Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Peru.


Setting kids up for success in Peru

Posted in Peru on November 14, 2017

Day 1: A warm welcome


Having never participated in a program like this before, I was looking forward to the first day with a mix of excitement and apprehension. Even though we were told that the community wanted the project, I was concerned that we may not feel welcome as outsiders coming in to tell the school how to do things.

Within minutes of arriving on site, I realized that my apprehension was completely unwarranted.
After a particularly brutal 6:30 departure from the hotel, we arrived at the school at 7:30am. Slowly, the kids started filtering in, and they were clearly excited to see us. Once everyone was there, we got the full welcome - kids lined up to form a corridor, leading to a row of chairs set up at the end of the gym. They all held Canadian and Peruvian flags, waving them excitedly as we walked through to our seats.
We were welcomed by the staff, and the children, and introduced ourselves to everyone. And then came the dance - the kids tied red and white ribbons around their wrists and put on a traditional Peruvian dance for us. The 100+ kids were so enthusiastic and they were all such great dancers!

All of the work and care that had gone into the celebration has made us feel more than welcome. After the dance, we were swept into a meeting room to meet the staff at the school and to discuss the plan for our time here in Lima. The project is ambitious - building an open air library and reading garden adjacent to the school, in an area that we have been told has the second lowest literacy rate in Peru.
Before we started work, we got a chance to talk with some of the students. The kids got a chance to ask us questions about life in Canada. Their curiosity and interest in learning about different parts of the world was so refreshing. When we were done, they swarmed us to get autographs. They wanted us to sign their books, their arms, a few of them even wanted us to sign their shirts!
The morning was so busy that we had only just started on the job site when it was time to head back out for lunch.

After lunch we got to the real work, cutting and bending rebar and forming them into columns for the building. With 14 of us onsite, we managed to make significant progress once we got organized. Hopefully tomorrow is just as fun and we get through the rest of the columns!
Janet Kelly, DWC Volunteer

Day 2: Smiling children and foundations


We started the day with a mandatory toolbox meeting providing clarity on the objectives for the day and choosing our lunch menu.
Commencing work at 8am, we were all eager to get stuck in and have a productive day. Progressing nicely through the morning, our team was working in sync: cutting metal, bending metal, tying off and demolishing walls (on a very safe ladder). Mid-morning we were  greeted by teachers and students wanting a memorable group photo in their communal hall - so of course we obliged.
Back to the daily grind, the dew started to rise; the sun started to beam. Half way through the foundation work, some children provided some locally prepared, well-presented fruit for our team to enjoy and escape the heat for a moment.
Post lunch, we had established a rhythm (in between yelling Hola! to the screaming children) as we worked in teams to finish the tasks for the day.

Our first full day - extremely productive and confirmed by our foreman Pedro. Join us tomorrow for more construction, children and some social activities.
Sam Hoy, DWC Volunteer

Day 3: Football, friends and futures


Its 5:00am and the first stirrings of volunteers signal another day. Today’s Breakfast is scrambled eggs, strawberry and star fruit blended juice, plus dark rich Peruvian coffee. Conversation picks up after the second cup. We talk about the day ahead and our progress so far. After the children’s celebration of our arrival, we have settled into the routine of library construction. We are becoming quite accomplished at bending rebar to create pillars for the dream library. A library for the poorest children and families in this densely populated outskirts of Lima.
Water bottles, sunscreen, gloves and snacks and sunglasses, we all pile into two vans, settling in for an hour and a half ride through congested traffic, honking horns, buses picking up passengers on the fly, and a grey foggy sky, typical of the weather her at this time of year when the cold dry Andes air meets the warm moist air from the pacific to create “black days”.

