It’s right there in the name, “Hogar de Esperanza Mama Victoria”. I can’t find any better word to encapsulate the feeling at the Mama Victoria women’s shelter in Lima, Peru. A sunlit grassy courtyard, chickens lazily pecking at bugs, and fresh-painted pottery drying in the sun all lend to the feeling of new opportunities, of safety, and overall, of hope.
Started in 2007, the Mama Victoria shelter is the project of the incredible Nelly Villegas. She overcame the difficulties life threw at her and went on to develop a program to support local women in need. She receives women and children leaving situations of domestic abuse and provides them with a place to stay and the encouragement until they can get their feet under them again. Some women stay for just a few days, some for several months. Frequently cases through the Ministry of Women are referred to Mama Victoria—while the shelter does not receive any government funding it is recognized as the best of its kind!
All those present help make ends meet. The women work together to prepare tamales for sale, paint pottery, or sell eggs in order to provide for their daily needs. This work allows them to know they are capable of supporting themselves, keep busy, and gain a sense of empowerment and independence.
Mama Victoria also provides an after-school tutoring and support program for the children who are currently staying there and those who have previously stayed there. This helps them improve their studies and helps with psychological support through twice-weekly sessions with volunteer psychologists.
The program is barely scraping by, yet manages to provide much-needed services to these women and children. Nelly explained to me that in times of need—if women come badly beaten and need medical services, for example—she draws from her personal funds or those of her grown children. She has been running a chocolate business out of her house, creating gourmet chocolates and using all profits to support the shelter.
Nelly is a small woman, but a force of nature. She struck me as full of passion and strength, and yes, hope. Through my conversations with Nelly and some of the women at the shelter, TFI decided to provide a grant to ensure clean water access, improve the shelter’s security, and bolster the after-school program. While these funds will assist the program, more donations can help to provide a greater impact. Occasionally they need to turn women away because the shelter is too full. With additional donations, it would be possible to expand spaces for women and children in need.
Contact us if you want to donate to help provide hope for this small but powerful grassroots organization.
TFI Program Officer Sarah Edwards completed a site visit to Mama Victoria and other programs in Peru in April 2016.