Thursday, August 23, 2007

Earthquake and Projects in Peru

Sorry I have been delaying about sending more update to my Blog. I have been on the Northern Transcontitental from Seattle to Virginia and the website the riders have been posting are much better than any updates I could write.

Plans are still progessing for our Peru Tour in October. But first we have a nice PAC Tour to the Grand Canyon planned for September. I am sure there will be some great photos and websites linked to the PAC Tour homepage from that tour.

The following is a recent newspaper article that I had written about our Peru tours coming up.

For the past four years the Christ Lutheran Church of Sharon as has helped organized many relief projects for some of the most rural and desolate regions of Peru. The recent earthquakes in Peru were a concern to many people who know about our Mission Projects there. I have got to know many friends in Peru in various areas. When the earthquake hit August 14th, I contacted one of my friends in the coastal city of Lima which is home to over 10 million people. This is what she responded...

Dear Lon......

“Yesterday was a horrible day for me, I was at home alone with my baby and great movements come and come. People on the street crying and shouting. My husband Christian was working. The center was in the cities of Ica, Chincha and Pisco (100 miles south of Lima) many people died and the 90 percent of the place go down. They need many help. I thanks a lot to God my house is safe and not fall because materials are not good in my house. I can't sleep in the night. I was very scared.”


Another friend named Tatiana lives in the city of Ica where the earthquake hit. This is what she said.

Dear Lon:

“I don’t know if you remember that I live alone. Well the place where I live alone is Ica, the center of the earthquake, it was a terrible experience. We lost many things, many houses are destroyed and many people disappear. I am with life, but I lost my work because the school where I am a teacher is totally broke.”

We will be returning to Peru in October to review many of the projects we are continuing to support. We will not be traveling in the earthquake region but we have tours planned about 100 miles from the hardest hit areas. Since 1999 I have been traveling in Peru leading cycling tours. During that time we have found many worthwhile projects to help the poor people of that country.  We only support projects we have direct contact and have personally scouted the needs of the project. We purchase the materials in person and we deliver the materials in person. Over 90% of the money raised goes directly to our projects. The other percentage of funds is used for guide fees in Peru, newsletters and videos documenting our work in Peru.
Some of our past, and current projects in Peru include:
In 2004 we started building the Jack Wolff School for 350 children in the Amazon rain forest. This school has now grown to over 500 kids. One of our recent projects there was to have the local prison build 66 more wooden desks and chairs for the school at a cost of $30 each. In September we are helping bring electricity to the school so they can have lights for classes in the evening. Installing the electricity and lights will cost $2,600. The 500 children will have three shifts of classes during the morning, afternoon and evening. Now much of the village has open sewage trenches that are flushed into the river by afternoon rains. Two years ago four children died from the contaminated water and disease in the village. During our next visit we will be evaluating what improvements to the school should be made.
Another project is supporting 100 kids at the remote jungle orphanage in Puerto Ocopa. They are located 300 miles into the rain forest. They do not have telephones, television or computers. They have little contact with the outside world. The orphanage is mostly a self sustaining community where the kids work in the fields and grow much of their own food. They can always use bags of processed foods like flour, sugar and rice. Last year we bought them 3,000 pounds of food and a sewing machine to make repairs on their clothes. Each year we bring the kids a new set of clothes that they wear 100% of the time for the rest of the year. They wash and and bathe in the river during the afternoon and wear the same clothes to bed at night.
Just by chance last year we met twenty girls at the Chosica Boarding School and Orphanage. This orphanage is similar to the one in the jungle at Puerto Occopa except the girls live in the mountains near Lima. We try to support them with basic supplies that they can make and sell for a profit. For example they have a wood burning barbecue stove they set up on the sidewalk each afternoon where they cook and sell hot dogs to passing pedestrians for 25 cents. We try and help them with cooking supplies and hardware for their roadside cafe. All the girls work to make and sell the hot dogs. They use their money to buy more rice and beans. They have subsistence living conditions and we will try to help them with clothes and supplies for their kitchen.
One of the most interesting and emotional evening during our tour is planning an annual birthday party for 40 homeless kids who live on the streets of Iquitos. Our group makes official party invitations describing the location of a secret restaurant where the party will be held. Two hours before the party each member of our group walks the back streets and alleys of Iquitos. They are each looking for five or six children who live in cardboard boxes or share shelter with other kids. When the children arrive at the secret restaurant they are served a dinner of chicken, rice, birthday cake and receive a new set of clothes and a simple toy. When they sit down to eat it is amazing how well mannered they are. Most of them have never eaten in a restaurant. Many of them may not have had anything to eat that day. They all sit and wait until the group has been served before they start eating. When they finish half their meal they ask for a plastic doggy bag to take the remaining food with them. They have learned to ration their food. They might not eat tomorrow.

During our travels we see many rural one room schools in the jungle with one teacher. Most of these schools have little support outside their village. Some have electricity but most of them are just cement block buildings with tin roofs. Our group always tries to bring some extra bundles of library books, writing paper and pencils to deliver to these schools. We buy most of these supplies in Lima and condense them into thirty pound waterproof packages for transport. The schools are always surprised to see us arrive in the middle of no where. We deliver the books and then continue on our journey.

Most of our projects are accomplished very low key and anonymously. There is some risk transporting the supplies through the jungle roads. Bandits are known to stop and rob buses that are carrying tourists. When we move our 3,000 pounds of food and clothing to the orphanage we send local women and children with the truck ahead of our group. The truck is disguised to look like a local vegetable truck going to market. The remaining gringos from our group then share several taxies and follow several minutes apart. We have never had a problem with bandits, but we keep our travel plans secret of when we will be traveling certain roads.

During our tours we stay at hotels with air conditioning when possible and try to eat at respectable restaurants. However travel in Peru is always an adventure and sometimes we need to adapt to some very basic conditions. It is not uncommon to order chicken or fish at a restaurant and the cook will catch and butcher your dinner while you wait. The members of our group pay for their own hotels, meals and airline travel. Most tours average about $1,500 per week with airfares from the United States.

We have raised over $50,000 for these projects the past four years. A lot of the money has come from donations from cyclists attending our bicycling tours. At the end of a cross country tour we typically auction off the large display map of our recent route. These maps are usually bought by some enthusiastic rider for $1,500 to $3,000. We normally raise $10,000 each year from these map sales and other donations. Future projects include building a new school for the cost of $25,000 in a remote area along the Amazon River. We will continue to support and monitor all of our past projects.
Many of these projects are provided anonymously. The children are thankful, and we know we helped them, and that's enough credit. These are nondenominational projects. We support projects for all children of various faiths, without expecting anything in return. If you would like to make a TAX Deductible Donation and receive our Peru Projects Newsletter, you can send a Donation to:
Christ Lutheran Church Peru Fund
P.O. Box 303
Sharon, WI 53585
Donations of $100 or more will receive a copy of our 41 minute DVD about our 300 mile adventure over the Andes Mountains to deliver 3,000 pounds of food to the 100 orphans and the Puerto Ocopa Orphanage. Do you want to travel with Lon and deliver supplies in Peru? There are still opening for the October and November tours. Contact Lon at: or read more about his Peru Adventures at: