Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Very Special Day in Tùcume Viejo

In August of 2014 Promesa Peru made its first donation in the Tùcume District to the primary/secondary school in Tùcume Viejo. Since that time we’ve donated to 20 separate projects in 16 different Tùcume District villages, but were still surprised when we received an invitation to attend the inauguration of the new school yesterday in Tùcume Viejo. The old school had been completely demolished and in its place stood a modern four-building complex.

These photos show the same view of the main entrance two years ago and now.

Upon presenting our invitation at the gate we were ushered to front row seating along with the mayor (second from the right) and his staff and several officials from the District office of Education. There were about 300 people in total. There was a flag raising, a blessing, many speeches, and gifts presented to people associated with the old school. We received a wine caddy. After the formalities several groups of students entertained the audience with native dancing.

Following the dancing those of us with invitations (about 30) were taken to the school’s cafeteria for a meal of cabrito. After eating, Maribel and I were asked to step to the front of the room where we were presented with a certificate by the mayor and school director acknowledging and thanking Promesa Peru for the work we’ve done to help the schools throughout the district in the past two years. It was a proud moment for us…to have our work recognized by city and district officials. As good as that recognition felt there was an even prouder moment waiting for us when we left the cafeteria and stepped outside into the school yard.

Many of the pronoei teachers we had worked with these past two years made the trip from their villages to Tùcume to add their thanks and appreciation. There were Saida from El Carmen, Karina from Los Sanchez, Lucy from Moyocupe, Maria del Rosario from San Antonio, Gloria from Payesa, Karina Chaponan from Alto Peru and Amalia from El Pavo as well as several mothers who had asked to accompany the teachers.

It was difficult to stay composed as they held up their banners and cheered us. The other 250 people including the mayor had no idea what was happening but they joined in anyway.

This was a proud day for the city of Tùcume Viejo, their new school, and for Promesa Peru. We will remember it for a long time, and thank the donors who made it possible.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Unusual Morning in Surupampa

We had been navigating the dirt mountain road from Motupe to Surupampa for nearly two hours, stopping only once when an old man hailed us to ask if we’d seen his black burro. We had seen many burros…and cows, pigs and goats but not a black burro. There is little to no traffic on this road and frequently it’s necessary to get out of the vehicle to shoo the sleeping animals out of the way. Burros and goats seem to understand that they need to move but cows and pigs just stand there as if waiting to see what happens next. They move only when the slowly moving vehicle is close to making contact. I guess I don’t blame them, their only option to get off the road is a steep ascent or decent.

This sow and her piglets took a lot of urging before they moved. The apparatus around the sow’s neck is there to prevent the pig from entering and eating in the corn fields.

There were five of us; the driver, Maribel and me, and two PEMU coordinators. I’ve mentioned before that the new road to Surupampa is rutted and boulder strewn and the ride is violent. Three people in the back seat in those conditions is not tolerable so when one of the coordinators announced that we were within a half-mile of the village a cheer rang out. The driver blew the horn several times to alert the villagers that we were coming, giving them time to assemble for the usual welcome.

When we pulled into the village there was no one in sight. I thought that maybe they had planned some sort of surprise and would rush out to greet us at a given signal, but no. After five minutes of horn blowing two men appeared from out of the brush. One of them had a key to the pronoei which he opened and then stood back while the driver and I unloaded the truck and placed the donated items in the classroom.

A few minutes later two kids appeared. They had no idea what was happening and didn’t even show interest in the toys and candy. We took a few photos (the women are Maribel and the PEMU coordinators); explained to the men how to assemble the storage shelves and hang the whiteboard, and that was it.
We were told that everyone including the kids were working in the fields. The coordinator said she had alerted the village two days ago that we were coming today in the morning and had no explanation for their absence. One of the village men told us that both the teacher and his wife were sick. It was disappointing not to see the looks of appreciation on the faces of the villagers, or to see the excitement of the kids about their new furniture, candy and toys, but our mission was to deliver needed items to the school, and that we accomplished.

