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De La Perla a Las Estrellas

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The district of La Perla in Callao, Peru is one of the poorest areas of the South American country. Extreme poverty has flooded the neighborhood with violence, drugs, and alcohol. Children and hundreds of innocent families are forced to survive among horrible living conditions. Not even the local government has been able to abolish the crime that has corroded La Perla. Last year, however, a project called "De La Perla a Las Estrellas," directed by a man named Engel Indo, began a long journey to try to bring hope and peace to these children and families.

Indo is one third of the local Latin band, A Son y Sol. As passionate as he is about the band,  Indo's aspirations go beyond performing in front of a live audience. He wants to use his musical knowledge to introduce a new way to teach English and other languages.  With "De La Perla a Las Estrellas," Indo wants to provide the children a place where they can learn a second language through music, dance, and theater in a sane environment.

"I have been wanting to do this for years," says Indo. "It wasn't until early 2011 that I was able to carry it out. Not all kids like sports, so this is a different, artistic approach."

In 2011, Indo traveled to Peru and began his work with the children of La Perla. It took a month for Indo to prepare for the project. The first workshop was held at Indo's family's home near La Perla. It had merely five students between the ages of 8 and 13. For two hours every day, Indo taught them English using songs to learn pronunciation and vocabulary. By the end of the week-long program, they hosted a performance for their parents.

The video above was made by Indo. It shows him interacting with the children, and explaining them what his project is about.

"This is a project that I want to bring to Tucson as well," says Indo. "Teach children Spanish, or even English, using the same method I used in La Perla.'"

Indo chose La Perla for his project's inaguration because he was born and grew up in the district. It wasn't until he was 17 years old that he emigrated to the U.S. Indo's father, whom had moved to this country 5 years prior, asked Indo if he would like to move in with him.

For Indo, the U.S. represents a safe haven. A place where immigrants come to have a better life than they do in their native countries.

"I knew that in Peru there were not many options for me," he says "I hated living in a neighborhood filled with violence and drugs. When my father asked me to move, I didn't think twice."

Indo moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey with his father. A year later, he joined the Army, and served for 17 years.  In 2008, after being discharged, Indo moved to Tucson and enrolled at the University of Arizona. He earned a  bachelor's degree in Latin American Studies with a focus on ethnomusicology.

For winter session 2011, the UA hired Indo to teach a class at the Center of English as a Second Language. He taught students English through the use of music, the same method he used in La Perla.

"My students were teachers from Mexico, whose first language was an indigenous dialect," says Indo. "I would tell them: 'use my method at your schools in Mexico to teach your students Spanish and English."

Indo's goal is to expand his message of hope wherever there are children surrounded by violence and despair. Recently, Indo applied for a grant to fund "De La Perla a Las Estrellas." The grant was denied. Indo's concern is that his project will stall due to lack of money.

"Saddly there are people who truly want to help and then there are people in corporations who say, 'for $15 you will help a child,' and who knows if they truly do it," says Indo. "I need to show people that, if they help me, their money, truly, is going to help a child."


Written by Maria Taracena

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