Saturday, November 25, 2006

Puerto Occopa Orphanage

Arriving at the Orphanage

The orphanage is run by the Catholic Church and there is a staff of four to six nuns who run the school for the town of Puerto Occopa. The huge stone building was a monastery build over 100 years ago. It looked like a fortress in the jungle compared to all the other thatched roof houses in the area. I expect the orphanage receives minimal support from the Catholic Church now since the living conditions there are very basic.

This was the third year we have delivered supplies to the orphanage. I recognized some of the children. They recognized me. It was like a family reunion again with hugs and kisses. The surprise arrival of our truck disrupted their daily schedule but it was a festive occasion that was taking priority for everyone. Many of the children had only one or two shirts. They wash their clothes as they swim and bathe in the river each afternoon. The clothes they were wearing looked like the same shirts we had delivered last year.

After our greeting, the children began an assembly line to unload the truck. In 15 minutes everything was unloaded into the school classroom. The desks and tables were put into a horseshoe shape. Neyda and Vioricka displayed and arranged all the clothes for boys and girls. The bags of rice and food made a huge stack in the middle of the room. Aracely sorted all the sandals by size. Another table was just for the toys, games and stuffed animals. For the children it was like Christmas morning. They were excited and the giggles and laughs spread to the nuns and even to our truck driver.

Just as we had finished sorting all the clothes the church bell rang signaling it was time for lunch. We all went into the dining hall. Metal plates and cups were waiting for each child. A scoop of rice, beans and fried bananas was served to everyone. Before we ate the children sang their song of thankfulness. The loud, chanting type song echoed in the large stone room. I couldn’t understand their spanish but I will remember their voices and music.

After lunch we returned to the school room to distribute the clothes. The nuns helped line up the children from smallest to biggest waiting at the door. In a very orderly system each child walked along the table of clothes. Neyda and Vioricka helped them try on shirts and pants. Aracely would find them the proper size sandals. The final table had a choice of toys and games. One by one all the children received their clothes. After all the obstacles of delivering the supplies to Puerto Occopa it was very satisfying to see everyone wearing a new set of clothes.

The 100 book titles were displayed. The children and teachers were excited to have new books for their library. Then one of the teachers helped assemble the sewing machine. She tested it and was impressed with the speed and ease of repairing a pair of blue jeans. The machine will be a big help maintaining the limited clothing for the orphans.

Later that night the children wanted to give us a talent show in the stone courtyard. There were no lights outside except my strong LED bicycle headlight I brought along as a flashlight. As the children performed their songs my flashlight was the spotlight for their stage. It was probably one of the few times during the year they had a chance to perform for a new audience.

The next morning Vioricka, Neyda, Aracely and I got ready to leave in a taxi. We could make it back to Lima in two days if we drove fast without many stops. Earlier I had wondered why we had decided to deliver supplies all the way to the Puerto Occopa Orphanage. Now I understood why we had been drawn to such a desolate place. This is a just a small unknown place on a dead-end road. Few people care that it is here. Even fewer people ever visit here. We are their link to the rest of the world. My experiences here have told me 100 stories. I have lived 100 adventures and most importantly I have made 100 friends.

P.S. These projects have been made possible by the generous donations of PAC Tour riders. If you would like to contribute to the Orphanage or School Builders Fund you can make a tax deductible donation to:

"The Christ Lutheran Church Peru Fund".
Mail your check to:
PAC Tour, P.O. Box 303. Sharon, WI 53585.
A receipt will be sent to you acknowledging your donation.
Thank you for your continuing support with these projects.



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