During the ride back we met the man looking for his burro. He had not found it and said he would start watching the sky for circling vultures.

The cost for this project was:  
4 wood tables --- $144.29 --- 23.86%
16 metal chairs --- $262.84 --- 43.47%
1 whiteboard --- $51.17 --- 8.46%
Markers & erasers --- $8.96 --- 1.48%
2 storage shelves --- $47.96 --- 7.93%
Teaching aids --- $66.66 --- 11.02%
Candy & toys --- $15.28 --- 2.53%
Transport --- $7.49 --- 1.24%
Total - $604.65

Notice the transport cost, which consists of having the storage shelves and whiteboard delivered to our home. If we had had to pay for a private carrier to transport all of the items to Surupampa from Chiclayo it would easily have cost $150. As uncomfortable as it was, the PEMU truck saved us a lot of money.

Chris Raupe and the Alice Cool Foundation made this project possible. We thank you, and we know the people of Surupampa appreciate what you have done for their school.

As an aside for anyone interested in such things, this is the location of Surupampa according to my GPS unit. I was surprised at the altitude…I thought we were much higher.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Present for the Village of Los Sanchez

Last April 19 we completely outfitted the new Pronoei in Los Sanchez with physical furnishings. What we didn’t provide was teaching aids. The teacher, Karina has been getting by with a few notebooks and pencils bought with her own money along with government provided text books. That situation improved this morning when we presented Karina and the kids with puzzles, coloring books and crayons, reading books and tangrams, all with educational themes tailored to 3 to 5 year olds. For the kids the icing on the cake was a few inexpensive plastic toys that light up.

This was not a Promesa Peru project. It was the result of a generous unsolicited donation we received with instructions to use it for Los Sanchez. Karina asked us to extend her heartfelt thanks from her and the kids to “Señor Clif Brown”.
On a related matter, on May 3 we and a delegation from Los Sanchez meet with the mayor of Tùcume to explore possibilities for building a pronoei in the village. The mayor asked Karina to submit a letter of solicitation formally requesting that a school be constructed, which she did. Nothing has happened since then.  We are told that many people are dissatisfied with the mayor’s lack of activity and are pushing for a recall. It is not likely that the Los Sanchez request will be receiving government attention anytime soon.
On July 19 we published a post asking for donations for the pronoei in Surupampa. We’re happy to report that we have the funds for that project and have purchased the teaching aids, whiteboard, chairs, and storage shelves. Maribel was able to locate two 3-shelf models that cost considerably less than 5-shelf units.

Thanks to an additional donation by the Alice Cool Foundation we’ll be supplying 4 tables and 16 chairs to the pronoei instead of 3 and 12. The new road to the village is bringing more families to the area and soon the additional seating will be needed. We opted to buy the metal chairs manufactured in Lima. It’s been a good experience so far. The manufacturer called us when the truck was loaded, and the chairs arrived at our door last Monday as promised. The chairs are incredibly strong and should see many years of service.

The 4 wood tables should be ready by Friday. We hope to be in Surupampa early next week. We’re eager to see what the pronoei will look like when it’s furnished as a real classroom.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Chiclayo’s International Airport

The Chiclayo airport, officially known as Captain FAP Jose A Quinones Gonzales International Airport truly became international this month when Copa Airlines began weekly round-trip direct flights from Panama City, Panama to Chiclayo. When Copa announced the flight earlier this year many people including me questioned the reason for this flight. Why would Chiclayanos want to go to Panama? Why would Panamanians want to come to Chiclayo? Whatever the reasons, so far all flights both ways have been full.

Except for the Copa flight the only destination you can fly to from Chiclayo is Lima. No matter your destination in or out of Peru, you have to go through Lima. Being able to fly to Panama from Chiclayo opens up many foreign destinations like Cuba for instance, at less expense, time and effort.
LAN (now Latam Airlines) operates four flights daily from Chiclayo to Lima; LC Peru has two. All flights originate in Lima and will return there the same day. Turnaround time averages 40 minutes.There are no aircraft staged overnight in Chiclayo.

