live well. give well.


ayni programs in detail

Focus: local community development

Location: Alto de los Mores, Peru

Ayni supervises several donor dependent- and sustainable programs. An overview can be found below and also in Ayni’s last newsletter - attached.


With two yearly fundraisers in Canada Ayni finances the tuition fees for all children in Altos so that they may acquire a high school diploma.  A few have also completed a university degree and now are able to care for their families.  The challenge to raise enough money rises each year as more children attend high school and university.

cocinas mejoradas (improved stoves)

Working with the school children Margie noticed that many children have large burns all over their bodies.  Also many women suffer from lung diseases and eye problems. The cause for these conditions are the open fire places kept inside the huts which are often made of straw.  Women spend many hours a day cooking and inhaling the bad fumes and children often get too close to the fire.

    The solution are cheap ovens which cost around $100 to build from local materials; they have a chimney which leads all smoke out of the hut and a closed fire which is not only safer but also consumes less firewood.

Ayni’s goal is to replace all ovens in the community but the process takes time.  Families who support community projects (such as the orchard), register all family members in the local hospital and send their children to school, are preferred.


The microfinance project started as a sponsorship program which linked families in Canada with families in Altos. Soon the idea took on microfinance characteristics by requiring families to pay back 50% of the loan (usually $100) and demanding a valid business plan before the loan could be approved.  There are three major benefits to the microfinance project.

    The first and most obvious is that families who generally have a low capacity to save and do not qualify for a bank loan, are enabled to make an investment which will carry benefits far into the future.  For example they might open a little store from the loan which after a while generates enough income to buy a pig and so gradually adds to the families wealth.  On a side note, it can be observed that poor people hold savings in material goods which in times of crisis can easily be liquified. i.e. a pig can be slaughtered for a meal or traded immediately.

    From the example above it can be seen that a donation of $100 has much more leverage when it is invested by the recipients.  Consequently, microfinance allows poor people to gain independence from the donor and expand their own agency to develop.

    The third benefit is social. Recall that 50% of each loan must be repaid in a certain time period and then, the money is passed on as a new loan to the next family (increased by 50% through an external donor/sponsor).  Thereby, each loan family has a social, if not moral obligation to repay the loan promptly and added pressure to start a successful business from the loan.

    Ayni has extended loans to about 40 families in Altos with another 160 waiting for their turn.  As with the Cocinas Mejoradas, families who show a serious effort to support Ayni projects and to improve their own situation are preferred.  So if a family has not registered all its members in the regional clinic for example (which is quite common due of superstition) they are less likely to obtain a loan.

    In nearly all cases families have repaid the obligatory 50% of the loan.  Default has only occurred in cases of extreme crisis, like a mother or father suddenly passing away for example. 

neem tree project

Located in the desert, the villagers of Altos are exposed to scorching hot sunshine nearly all year round (there is some rainfall in the summer months Dec-Feb).  Ayni researched a tree which is well adapted to the salty, dry environment and also has over 100 medicinal purposes: the Neem tree, originally from India.  In an effort to populate Neem around people’s homes Ayni gives seeds to several village mothers. Once these have successfully grown seedlings Ayni purchases the trees and plants them.  It is possible to tell the more engaged mothers from the number of seedlings they have in their back yard.

    Already, you find several full grown Neem trees in the village, providing precious shade for rest.  As mentioned, the Neem tree has several medicinal applicaitons, too and is used to cure skin rashes (very common among children) and stomach aches.

tamarind orchard

After discovering that the school at a few acres of barren land attached to it Ayni decided to open a Tamarind orchard.  Tamarind is one of the few trees that is resistant to the saline soil and also grows a fruit which is in high demand in Peru and beyond.  The orchard is an effort to create independence for the village for a time when Ayni no longer exists.  It was planted and is maintained by the families who take turns at working in the field. Once the 350 trees start bearing fruit (it takes 5 years from sowing) the villagers can generate a small income to support the community.  For example by investing the money in the school or as an emergency fund to families who find themselves in a crisis. 

mother’s club

As in most developing countries, women are the driving force behind their families and most development projects.  For example, over 90% of Grameen Bank (a leading microfinance bank) customers are women.  A similar picture is found in Altos where women support and manage the majority of projects. However, they are also frequently victims of domestic violence, abandoned by their husbands or forced to “share” their husband with another family because he has two wives, neither of whom he can support   adequately.

    As a way to give women a break from their hard work and mother role, Ayni helped them start the “Mother’s Club”.  It is a mixture of a self-help group and practical training center.  Ayni organizes talks about health care and women’s rights and also women teach each other in skills they have.  Lately, Ayni acquired a few sewing machines and a village boy who received a scholarship from Ayni to become a tailor, now trains the mothers how to sow.

organization and local leadership

What originally started as a sort of ‘day camp’ for Altos children has developed into an extensive community development project.  Margie has been visiting once or twice a year since 2001 to oversee all the different programs and initiate new ones. In between her visits a few permanent volunteers (usually from the Global North) managed the daily business and lead the Altos people. 

    However, Margie realizes that she will not be able to continue her patronage indefinitely (she has two little girls, a job and a husband demanding her attention) and is seeking to pass the baton on to local leaders.  Since February 2009 the microfinance program is entirely overseen by a lady from Altos called Inez.  She approves loans, ensures that they are repaid on time and reports back to Margie.  Within a few months Inez learnt how to use a laptop (donated by a volunteer), work with Excel and send the documents via email to Margie.

    Similarly, the orchard is managed by Jorge, also from Altos, who cares for the Tamarind trees, maintains the fences and irrigation channels and delegates the work to fellow villagers.  Jorge also helps parents to register their children for school, reworked the library and maintains the growth of Neem trees around the village.

    The Ayni projects will be financially dependent on outside help for many years to come but already it is evident that they can be managed locally.  Having empowered the villagers to lead Altos through the development process is a fantastic feat for Ayni and Margie Orsi. It is the surest recipe for preventing corruption and managing the projects in consideration of the local specifications and needs. In other words, there is a great possibility that the village of Altos will continue to develop and that future generations will overcome the barriers (see Glossary) which have confined them to poverty.