Time passes quickly, however, there is so much to see. Finally we arrive at the school and make our way inside, amidst a throng of children, teachers and parents. The children wear their green and yellow uniforms, hair carefully combed and pinned. Education here is a privilege and a necessary step which will raise their standard of living dramatically. But how to balance education with an 11 year old’s work duties for the family? The children are all warm smiles, many have red and white ribbons and some have Peruvian football shirts. This is a very big day in Peru and all conversations eventually end up talking about the football game tonight between Peru and New Zealand. The winner will go on to the World Cup and Peru haven’t been in this position in more than 30 years. The municipal office has set up steel fences around the city square, outside the school,  a band is tuning their instruments, vendors are selling ice cream and popsicles, the city has mounted a huge TV screen for viewing the game tonight, the air is alive with joyous anticipation.

Once inside the dusty area which will be the library, volunteers get to work tying rebar together which will be reinforcement  for the roof columns. Sam  and Bill started tearing down a section of the old wall that will be replaced by the library wall.
In the early afternoon volunteers Cameron, Sam and Janet’s task was to learn what it is like to be a child, attending school in the morning and working for family in the Guamantanga market in the afternoon. A reality for most children aged 10-12 at this school.
We were introduced to three working children, Anna Annapan age 10, Jose Camaro age 11 and Michael Rodriguez  11. They volunteered to create a Business plan in the beginning of 2017 qualifying for a loan by the school to buy ingredients for sweet buns. Very early this  morning the  children have already baked and individually wrapped the buns and loaded them into a storage bin. We all set out with the children to see how they sell the buns to market customers and vendors. After a breathtaking walk through the market, we said goodby, as they joined their parents to resume working in their family stalls for the rest of the day. The children earn enough selling baked goods to pay the school back for the ingredients, sharing the profits of a years sales in December. Their sales income is very small, but it teaches them many entrepreneurial skills to increase their standard of living in the future.
Cameron, DWC Volunteer

 

Day 4: A day of celebrating


Peru won the finals last night 2 - 0 against New Zealand! They are on their way to the World Cup and it’s a big thing here in this country! The President had promised a National Holiday with a win and EVERYTHING has shut down. This busy city is quiet as if it was Sunday. Unfortunately, the school and all of the workers are on holidays as well. No cement, no machinery to take down the wall....We now have an unscheduled day off. We will try to make it up tomorrow. Ahhh, the joys of last minute surprises with working in developing countries!! Flexibility is a great asset! 😄
Marcia, DWC Team Leader

 

Day 5: Patience and flexibility are the key


The plan today saw one very full van head to the worksite anxious to meet Pedro and get direction for continuing construction of the library/garden . The other van with a smaller number of DWC volunteers plus Javier, our volunteer interpreter, drove to a youth correctional facility in support of young inmates and to gain an understanding of the challenges they face. Unfortunately our entry to the facility was disallowed because the necessary paperwork to satisfy security clearance had not advanced through the process in time. Although this was a disappointment we were anxious to join the rest of the team at the worksite . We arrived at the project work site to find that concerns regarding availability of the heavy equipment (front loader /backhoe) necessary to take down 2 existing walls to make room for our build was in some doubt. These concerns were resolved, the equipment and a very skilled operator arrived, the walls were taken down and the largest debris was moved into a pile adjacent to the worksite.

The expertise of Pedro and generous leadership of several talented DWC team members developed the plan and work began to prepare the site for the trenches that would be home to the footings of the library that will support readers at the school and surrounding  community. The teamwork, work ethic, positivity and skills of the DWC team led by Marcia is impressive. By the end of the workday, Pedro was smiling, the site looked more ready to house a library, and 14 tired, dirty DWC volunteers prepared for a lengthy ride back to Miraflores through typical Lima traffic.

Before leaving, however, it was time for a celebration. Students, staff, community members and admin organized a heartfelt thank you and good bye for Sam, who is leaving after the weekend and a birthday bash for Cameron including a cake, gifts, songs, dances, greetings of appreciation. The enthusiasm and joy, expressed so elegantly and naturally by the kids, will not be forgotten. For certain, Sam will be missed by the team and the students. While Cam continues for the next week, he is a day older and he has memories forever of this birthday.
Annette and Bill, DWC Volunteers

 

Week 2: Monday, Monday....how does that song go??


