An Idea, That Was All We Needed

Hallo wobistdudes, Wo bin ich?

I am in Rome working at The UN Food and Agriculture Organization. So, today life seems to be taking its road, I am not sure where that might lead, but it is going somewhere. Though to make it here, I might have had to do one or two previous things. And one of those endeavors was FICUS. Actually I might owe a lot to FICUS, you see? Because to start at FAO I needed to be a master student and to be a master student I needed a full scholarship that was given to me due to my experience with FICUS, hence if it wasn’t for FICUS, I don’t reckon that I would be here.

So, what is FICUS?

ficus helping

FICUS is the NGO I co-created with a classmate in Peru. I returned to Peru back in 2014 –from studying in Australia– to work in the Amazon (my dream), and after a bitter experience seeing a lot of pretty messed up stuff you encounter in Peru, my colleague proposed to make a sustainable project in a slum. At that time, we had no idea how to do it.

His first words to me were, “Diego, you are an environmentalist, and I am an anthropologist, let’s do something together”.

What exactly?, how? and where? Not a single clue.

All beginnings are rough I reckon, and in our case it was not much different. First because we were two inexperienced kids who had no contacts and no money, all we had was the idea… and as it turned out lately, that was all we needed.

FICUS LOGO
This was the first draft logo I drew for Ficus

FICUS’ aim is to enhance the quality of life of people with green technologies. Our project consisted mainly in the creation of sustainable slums in Peru. I mean, these places started as temporary housing, and hence they do not have services such as water & sewage, electricity or waste recollection systems. So, we produced a series of alternatives that might enhance the living conditions there, such as transforming their informal landfill area into a recreational park with playgrounds, starting a waste segregation process in the area, implementing continuous workshops with the population, etc.

13925625_1102104609873626_3084979630828926352_o
Local People, FICUS and members of the Australian Embassy in Peru helping in the construction of a playground

So ok, we might of had  a good idea, but then why would people gives us money to do it? Some say, “No race has been won in the first corner but heaps of those have been lost there”, and I could not be more agreed with that statement. FICUS first weeks were crashing towards a massive wall, from all points of view. I mean, most people including close friends and even family thought we are wasting our time, and their dismay often took its toll. But we thought differently, the way I see it, you ought to stay with the comments you like and screw those who don’t contribute to your cause.

I recalled of all the nights and weekends I spent pondering, and pondering and more pondering. Pondering about how to pull this off?  Considering as well, that you are marching against time, because as the Brazilians would say, “O tempo não para”, which means time does not stop, and while you are inactive, there are people out there making their moves.

Our move had to be soon.

Two things were paramount: make a team and start the project as soon as possible, even if it was with our own money. Another high school friend joined us (Alonso), and also at that time I started working as a Junior Consultant for an Environmental Agency. Between Alonso and me, were able to provide funding for FICUS while we recruited our first three volunteers. One of these volunteers (Nicole), turned out to be a key player for our first prize as an organization.

FICUS Nicole giving a workshop
Nicole Giving a Workshop

Thanks to Nicole’s proposition, we won our first fund. It was only 2,000 soles which is around 600 USD, but you guys have no idea how we celebrated that. Months later, we would win way higher funds, though this first award was the one I recall we celebrated more vividly. How come?

Because in some way, it was the first acceptance of somebody or an institution saying to us, we believe in your project. And after so many rejections, and people not giving us the attention we wanted, this was the cornerstone of our later success. And friends and family of course, started also to believe in our idea.

diego-kidsplay
Our activities involved the interaction and participation of the local people

The blooming of FICUS was on 2016, that year we grew exponentially. FICUS was granted, with funds from the Australian Embassy in Peru’s Direct Aid Program (DAP). I must add, none of this would have been possible without the help of the Australian Ambassador and his staff, who supported and believed also in us. And from January 2016 until I depart to Germany is where the sweet part began.

Some thoughts to keep in mind and I learned from FICUS is that most of the people that turned out to be essential for the NGO, in most cases I had no idea who they were. Something wicked is that as a result of a simple idea, I got to know fantastic people and submerge myself into another world that have shaped my life.

Of course, I am not done with FICUS, and what will come later for us will be even sweeter than before, of that I am sure.

Images and video: http://ficus.org.pe/


 

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Diego -“Hallo with all! I am Diego, I am born and raised in Peru. I had the chance to do my B.Sc. in Australia and afterwards I returned to Peru to work in the wonderful Amazonian forest. I have been the last three years working in Peru until a foundation in Germany accepted to give me a full scholarship to start my master program in Munich. Currently I work in Rome, and I expected to remain here until the end of the year.”

 

 

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