María Luisa Avendaño Peralta

Why did you want to serve on this board?

In my own community development work, I have done things parallel to the work of PML. I heard about programs in communities where PML was working—for example, developing a health center and working on potable water.

What are your hopes for the future of PML?

If we work as a team, all our work will be strengthened. It’s not that I have an idea and I’m going to impose it. We need to work as a team.

If I had more time, I would love to get more involved in the community process with Rosa. Her work is so important, and as it grows and more ideas come up in those community meetings, the process can go faster. The more groups we have, the more people will be more sensitized to the need to work with women and families, because women are really leaders of the family and share what is going on with the family.

If I had more time, I would take on one group and meet with them. Rosa could stay with the women, and I could work with the men, or I would love to start a youth group, because it’s much easier for a mother to see that transition from a youth to becoming a young adult. Working with men is also important, since they are often seen as the leader or the ruler or the one who makes the decisions.

We’re asking, “What is our goal here with this new process?” When we work in the community, we have to be looking ahead. What do we want to accomplish with these small groups, and what’s the next step?

What do you think you personally bring to the board?

I’ve been working about 15 years in the public health sector. Fifteen years ago, there was a volcano eruption. At that time, in public health at the university, there were dentistry, medical, and nursing schools, and they all needed to include a community development element in their training, and I was designing curriculum.

Because of all the volcano ash in the environment, people were having all sorts of health problems. So we went around in brigades to teach the people how to clean up and how they could prevent problems. We got to learn about these priorities and how to work in communities. From that, we learned what the communities need, and other projects came out of this work. We also supported diagnostics—going into a new community, figuring out what the population was like and what they needed.

About five years ago, I also had a connection with PML. We were in a workshop to train ten to 12 community leaders interested in preschools. I met the coordinator of PML, Anna, and she asked us to train community leaders, so they could work on their own projects. Out of that came the San Carlos health care center.

A PML board member lives in my neighborhood, and we’ve known each other since we were kids. She knew the sort of work I do and saw how that could relate to PML and be valuable to the organization. She invited me to come to a board meeting and see if I liked what PML was doing at the time. So I came, and I really liked the ideas they had about changing the way PML was going to operate.

What do you most want people who visit PML’s website to know?

It’s very important for me that we look at how our work is being projected and that Minnesota sees the change that is happening. It’s important that we realize how we can assert ourselves in specific arenas. For example, if we’ve now decided we’re going to be in San Carlos and all these ideas come out of this process, what more can we decide on? We can’t stay up in the clouds. We need to be realistic. What can we really take on? But we need to keep coming up with new ideas, food for thought, and keep coming up with new solutions.