Well, it was quite the day!! Was it the van that we thought wouldn’t come? Our sick team member and translator exceptionale, Fernando’s absence? The fact that Marcia forgot the first aid and injured herself after warning everyone else not to? Was it the amazing work of the team in digging exactly measured trenches only to have tons of boulders dumped into them with the expectation that we would move them out?

Ok, so the “nice” Canadians got a little not so nice....But we got our point across. Our demands were simple - clear project plans, clear work expectations and community involvement or no work tomorrow!

Twelve very tired and hot participants travelled home. But we felt heard and as always, we did get a lot accomplished and managed to keep our senses of humour!! We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
Stay tuned!!
Marcia, DWC Team Leader

 

Connecting with families and pondering art and children's rights



Today we left for the site at our usual time of 6:30am. When we arrived, we got together to discuss the plan for the day. Today some of the teachers and the parents of the children were on site to help out with the construction. Some of the other volunteers and I were working together to adjust the rebar to get it ready to be installed later. Some of the other volunteers, parents and teachers worked on preparing the trenches.

At 10am myself, and some of the other volunteers went to visit some of the families of the children. The first family lived on the 3rd floor of a house a couple of blocks away from the school. The family did not have much. The father was terminally ill with lung cancer and is not able to work. The family was very happy to know that we were working on building a reading area for the children at the school. Seeing how the family lived and how little they had made me appreciate all that I have back at home in Canada. When we arrived at the second house, the family was not home so we went back to the school. The mother of the girl from the second house was at the school and we were able to meet her there.

While we were gone, the trenches were finished, some of the rebar was placed and some of the cement was poured in the trenches. After lunch we mixed some more cement. While passing through the school, I saw some of the children playing sports, so I decided to join in for a bit. When I trying to leave they swarmed me and tried to get me to stay. I eventually got away. The children are great and it’s a good feeling to know we’re doing something to help them out.
Mike, DWC Volunteer

Since two groups were given two separate tasks, the second team has also a small report to offer:

Cameron, Leigh and John were tasked to pick the best three art projects from each of 14 classes. Each student was asked to choose one of 30 children’s rights that they had been studying. Common themes where a right to education, clean water, play, family, a clean environment, medical treatment and an identity. There were also rights to be free from exploitation, discrimination due to race, ethnicity, colour, religious practice and cultural garments. We were amazed at the diversity of projects; some focused on exploitation, an example of which were forcing children to do laborious work such as carrying bricks. Another was being safe from physical punishment.

It was very difficult to choose, but we focused primarily on the clarity of the message and secondarily on the artwork, and came up with our choices. We were humbled by the knowledge that some of the rights that these children need, are accepted as normal in most of Canada.
Cameron, DWC Volunteer

Today we left for the site at our usual time of 6:30am. When we arrived, we got together to discuss the plan for the day. Today some of the teachers and the parents of the children were on site to help out with the construction. Some of the other volunteers and I were working together to adjust the rebar to get it ready to be installed later. Some of the other volunteers, parents and teachers worked on preparing the trenches.

At 10am myself, and some of the other volunteers went to visit some of the families of the children. The first family lived on the 3rd floor of a house a couple of blocks away from the school. The family did not have much. The father was terminally ill with lung cancer and is not able to work. The family was very happy to know that we were working on building a reading area for the children at the school. Seeing how the family lived and how little they had made me appreciate all that I have back at home in Canada. When we arrived at the second house, the family was not home so we went back to the school. The mother of the girl from the second house was at the school and we were able to meet her there.

While we were gone, the trenches were finished, some of the rebar was placed and some of the cement was poured in the trenches. After lunch we mixed some more cement. While passing through the school, I saw some of the children playing sports, so I decided to join in for a bit. When I trying to leave they swarmed me and tried to get me to stay. I eventually got away. The children are great and it’s a good feeling to know we’re doing something to help them out.
Mike, DWC Volunteer


Puente Piedra’s Jose Antonio Encinas Elementary School Garden Library Project


Wednesday morning began with the first sight rain of our trip. Even though there was barely enough moisture to cover the ground, it was a newsworthy event on the radio.

