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The migration of young people from rural areas to urban in the hope of a better future is common worldwide. This is understandable in many ways, but it can have negative effects overall (urban slums; overloaded urban infrastructure; and an absence of young rural innovators, farmers, caretakers, etc.) What we've often seen in our work, however, is that young people engaged in Heifer projects often choose to stay in their rural communities. Doing so allows them to not only remain with their families, but also give back to the community that helped raise them. Clara Alanya of Peru is a great example of this phenomenon.

Clara Alanya is a young leader who has made a difference in her community. Her view of rural life and devotion to her work have enabled her to rise above the exclusion and chauvinism still common in the small farming community of Buenos Aires in Huancavelica, the poorest region in Peru.

Clara grew up in a family that imbued its members with strong values. The oldest of five children, Clara says she felt it was her responsibility to set a good example for her siblings.

When she was 19, her father took her to all the training workshops that the Peruvian Social Studies Center organized in their community. In those workshops, Clara began to think about the potential for development in her community and the possibilities for emphasizing local production and strengthening rural community organizations.

Certain that happiness and success are not to be found only in large cities, she decided to stay and take advantage of all the workshops offered in her community, unlike many young people who migrate to work outside their communities, scorning rural life.

"I went to all the workshops about how to build improved stoves, raise guinea pigs, keep a family garden and raise chickens, and my family and I made changes to our house to make it a healthy home. Now I know all about how to build an improved stove. My neighbors ask me to teach them, and I do it with pleasure.

At such a young age, however, it wasn't easy to convince others to recognize her leadership. She had to persevere, participating in community assemblies, before she was respected as an outstanding young member of the community.

In 2010, she began participating in a Heifer project called Training Communities to Exercise their Rights to Natural Resources. Clara and other promoters from 40 rural communities received training on legal issues, developing skills for defending rights related to land ownership, water use, food security and climate change.

Clara now shares her knowledge voluntarily, facilitating workshops in her community and neighboring communities.

"I used to be afraid to talk in front of a group, but I lost my fear little by little, thanks to the training workshops. I've gained more confidence with the Heifer project, because the facilitators trust me. Now when older people say, 'Why is she going to teach us? She's so young!' I don't even resent it, because many people do support me and I show them everything I've learned.

Clara's family has also become an example tot he entire community, confronting poverty with perseverance, understanding, and above all, family unity.

"What we do in my family is talk things over. My parents don't make any decisions without consulting all the members of the family. That way we all agree, and we support each other in everything.

Now 23, Clara is a young woman with many dreams, who is committed to working for her community. She has shown that the most important step toward progress is to shake off the lethargy brought on by conformity and hopelessness, and envision a better future.

Author

Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She has a master's in social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is married, a mother of two, and a wannabe urban farmer, raising her own chickens and killing most of her vegetable crops.