Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peru Project Oct. 2010

In October I traveled to Peru with three friends to work on an assortment of projects across the country. Our group would have an efficient mix of talents. Veronica Beagan was a retired Air Force Captain. Susan Rosenblatt was a university administrator. Suzanne Wheeler was a retired prison guard and director. They all had organizational skills to get things done. This was my twelfth trip to Peru to work on projects. I have traveled with Veronica and Susan during three other tours in Peru so they knew what to expect. We had a busy schedule that would take us places tourist don’t usually go.

Our first project was visiting the Chosica Girl’s Home. The “Home” is an orphanage located on the outskirts of Lima in the foothills of the Andes mountains. We have been supporting this Girl’s Home since our friend Aracely Jumpa moved there from the jungle in 2006. The home provides support for 15 girls ages five to fifteen years old.

We met Aracely when she was six years old. She lived with her mother and grandfather at a roadside restaurant with a thatched roof. Our bicycle tour had stopped there for lunch while riding on a tour over the mountains deep into the jungle. There were eight riders in our group and the grandfather asked us what we wanted for lunch. We will have “chicken” was the common request. The grandfather then took a section of steel pipe and started chasing and swatting at the chickens under the porch. We could hear the commotion as the chickens ran and squawked for about ten minutes as the grandfather chased them. The grandfather came upstairs empty handed and announced “No chicken today, would you like fish?”. We said “Okay we will have fish.” The grandfather then went and got his fishing pole and went down to the river to start catching fish.

During this long wait for lunch we were entertained by a charming little girl named Aracely. She brought us oranges from the tree, then she sat on our bikes and had her photos taken with the group. When our assortment of fish were finally cooked, we finished our lunch. As we were getting ready to leave the mother and grandfather asked if we could take Aracely with us because they couldn’t afford to take care of her. We couldn’t just take Aracely home but we said we would keep in touch with them. A few months later the mother wrote me a letter that she had moved to Lima to clean houses and Aracely was living at the Chosica Girl’s Home. For the past five years we have stayed in touch with Aracely and her mother. They have traveled with us each year on tours across Peru. Aracely has continued to learn more English and she is a helpful guide for our tours. Aracely is now one of the top students in her school and her favorite subjects are math and science. During her school’s recent talent contest she was voted “Miss Chosica”.

In Lima we visited her mother’s “house” located on the flat cement roof of a store front building. Her house was constructed of six pieces of plywood to make a box big enough to hold a bed, table and propane stove. One of her few possessions on the table was a thick photo album from our tours together. Aracely would like to live with her mother again someday but for now the Chosica Girl’s Home is a safer and better environment for her to live. That is why we continue to support the Chosica Girl’s Home.

During our visit to Chosica we took the 15 girls on a shopping trip to the market where they each bought a new set of clothes and shoes. Later that evening we had a nice chicken dinner together at a local restaurant. We were fortunate our visit coincided with meeting Adrian De Rijke from Holland. Adrian and his wife are the directors of the Girl’s Home and were overseeing the building of a new facility for the girls.

It was beneficial for us all to meet and spend some time talking about working together in the future. I said we would like to stay involved helping the Girl’s Home with tangible improvements such as beds and equipment. Our support of the Chosica Girl’s Home has helped the girls have a more comfortable life. Aracely’s mother said our caring for Aracely has given her a reason to do well in school because she feels responsible to succeed. The chance that Aracely can break out of the cycle of poverty in Peru is slim but she is beating the odds against her so far.


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