We have been working on the foundation for the Garden Library since our first day. Yesterday we were joined by a small group of parents and teachers who started off the morning with gusto, climbing into the trenches we had been working on and making short order of the requirements to get each corner of the foundation dug out to a certain depth as dictated by Pedro. Their presence moved the project along much more quickly.

This morning, with the first foundation wall of cement curing, the arrival of a ‘trombole’ or small cement mixer, allowed for a steady supply of cement to be poured into one side of the foundation framework. Again today, several volunteers arrived to help us with the work. We needed to move 1000 bricks from out on the street into the garden area for security. We DWC volunteers formed a ‘conga line’ which soon included a number of women from the community and a young fellow, to accomplish this.

After we returned from lunch a group of about six women arrived to help. Pedro put them to work moving the large pile of rocks used for supplementing the cement to fill the trenches, Janet and Marcia joined their line to assist them, and many of the rocks were moved with great team work and strength. Go ladies!!

One of the goals of DWC is to have community members involved so that they take ownership of the project. Over the past two days, as the parents and community volunteers answered the request for help on the sign on the door of the school, we have felt the support of the people and families for whom this Garden Library is being built. We have had the privilege of working side by side with parents, teachers and both the Vice Principal and the Principal.

This afternoon, Marcia, Marley and I walked with Javier and Julio (from Ifejant, our host partner, to see a micro financing program. Currently in an adult training centre, the school can use the room for 2 hours a day. Children ages 10 to 12 are in a year long program to learn not only baking skills, but skills to run a successful business. This is one of many programs around Peru that teach economic skills while also teaching a trade. Next year the Puente Piedra school plans to add this program into their school curriculum for all the children. We were invited by the children to help them add ingredients into their recipes, so we were easily able to make connections with these very focussed young bakers.

An additional layer of benefit to the IFEJANT baking program that I just learned, is that it fits in to the Peru wide program to promote the United Nations’ Rights of the Child. By the children learning to bake and then sell their goods in the market, they show that they have value as wage earners rather than as youth who can be exploited.

As a parting gift from DWC, the V.P. of the school, Mr. Edwin Medina, suggested additional equipment for the micro financing baking program. After seeing the benefits of it, we agreed that that would be most beneficial to the school as a whole.
Catherine, DWC Volunteer

Celebrating with new friends


Our time on the DWC project is coming to an end. We are at day 9 out of 10. Time is moving very quickly now.
We are now receiving a large amount of assistance from parents and teachers. Concrete workers have been on site for three days. The columns are up(remember rebar) and the concrete has been poured into our lovely trenches that we dug for days.

Today was special for our group as we were introduced to the ways of how to cook a traditional Peruvian meal. This meal was cooked in a fire pit that had been dug out in the ground of the garden site. Bricks were laid and racks of rebar and an iron gate were used lay mounds of rocks, that were heated. Then the rocks and racks was taken removed and the meat and the vegetables which had been all cleaned, marinated, spiced and cut were laid in the pit alternating with the very hot stones and banana leaves. Then wet bags, were laid on the food, followed with a canvas, followed by a large amount of dirt that covered the pit. It took about 1.5 hours for the food to cook. This meal was prepared by the parents of some of the children that attend the school.

We were treated to this traditional fare in one of the classrooms, our table had white Lacey table clothes with flowers on them. Large platters of all the food that had been cooked in the pit was served. On each platter were sweet potatoes, regular white potatoes, Lima beans, cornbread in corn husks, pork, chicken and kouy (yes, we had guinea pig). Grandma Leigh did not have guinea pig.
This project has been recognized as being very important, valued and appreciated that the school, parents, staff and DWC were honoured with the presence of two school superindents to share this wonderful meal.

