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Life in the world's harshest town

By Ryan Bergeron, CNN
updated 9:47 AM EDT, Mon June 17, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • La Rinconada sits three miles high in the Peruvian mountains
  • It has no plumbing, sanitation, or heating services, and the ground is heavily contaminated
  • Senna is currently enrolled in high school and on track to attend college
  • She is interesting in studying engineering and dreams of becoming a poet

CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world.

(CNN) -- Recalling her father brings tears to her eyes.

"I cried and I cried," says Senna, remembering the day her father passed away.

Senna, 14, lives in La Rinconada, Peru. Her father died after spending years toiling in the town's mines. He never had the chance to go to school, but dreamed one day of becoming an engineer.

A dream that he passed on to his daughter.

It is his words that bring her strength today. "Don't be like me," he would tell her. "Make a better person of yourself, Senna. Study."

But like everything in La Rinconada, getting an education is tough.

This mining town of about 30,000 people sits three miles in the air and is considered to be the highest city in the world. Living conditions are harsh. Besides the altitude, the town has no running water and no sewage system.

"Education is really very low on the sense of priorities. There are no laws, no police, no one seeing that children are going to school," says "Girl Rising" writer Maria Arana.

In the Puno province, where La Rinconada is located, nearly 68% of the population lives below the poverty line.

The men work in the mines. Women sell goods, look for gold in discarded mine rocks or make money from prostitution.

"This is not a place for kids," says Senna

Even where schools are available, many parents need their children's help with work.

"If mother is mashing rock, she may want help," says Arana. "There are no rules in La Rinconada."

According to CARE, nearly 29% of indigenous children in Peru do not attend school. But CARE is trying to change that. In 2003, the aid organization began working in La Rinconada to educate people about need for formal education and the dangers of child labor.

Now, over 23,000 children receive assistance at the kindergarten, elementary and high school levels.

Senna is one of these students and is now on the path to do something that no one in her family has done -- go to college.

"I have various dreams. I would like to study marketing, law and engineering, but more than anything else, I want to be a poet. A great poet."

Give

Support the campaign behind the film "Girl Rising" and give to the10x10 Fund for Girls' Education. Donations will be distributed evenly among the 10x10 nonprofit partners and help fund girls' education projects around the world.

You can also help CARE by donating to its "Help Her Learn" campaign, which provides girls around the world with access to primary education. The money provides schools with equipment, programs and helps train teachers.

Impact

For even more ways to make an impact for girls education around the world, check out CNN's Impact Your World resources or take action with 10x10.

More about CNN Films' "Girl Rising" project

More from CNN's Impact Your World

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