Saturday, May 27, 2017

When we have to say no…


We always write about and post photos describing our visits to the villages/schools that we decide to donate to. I don’t think we’ve ever written about the schools we visit and decide not to support. The pronoei Caritas Felices (Happy Faces) in the village of El Carrizo is one recent example. Readers may be interested in how that scenario plays out.

We stopped at El Carrizo on the same morning we visited the village of La Carpa Casinelli. The pronoei in El Carrizo is unusual in that it is located in an unneeded classroom inside of a government sponsored primary school (pink building).

There are other very obvious differences between the two schools mentioned. In La Carpa Casinelli the schoolroom is bright, cheery and organized. In El Carrizo the classroom is dark bordering on gloomy. There is the feeling of a lack of organization; a sense more of a storage room than classroom.

Maria (not her real name) has 11 students. She’s been teaching at Caritas Felices for three years. She has a nervous energy about her that contributes to the unsettled feeling in the classroom. That being said she is probably a very effective teacher. We have no way of knowing so we don’t form judgements.

Maria asked us for new furnishings for the classroom. Sometimes, when trying to provide the best possible learning environment for their students, teachers forget the distinction between need and want. Maria has enough tables and chairs for the present enrollment. Yes, they’re old and mismatched but they are still serviceable. She has an odd assortment of storage shelves. They’re not the greatest but they do hold things. Rather than getting more shelving, in our opinion fully half of the things on the floor in front of each wall is junk and could be tossed without being missed. Among all the stuff we noticed a good assortment of learning materials.

This is not an indictment of Maria. We don’t fault her for asking. She’s seen the shiny new chairs, tables, storage shelves and whiteboard we supplied to nearby Carrizo Bajo two weeks ago. She knows that we also provided books and puzzles for the kids. We’re certain that she has the interest of the kids at heart and is working to the best of her ability. If we were to be critical at all it would be directed at the parents association. They could help to organize the classroom, and should see that a fresh paint job with vivid colors is long overdue. An old plaster chalkboard is badly pitted and chipped. We will donate a whiteboard with erasers and markers ($60), but declined Maria’s other requests.

We don’t like saying no. There is always the downcast facial expression, and usually a final plea to provide “only a few of the things” asked for. Our explanation that we have limited funds and in our opinion there are other pronoeis with greater needs never seems to assuage the disappointment. It is those moments when we try to remember all the schools we have supported.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in the Mochumi District Again


We had completed the 45 minute combi ride from Chiclayo to Mochumi and were in the mayor’s office by 8:00 AM. He had invited us to visit to learn about Promesa Peru and what it is that we do.

Alex Rodriguez is a straight-forward man, meaning there are no frills about him. He doesn’t smile unnecessarily, is neither patronizing or pompous, and doesn’t speak just to hear himself talk. In other words he is not the typical politician. But what really sets him apart is that his constituents love him. Without exception, everyone we talked with told us that Alex listens, is fair, and gets things done. That is a glowing endorsement in a region where being critical of a mayor is almost like a religion.


We had a busy morning scheduled so after a brief discussion, and promising Alex that we would invite him to our next school donation, we boarded a mototaxi for a 20-minute ride to the village of La Carpa Casinelli. It was still early and there was a bit of a chill in the air as we slowly traversed the gravel road bordered on both sides by what seemed like endless rice paddies; the rice nearing harvesting time.

This is the village of La Carpa Casinelli. It has an interesting history…both past and present. Years ago a family named Casinelli owned all of the land for miles around. At some point the patriarch decided to reward the field workers by giving them land. At first the workers had no money to erect houses, so they put up tents. Thus the village of La Carpa Casinelli (in English la carpa means ‘the tent’) was born.

Recently an event took place that made the evening television news and was not so well received by the villagers. One morning about six weeks ago the teacher and students approached the school to find that someone had welded a hasp on the door and placed a padlock on it. Though the lot had been legally donated to the community by a deceased community member, one of the descendants decided to rescind the donation and reclaim the lot. The problem was somehow resolved but not until the school had been closed for two weeks.

Ninos Talentos (talented children) is the name of the pronoei. The building is well maintained inside and out. The animals seem to like it also.



Martina Cajusol is in her first year teaching at this school. She has 11 students. For the 11 students she has two tables and four chairs; two chairs with broken backs. We feel the village and school are deserving and would like to donate 12 Chairs ($182.82), 3 tables ($82.27), 2 storage shelves ($51.80), 1 whiteboard ($51.80), markers and erasers ($7.62) and an estimated $30.47 for transport, bringing the total to $406.78. We have $215. We need $192 to complete the project. If you can help us please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

We did visit another village school after leaving La Carpa Casinelli, but we need some discussion before deciding if we want to get involved with that school.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We Need Material for ‘Sector De Hogar’


Last April 28 when we met in the village of Cruze Sandoval with all of the pronoei teachers of the Mochumi District, we asked each of them what they needed for their classrooms. Most of their wants were for the items we usually donate…chairs, tables, etc., but every one of them also asked for “material para sector de hogar” which translates to material for the home sector. We had never heard that request or term before and explained that we needed to understand what it was they were asking for and why. Their responses were both informative and fascinating.
  