That’s about 700 passengers leaving Chiclayo daily for Lima, most of them having purchased round-trip tickets. Many of them will not go further than Lima; others will be going on to destinations in and out of Peru. None of the internal destinations are reached efficiently. For example, from Chiclayo to Lima to Tarapoto takes 12 hours 47 minutes on LAN. In the past Avianca Airlines flew direct from Chiclayo to Tarapoto. The total time was 45 minutes at less than half the price. Avianca no longer services Chiclayo.

Often travelers comment and complain about the inability to fly direct from Chiclayo to other Peruvian cities, but the people who run LAN and LC Peru are not stupid. If it was economically feasible to fly to multiple destinations from Chiclayo I’m sure they would do it. But just maybe change is in the wind.

The Chiclayo airport is scheduled for major remodeling (artist's drawing of finished project).  Starting in December the runways will be expanded at a projected cost of 64 million dollars. And over the next 5 to 6 years the terminal will be enlarged and modernized to the tune of 200 to 350 million dollars. There will be 8 gates as opposed to 2 now. The portable boarding stairways will be replaced with power boarding bridges (also known as jetways). The stated reason for the renovation is to accommodate the present and projected increase in tourist and business travelers and cargo leaving and coming into Chiclayo.

It doesn’t seem likely that a project of this magnitude would be done just to allow more flights to and from Lima. Maybe in a few years we’ll be able to fly direct from Chiclayo to other South American cities and perhaps even Miami. If that happens one thing is certain…we will not miss those long overnight layovers in the Lima airport.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hey Russia!....what’s goin’ on?

On September 1, 2009 I wrote my first post on this blog. This post is #387. I had a statistics counter program running in the background but never paid much attention to it and forgot about it some time ago. This last weekend I was cleaning out old photos and documents to free up space on the hard drive when I came across and old ‘favorites’ list, and there was the link to the statistics program. I clicked on it and was surprised that it recognized this computer and was still accumulating information.  I like numbers and did an analysis to see where the visitors are coming from. The top 10 countries have remained fairly consistent, except for Russia (click on the chart to enlarge it).

I can think of no reason why the sudden interest from Russia, unless it was the ‘Chiclayo…A spy Capital’ post about Nikita and James Bond, but probably not. If any of you Russian readers would care to enlighten me I would appreciate it. And by the way, Promesa Peru has never had a donation from Russia. We and PayPal will gladly accept Rubles. J

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Business side of Promesa Peru

Promesa Peru is a small charity focused on furthering education in the poorer areas of the Lambayeque Region. In the posts on this blog and on the Promesa Peru webpage we show photos and write about the village schools we visit and donate to. That’s the visible part of our organization. Behind the scenes is the business end.

We rely on donations to fund our activities. The people who donate to us rightfully expect us to use their money wisely, and that means doing our best to control the costs associated with purchasing and transporting donated items to schools often located in difficult to reach villages.

Transportation has historically been our holy grail. The ideal vehicle for our needs is either a medium sized truck or a full sized combi but both are too expensive to rent, costing $65 and more for use in adjacent districts, and at least three times that amount for remote districts. By using a combination of motos, taxis and combis we’ve been able to keep transport costs to about 8.5% of total project costs but frankly it’s a real pain. To illustrate…a typical trip to a Tùcume District village involves tying a whiteboard, storage shelves, teaching aids and whatever else to the top of a moto or taxi at our home. From here we go to the Chiclayo combi station that provides service to Tùcume, where we transfer the items to a combi, paying for the seats the items take up. In Tùcume we unload the combi at a moto station and reload everything in /on a moto. From there we go to the carpenter’s shop who hopefully has the tables and chairs ready, unload again and reload everything in a motocar. We need to hire a separate moto to transport me and Maribel, and finally we head for the village. If there is no motocar available we need a fleet of motos.

Hopefully, with the recent advent of our partnership with the Pronoei Education Management Unit of the Lambayeque Province that hassle is over. They have the means to transport our donated items to any village in the province. I said hopefully because we have yet to test the system.

