All About Happiness

Why does HOOP exist? Sure, it’s about improving education.
Yes, we want to help our students and families create better lives for themselves. And yes, we absolutely want this generation to be the last to ever experience poverty in Flora Tristán. But what HOOP is really all about, is happiness.

Every single person on the planet wants happiness, so it must be important (right?). But how do we get it? Well, better education can help by leading to better futures, more financial security, better health, and better opportunities…

But of course, it’s not that simple. And to make happier societies, it’s useful to know where we’re starting from on the happiness spectrum. But how do you work out how happy a society is? It’s not straightforward, but the 2015 World Happiness Report has given it a go. As well as getting serious about happiness from all possible angles, the report ranks countries based on the happiness of their people.

Hoop Children

So the big question is… is Peru a happy country? Well, on the world rankings, it comes in as the 58th happiest country, about a third of the way down. But when you compare it to the rest of South America, Peru is the least happy country on the continent. So what’s going on here? After all, our friends over in Venezuela come in at 23rd – happier than France, Germany, Spain
and Japan.

But happiness isn’t a competition; it’s something we’re all entitled to. So to help shed light on this joyful but elusive human condition, I asked some of my ever-happy co-workers and friends here in Arequipa about happiness in Peru…

The response from two born-and-raised Arequipeñans, plus a long-time resident here, is that yes, Peruvians are generally happy. But at the same time, no, they’re not. One friend explained to me the happiness balancing act taking place in Peru. An optimistic bunch, Peruvians can appear to be content with their lot. But the flip side is that despite many people living in adversity, there is a general air of acceptance – if you can’t change things, why not at least be content with what you’ve got?

Hoop Mothers

It’s an attitude that’s hardly going to have the population jumping with joy. And the kind of long-term, sustained happiness that people aim for comes from things like financial security, good healthcare, good education and a good social support network. These are the kinds of measures included in the World Happiness Index, and they’re the kind of things more readily available to a privileged section of society in Peru.

So to say Peru is a completely happy country wouldn’t be true – after all, what country is? But you only have to live here for a few months to see that there is plenty of happiness around. After all, all Peruvians share an unreserved love of dancing. Every taxi driver in the country
will glow with excitement if you start talking about Peruvian food. And if you get a chance to go to one of the many carnivals or festivals, it won’t be long before you’re sharing a drink and a laugh with a group of strangers you just met.

These moments of happiness are great, but improving overall life-long happiness is the bigger goal. And if HOOP can help the Flora Tristán community achieve that then, well, we’ll be pretty happy.

Words and images by Tom Hornbrook

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