Much of Peru is still considered to be what is described as a macho society. By ‘macho’ I don’t mean guys sitting around the house in wife-beater shirts swilling beer and occasionally getting up to beat their wives. Some of that does exist but not in the vast majority of households. What does exist is a clear division of labor that is not in favor of females. In the small villages what this means is men work in the fields while women clean the house, sweep the grounds, feed the kids and get them ready for school, feed the livestock, get water from the community well, cut or gather fire wood for cooking, go to town to purchase needed items, wash clothes and hang them to dry, shuck peas, beans and corn, kill and clean a chicken and cook everything in preparation for the man and children returning home for lunch. She performs similar tasks for the remainder of the day, finishing with laying out clean clothing for the man and kids to wear next day before turning of the lights.

The men’s routine is much simpler. When they’re not working in the fields, they usually can be found sitting in groups under a shade tree discussing whatever while drinking their favorite beverage…probably brought to them by their wives. Helping with household chores is not something men normally do, those chores being regarded as women’s duties. Remember, we’re talking about small villages here, but that mindset exists even in larger cities. 

Over the last few years there has been a growing movement of protests and programs aimed at eliminating physical and mental abuse toward women, and promoting respect for women in general. Late last year the Minister of Education in Lima added a course called home sector to all government schools curriculum. The purpose of the course is to promote respect for women and the work they do, and to teach young kids that men sharing household work is a good thing.

In the upper level grades the teaching is done by lecture. In the lower grades like kinder and pronoei, teaching is supposed to be accomplished by play-acting with the use of props simulating a home setting. We don’t know what if anything the government is supplying to national schools to assist with the program, but as always pronoeis are left to their own resources to get the job done.

In this photo of the pronoei in Carrizo Bajo there is a miniature table and chairs located lower right. That’s all they have so far to implement the program.

The pronoei in the village of San Miguel incorporates some of the classroom furniture with other items they’ve managed to find to more closely resemble an actual home setting.

The following are internet photos found while researching the subject of Sector de Hogar, probably taken in larger cities where the parents association has the resources to donate the items pictured.
































We’re certainly in favor of eliminating spousal abuse. Less well defined is the issue of attempting to change the men-women relationship and division of labor culture that has been in place for centuries. I remember several of my older female relatives, including my mother and her sister, and a few celebrities like Dale Evans, the wife of Roy Rogers saying that women were perfectly satisfied with their role in the home and that equality of sexes was “nonsense”. It would not be surprising if it were learned that many Peruvian village women, especially the older ones have that same attitude.

The question we at Promesa Peru are asking ourselves is, would donating items for the Sector De Hogar program be in line with our definition of supporting education, or is it a social program better left to the villagers and local government to sort out? We’d welcome reader comments on this subject.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Busy Morning in the Mochumi District


Our first stop this morning was at the pronoei Corazon De Maria in the village of Carrizo Bajo.  The teacher Carmen Salazar, the kids and members of the parents association were waiting for us. The tables and chairs had been delivered two days ago.

We brought with us a whiteboard, two storage shelves and books and puzzles. What a different atmosphere those items brought to the classroom. Two weeks ago the kids were sitting on bricks and boards. Now there is a more formal, legitimate feeling, and the whiteboard and shelves will add to it.

The kids, Carmen, the parents and us would like to thank  Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for providing these kids with the opportunity for a better education.

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From Carrizo Bajo we went to Huaca Quemada and the pronoei Little Explorers where members of the parents association began assembling shelves before we had even finished unloading.

The expression on the teacher's face, Esther Castro says it all. Everything is shiny new and ready to be used. And once again we thank Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for their generous donations. You folks did a lot to help schools in the Tucume District last year, and so far this year you've earned the thanks and respect from many people in the Mochumi District.

The costs for both projects were:

                                                                           Carrizo Bajo      Huaca Quemada
4 tables & and 16 chairs*                                     $357.61             $353.46
2 storage shelves                                                        52.13                 52.13
1 whiteboard                                                               51.64                 51.64
Erasers & markers                                                        5.21                   5.21
12 puzzles & 12 books                                                44.16                 44.16
Transport furniture from carpenter to village      12.16                 10.65
Transport whiteboard & shelves from Chiclayo   15.23                 15.23
                                                      Total                    $538.14            $532.48

* - The cost difference for chairs and tables was because they were paid for on different dates and the dollar had risen against the Peruvian Sole when we paid for Huaca Quemada.

We have three projects under our belt so far this year, and invitations to many more villages. We may be looking at another project next week.


Friday, April 28, 2017

A Meeting in the Village of Cruce Sandoval


Occasionally during the school year pronoei teachers in each district will get together to talk about common interests and problems. The meeting is usually called and chaired by the district coordinator. Such a meeting took place this morning at the pronoei 'Mi Segundo Hogar' (my second home) in the village of Cruce Sandoval in the Mochumi District.