Let me digress for a moment. To avoid repeatedly typing ‘Pronoei Education Management Unit of the Lambayeque Province’ we're going to start using an acronym...PEMU. I hope regular readers will remember it.
Purchasing items is the other facet of the operation. We have an Excel spreadsheet with all of our suppliers and current prices listed. On it is everything we typically purchase, from tables and chairs to uniforms to sweet bread for Chocolatadas. All we have to do is enter the quantity and current exchange rate and it gives us the cost in US dollars. That’s how we estimate the cost when we ask for donations. Keeping that list current takes time and diligence. Suppliers come and go and prices change.  Last week we learned that the 3 shelf storage shelves we always purchase for $24.42 were discontinued. A five shelf unit costs $38.16. The kids can’t even reach the top two shelves on a 5 shelf unit. We’re going to keep looking for 3 shelf units, but until we find them we’ll be paying $13.74 more per shelve.

When we picked up the tables and chairs for Tabacal last week the carpenter told us he was raising the price of chairs from 46 to 50 soles. That’s an increase of 8.7% or $1.18 per chair. Even at that price he is still the lowest priced carpenter we’ve found, but both Maribel and I feel the quality of his work has slipped and he’s missed a couple of completion dates. We need to give PEMU (that works pretty neat!) three days’ notice to schedule a truck so it’s important that the furniture is available when promised.

One option is Maribel’s former classmate supplying us with metal chairs manufactured in Lima. The cost per chair at the current exchange rate would be $18.07 delivered to our home, or $16.56 if 24 or more are purchased, as opposed to the new price of $15.03 from our present supplier. On a typical purchase of 16 chairs the total increase using the volume discount rate  would be $24.48 . That’s not too bad and there are several advantages. Quality would be consistent; the chairs are stackable requiring less space for storage and transport and they’re more durable than wood chairs. And assuming transport costs have been eliminated that savings would more than offset the increased cost. The disadvantage is we'll have chairs on hand that we don't need at the moment and money tied up in inventory. It’s an issue we have to make a decision on fairly quickly if we’re going to supply furniture to the school in Surupampa.

Anyway, the point of all this is that when we’re not in the field  there is still activity going on in the background. We’re never complacent when it comes to monitoring and controlling quality and costs. It’s not just that we feel a responsibility to our donors and ourselves; it’s also a fun challenge to see how cost effective we can be.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Village of Tabacal Project is completed

It was two weeks ago that we first visited the pronoei in Tabacal. We had expected to deliver the donated items a week ago but the carpenter who builds the chairs and tables told us he was having a problem locating dry lumber. This morning everything was ready to go.

We chartered a motocar in Tucume to transport the items four miles to the path leading to the village. Motocars are handy for hauling small to medium size loads and they’re not very expensive. Motocar owners usually do a brisk business.

It’s a 20 minute walk from the road to the village and the only way to transport anything is to carry it. The kids carried the chairs while the adults handled the tables, storage shelves and whiteboard.

The wood chairs are sort of heavy and the kids needed several rest stops though I think some of those stops were to make a game out of sitting in the field in their new chairs.

The cost of this project was:
3 tables - $109.89
8 chairs – 108.09
1 storage shelf – 38.16
1 whiteboard – 45.76
Markers & erasers – 6.11
Toys & candy – 19.82
Transport – 27.86
Total - $355.69

The final cost was $41 over our estimate. Most of that was for toys, candy and erasers that I forgot to budget for. Also, we were told by our supplier that the 3 shelf storage shelf is no longer available. We purchased a 5 shelf unit for $38.16 – a 56% increase over the previous model.

The toys and candy are something we recently decided to include when we donate to pronoeis. The kids like their new furniture but they get really excited over a simple toy and candy. Maribel and I are paying for those items. I show them in the cost figures only for a complete record of the project cost.

The pronoei in Tabacal was another worthwhile project. Chris Raupe, Johany Glen-Webster University, and the Alice Cool Foundation made it happen. Please accept our thanks and the thanks of the teacher and kids of the pronoei Joyitas de Cristo.