Social Impact Immersion in Peru: Dartmouth College and Kantaya

An Exacerbated Educational Crisis in Peru

Peru faces an educational crisis: Of 137 countries, Peru ranks 129th in attainment of primary education. Despite rising enrollment, the education system has failed to maintain quality. 56% of ten-year olds cannot read or understand simple text and public investment is extremely low. Further, Peru spends only $1000 per student on basic education, well below the OECD average of $7000. And finally, COVID-19 has jeopardized educational access and threatens further progress. Students without internet lost all access to instruction, and in-person public education only resumed in March 2022. 

By providing enriching after-school programs for underprivileged, high performing students in the Lima Metropolitan Area and Piuria Province, as well as remote teacher training certification programming, Kantaya aims to solve the educational crisis in Peru with their work in the non-profit sector. Kantaya operates four “Happy Houses” to serve 400 students in after-school care, and their Podera initiative provides a low-cost Elementary Teacher’s Assistant certification program to enhance teacher skills, leading to formalized occupations and higher salaries.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration through Post-Secondary and Non-Profit Partnerships

Julie Clugage, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Team4Tech, spoke at the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship at her alma mater Dartmouth College in May 2022. There she connected with Sunint Bindra, a Computer Science and Economics student at Dartmouth, about their complementary interests in entrepreneurship and social impact. 

Fast forward several conversations later, a collaboration between Team4Tech, Kantaya, and Dartmouth College arose. As part of an immersion experience in Peru for their economics class, a team of Dartmouth students consisting of Sunint Bindra, Harrison Hawkins, and Kevin Berghius organized a social impact project in conjunction with Team4Tech. For a semester, the Dartmouth team studied economic development in Peru centered around 4 major axes – the informal economy, rural-urban divide, underdevelopment and the environment, and international involvement. Throughout the term, the Dartmouth team worked on pairing their knowledge base and technical skills with Team4Tech’s resources and connections to optimize Kantaya donor relations and digital efficiency.

Team Dartmouth Aids in Stakeholder Relations and use of Digital Technologies 

Team Dartmouth first engaged in a consultation process with Kantaya to understand present operations and dissect where they could best add value. Their work centered on two key themes: increasing Kantaya’s access to international stakeholders and improving their use of digital technologies. 

On the stakeholder relations front, they identified outdated materials and poor translations that resulted in ineffective communication with international donors and ignoring the full potential of their organization and fundraising ability. Team Dartmouth worked with Kantaya to revive and re-design their stakeholder materials to be accessible to international audiences. They prepared a new donor outreach pitch deck for English-speaking donors with accessible terminology, as well as an abbreviated executive presentation for stakeholder follow-ups. Both aimed to expand the Kantaya support base and enhance their ability to attract international donors interested in their educational mission. 

Team Dartmouth aimed to best position Kantaya for a post-COVID world where education and teaching instruction are increasingly online. Leveraging Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software automation, they prepared a technical solution that works to digitize the collection of key teacher and student information, clean the data, and integrate this into Kantaya’s CRM database. Streamlining and automating operations through a multi-platform digital solution saves time for the Kantaya team each semester and gives them data to act on newfound actionable insights. 

Further, the university students conducted a Learning Management System (LMS) analysis examining several popular LMS platforms and aligning them with Kantaya’s incentives to find the best fit for both student and teacher needs. The examination looked at device compatibility, support and admin help, course development features, assessment methods, communication tools, pricing, and integration capabilities. After a robust analysis, the team settled on Moodle due to its modular form, integrability across mobile and web apps, multilingual language support, a free premium plan for NGO’s like Kantaya, and most importantly its offline capabilities. Kantaya is now using Moodle to administer e-learning as a bolstered offering to their after-school programming. Many of the students Kantaya works with live in rural neighborhoods lacking access to both the internet and digital devices. As a result, e-learning is not as simple as picking up a laptop and jumping on Zoom. Team Dartmouth noted this hurdle that Kantaya faced and leveraged the offline capabilities of Moodle so that students may continue to engage in their education remotely from home. Taking this one step further, the team prepared a guide of best practices and helpful resources for the teachers and students to best leverage Moodle offline. Through these digital improvements, Team Dartmouth believes Kantaya is now poised to take their successful after-school program and scale their offerings to serve more underprivileged Peruvian students. At the end of the semester, they presented their work at a gathering consisting of invited guests with an interest in Peru, as well as students and scholars at Dartmouth.

Boots on the Ground in Peru

Coupling the learning and work done during the semester, the Dartmouth team took advantage of the off-campus component by traveling to Peru during the winter break. In Peru, they implemented new pedagogies, allowing them to learn more deeply through interactions with the environment where Kantaya’s work unfolds. More importantly, the off-campus component offered the possibility of using their interactions to create some positive change in the local communities. 

“We were able to visit Kantaya facilities twice during our time in Lima,” says Sunint Bindra. “On Day 1, we linked up with the Kantaya team at their corporate offices in Miraflores. There, we discussed the final edits to our pitch deck, one-pager, and technical guides for the software improvements. Then they interviewed us for the International Day of Volunteers! On Day 2, we traveled out to Ventanilla, a town about 17 miles north of central Lima, to visit Kantaya’s Happy Houses in person. It was a humbling experience to connect with the kids and teachers in the Happy Houses. We had the chance to see Kantaya’s impact firsthand and got to conduct a fun lesson plan for the students. Small moments, like the kids teaching me how to say rock-paper-scissors in Spanish and playing tic-tac-toe instilled a newfound sense of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to help the Kantaya team and these kids in a small way.” 

When we asked Kevin Berghuis about his experience, he said “as we entered the building the kids were visibly excited, jumping around and laughing. They even prepared a small dance routine which was unexpected but extremely kind of them. I particularly enjoyed the hands-on activities we got to facilitate. Getting to learn where these kids are from, what their favorite sports and games are, what they want to be when they grow up, was all inspiring and put into perspective how important the work Kantaya does is.” 

Their trip culminated in a presentation to project partners, non-profit organizations, and interested scholars at Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, Peru. As a final step, they will be assisting in the preparation of a holiday donor newsletter that includes Kantaya’s EOY 2022 updates to be distributed during the Christmas season to boost potential revenue and donor engagement. When asked about their takeaways, Harrison Hawkins said “we believe Kantaya is an organization worth supporting, and we hope we have done a small part in empowering them to do their part in improving the state of Peruvian education.”

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