Patricia, bottom row left is the Mochumi District coordinator. Last year she was the coordinator for the Tucume District and was the primary reason we were so busy in that district. This year she has called on us to help the pronoeis in her new district. Standing next to Patricia is Carmen Salazar from the village of Carrizo Bajo. Donations for her school, and for the school of Esther Castro (bottom row extreme right) from Huaca Quemada should arrive the second week in May.

There are 13 pronoeis in the Mochumi District; a relatively small number given the many villages in the district. The other 11 teachers have invited us to visit their schools, which are scattered all over the district, and some quite a distance from the city of Mochumi. We will try to visit all of them over the next few months. It was also suggested that we meet with the mayor and his people to coordinate our efforts to help the pronoeis.

A few weeks ago we were sitting back twiddling our thumbs waiting for calls for help from the villages. Now we've already got more invitations than we can handle, and more will be coming. It happens that way every year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Estimating Promesa Peru Project Costs


We're usually close on our project cost estimates. It's not difficult to do if two key factors are up to date. We use the Excel spread sheet below to do the estimating. This example is the actual estimate for the village of Carrizo Bajo. I forgot to enter a quantity for whiteboard erasers/markers.  Click on it to enlarge.


It all starts with column B, the unit price in Peruvian soles. Those are the prices we have to constantly monitor to keep the spread sheet accurate. Notice we don't have unit prices for school supplies. That's because we haven't been asked to donate school supplies for some time, and it takes a lot of work to check all of the prices for the items that comprise school supplies, such as paper, pens. pencils, scissors, glue, erasers, etc. If we are asked for school supplies we'll have to go through that process.

The other key factor is the exchange rate in cell I1. We check that number daily. The rate has been on a downward trend ever since it reached a high of 3.535 in February 2016. As the rate drops the cost in dollars increases. For example, those same 16 chairs that cost $246.84 now, had a price of $226.63 in February last year. Applying that same percentage difference to whiteboards, shelves and transport amounts to a significant difference in the total project cost. Incidentally, the same applies to donations.

For every $50 donation, we receive $48.25. PayPal takes $1.75. But because we pay the bills in soles, we're receiving less money as the rate drops. In February last year $48.25 gave us 170.32 soles. With today's rate of 3.241 we receive 156.38 soles. Obviously we'd like to see that rate increase. Back to the spread sheet.

With both the unit prices in soles and the exchange rate up to date, all we have to do is enter quantities. The spread sheet calculates all the other numbers. We pay particular attention to the percent numbers in column G. That number tells us if we need to look for different suppliers or different modes of transportation to control costs. Notice in the spread sheet we have a quantity of 3 in transport. That's because we have to hire a motocar, not mototaxi to transport the chairs and tables from the carpenter in Tucume to the village of Carrizo Bajo, a distance of 13 very difficult miles. The further away we operate from Tucume, the more that cost is going to increase.

And speaking of transport, we've just learned that the furniture for Carrizo Bajo and Huaco Quemada will be ready for pick-up on Tuesday May 9, so we should be in those two villages shortly after that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Good Morning in Los Bances


Parents, kids and the teacher had good reasons to celebrate this morning. Yesterday they moved into their new classroom, which is actually the village town hall but is rarely used except on weekends and some evenings. Rather than have it sitting empty the villagers decided the pronoei should use it.

Also yesterday, the new tables and chairs were delivered. everyone was happy with the quality and colors. Usually 5 tables and 20 chairs would fill the typical classroom, but here they seem lost in all the space.

This morning we gave them puzzles and books as promised. We usually tell the teacher the names of the people who donated the items, in case they want to recognize those individuals. Though they don't always get the spelling right their thanks is sincere and heartfelt. We and they thank Denny Wallette, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Clif Brown for making this project possible.

The cost for this project was:
5 tables & 20 chairs - $447.08
Puzzles & books - 45.38
Transport - $15.41
Total - $507.87

As we were leaving with beans, chicha, and a turkey they had given us, the teacher Martha (wearing the apron) asked us for a chocolatada next December. She said she was asking now because she wanted to be sure they were first on our list. On a devilish impulse Maribel told her she was third. She looked crestfallen.

During the mototaxi ride back to Tucume our driver stopped to help a fellow driver. His moto had broken down. We towed his moto several miles to a small village where a repair shop was located. No payment was offered nor did our driver expect it. The reason I mention this is because it's funny how a minor incident like this can trigger long forgotten memories.

Many years ago on a rainy spring day in Wisconsin I was driving into town when I saw a woman parked on the shoulder helplessly staring at a flat tire. I had time and didn't mind getting wet so I stopped and changed tires for her. When I was finished she offered $5 to me. I told her to forget it...that maybe someday her husband would change a tire for my wife. She looked at me with a puzzled expression and then asked, "But how will he know who she is"?

We had to wait about 20 minutes for passengers at the Tucume combi station, so to use the time Maribel got a good start on shuckin' beans. Fortunately the turkey had already been killed and cleaned when given to us. It was a good morning. We were back in Chiclayo by noon.