessness or abuse, but in the homes a vibrant and supportive community endures even in the face of civil unrest. “We live as a family,” Casa Generación’s on-site psychologist Luis Alonso said.
Mary Tankard visited Casa Generación in the summer of 2022 to learn more about community organizing and autonomous communities. Those interested in taking part in an immersion or volunteering for Casa Generación can contact Kique Bazan or the University Ministry for more information.