Today was also special for the students of the school as this was the schools convention on The Rights of Children, there were tables displayed by children, one was from the Prominnats pasteleria program, they were demonstrating the baking they had prepared, cookies and cake. The students ranged in age from 10 to 11. One of the young students did a verbal presentation on their program. Another table had a display of children.s rights such as: honesty, love, respect, right to health, right to education and rights to be happy and safe. Another table focused on Vaccinations Against Violence. There were children dressed as doctors and nurses with syringes. Each person that came to the table and filled out a card, was given a vaccination and a sweet treat. This group talked about the rights of children. We were presented with a presentation by two little girls, who were so happy and spoke with such confidence and pride about this important issue.

This event took place in the town centre in front of the school. There was a large stage and this is where various events took place all morning, one event that DWC participated in was the honouring of students from all the grades who had had their art work personally judged by three DWC works, Leigh, Cameron and John. The winners of the competition were presented on stage and given a gift from the donations that the dwc volunteers had brought with them. The criteria of the winners was to demonstrate the rights of children.

Throughout out our day, there was a lot of discussion about this being the ninth day, and soon we would all be parting ways and missing are new friends in Puente de la Piedra.

Marly, Leigh, Stephanie, Twyla, DWC Volunteers

Day Nine

Our time on the DWC project is coming to an end. We are at day 9 out. of 10. Time is moving very quickly now. We are now receiving a large amount of assistance from parents and teachers. Concrete workers have been on site for three days. The columns are up (remember rebar) and the concrete has been poured into our lovely trenches that we dug for days.


Today was special for our group as we were introduced to the ways of how to cook a traditional Peruvian meal. This meal was cooked in a fire pit that had been dug out in the ground of the garden site. Bricks were laid and racks of rebar and an iron gate were used lay mounds of rocks, that were heated. Then the rocks and racks was taken removed and the meat and the vegetables which had been all cleaned, marinated, spiced and cut were laid in the pit alternating with the very hot stones and banana leaves. Then wet bags, were laid on the food, followed with a canvas, followed by a large amount of dirt that covered the pit. It took about 1.5 hours for the food to cook. This meal was prepared by the parents of some of the children that attend the school.
We were treated to this traditional fare in one of the classrooms, our table had white Lacey table clothes with flowers on them. Large platters of all the food that had been cooked in the pit was served. On each platter were sweet potatoes, regular white potatoes, Lima beans, cornbread in corn husks, pork, chicken and kouy ( yes we had Guinea Pig). Grandma Leigh did not have Guinea Pig).
This project has been recognized as being very important, valued and appreciated that the school, parents, staff and DWC were honoured with the presence of two school superindents to share this wonderful meal .

Today was also special for the students of the school as this was the schools convention on The Rights of Children, there were tables displayed by children, one was from the Prominnats Pasteleria program, they were demonstrating the baking they had prepared, cookies and cake. The students ranged in age from 10 to 11.
One of the young students did a verbal presentation on their program. Another table had a display of Children,s rights such as: honesty, love, respect, right to health, rights to education and. Rights to be happy and safe.

Another table focused on Vaccinations Against Violence. There were children dressed as doctors and nurses with syringes.
Each person that came to the table and filled out a card, was given a vaccination and a sweet treat.
This group talked about the rights of children. We were presented with a presentation by two little girls, who were so happy and spoke with such confidence and pride about this important issue.
This event took place in the town centre in front of the school. There was a large stage and this is where various events took place all morning, one event that dwc participated in was the honouring of students from all the grades who had had their art work personally judged by three dwc works, Leigh, Cameron and John. The winners of the competition were presented on stage and given a gift from the donations that the dwc volunteers had brought with them.
The criteria of the winners was to demonstrate the rights of children.
Throughout out our day, there was a lot of discussion about this being the 9th day, and soon we would all be parting ways and missing are new friends in puente de la Piedra.
Marly, Leigh, Stephanie, Twyla, DWC Volunteers

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