Monday, December 08, 2008

New Peru School part 7

New School at Kilometer 46
The road between Nauta and downtown Iquitos is 100 kilometers. It is the only paved road within 300 miles in the Amazon region. The new school we built is located three miles off a dirt path at KM 46. The village is in the middle of no where. Even the rural schools along the river see more action going past their door. The final hike to the villages takes about one hour from the road on a red clay trail. It is not a bad walk on sunny days, but in the rain the trail is as slick as a ski slope. There are 15 creeks and bridges that flood the low lands and turn into swamps.

The planning for the school began last November when our group visited the village to ask about their desire to build a school there. We made a plan with the architect and the construction began in January. The new school foundation was cut into the hillside by hand shovels. It was a lot of work to move a basement load of dirt by hand. The real work began when it was time to bring the cement and sand to the village on the trail. A five gallon pail of sand weighs about 60 pounds which is a lot of weight to carry three miles. The school needed about 300 pails of sand to mix with the cement and mortar. All the cement blocks and bricks also needed to be carried into the jungle. One person could make about three trips between the road and school each day. By the end of the day they only moved a small wheel barrow of materials.

It rains a lot in the rain forest. In the rainy season from December to April it rains ten hours per day. In the dry season from June to September it rains only two hours per day. On the days the trail was wet they didn’t move materials. The reality of moving materials through the jungle was becoming a big problem. They tried using a 4 x 4 pick-up truck on the dry days. That helped a lot but the truck cost about $30 per load to move $10 of sand. We were getting desperate to get the materials to the job site and get the school built. The deadline to get the school open by March 2008 had passed. The villagers would rather spend their days picking $2.00 worth of bananas to sell in the market than moving sand and bricks across the jungle. We reorganized a work force and said we would pay them $3.00 per day to move materials. We needed to hire better brick masons from Iquitos and pay for their food and transportation. Gradually by August the village was working again to get the school finished.

When we visited the school this past November it was 90% complete. They still need to add the lattice style block windows that allowed ventilation while being secure. We were impressed with the size of the four classrooms. The brick walls are straight and thick and the cement floor is as smooth polished as in any Walmart. The hundreds of wood planks and boards I saw them cutting in April are now part of the rafters hidden inside the attic space.

The plan for the next four months is...

December: Complete all the building before Christmas
January: The government will inspect the school
February: The government will assign teachers
March: The new school term begins

There will be four teachers and four classrooms. Younger kids go to school in the morning. Older kids go in the afternoon. There will be about 100 kids total with an average class size of 15 kids. When we asked the mayor of the village how many kids will attend when the school opens he said “When a monkey in the jungle finds a tree with good bananas he tells his friends. When the first kids arrive at this school they will tell their friends. The school will grow when more kids learn that it is here”.

We have $3,000 left in the building budget to finish this school. I expect they will need additional classroom supplies like writing paper, pens and chalk We still have an extra $1,000 available to spend on classroom materials. This has been a difficult project, but not any worse than the Jack Wolff School we built five years ago. I expect the KM 46 School will have similar growing pains as the teachers, village and students all learn how to include a new school in their daily routine. The next six months will be interesting as the new school year begins. Thank you to everyone who continued to support this project during the past year. You have now made a school for 100 kids where there wasn’t one before.

End part 7


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