Wednesday, March 30, 2011

About being an NGO in Peru

There really aren’t that many steps involved in becoming a legal NGO (non-governmental organization) in Peru. The trick is to get each of them accomplished within a reasonable amount of time and effort…something that’s easier said than done.

An NGO begins with “el libro de actas” - the book of minutes/records/acts. The primary purpose of this book is to record minutes of each meeting, but it also contains the organization’s constitution plus any official documents relating to the organization’s activity. Pages 2 – 7 of Promesa Peru Chiclayo’s book contain our constitution, spelling out in detail who we are, what we intend to do and how we will do it. The 1st page is reserved for a statement by a notary decreeing that we have met all legal requirements.

Following the notary’s okay the next step is to register at SUNARP. In our case our application was initially rejected because we weren’t specific enough about what we wanted to do, which is why we ended up with a 6 page constitution. Contrast that with the one page necessary to register Promesa Peru Inc. as a corporation in the state of Wisconsin. The rejection meant starting the process over again…drafting a new constitution, getting a notary’s approval and resubmitting to SUNARP. And each step requires the fee be paid again. The document in the photo conveying legal status (document numbers and individual names have been deleted) on us seems so simple when compared to all of the time, effort and expense to get it.

A final step, registering with SUNAT and parallel agencies is not obligatory as I understand it, but carries with it a tax exempt status which would allow us to receive donations of physical property from outside Peru without paying a tariff. Several of our board members are sorting through the regulations to see if registering with SUNAT would be worth the effort and expense.

Now that we’re a legal entity throughout Peru, there’s nothing left to do but help people…right? Well…it’s not that simple. Technically before we can consider sponsoring a project we need to receive a formal proposal, similar to the one we were given by the director of the Jorge Chàvez Dartnell School in Monte Hermoso.

At the conclusion of a project we are required to receive for our records an official document from the organization we have helped acknowledging our assistance. This example document is signed by all three school directors at the school in Collique Alto and recognizes the school supplies recently given to students.

As we become better known in the area there is no shortage of proposals coming to us. In fact this morning Maribel and I were invited to visit a school to learn about several projects they would like to implement. We need to discuss this situation with all of our board members, but Maribel and I are inclined to pass on this one. Perhaps in a future entry we’ll discuss the school and why we don’t feel it is a fit for us.


Monday, March 21, 2011

A Pyramid Complex at Ucupe.

Go to any small village in the Lambayeque Region. Ask anyone you see if there are ruins or archeological sites in the area. The answer will almost always be no. Ask if there are ‘huacas’- an object that represents something revered, typically a monument of some kind, and chances are they can direct you to several of them. That was the case recently in Ucupe, a very small village on the Pan American highway 25 miles south of Chiclayo. A forty minute ride in a collectivo (private passenger cars that serve as public transportation) is about the only method of transportation.

The pyramid complex of huaca el Pueblo is one-half mile west of the village. Looking at the complex today it’s hard to imagine that in 2008 it was the center of archeological focus with the discovery of the tomb of the “Lord of Ucupe” and a fabulous wealth of artifacts. See “The Lord of Ucupe” for photos and description.

The main pyramid designated E-1 by the excavation team has several obvious places where excavation (or looting) had taken place and afterwards attempts had been made to restore the original appearance. There is no security or restrictions at the site. In fact there is nothing that distinguishes it from the rest of the desert landscape. The lack of recent looter digging or any other signs of activity seems to indicate that locals and archeologists have no further interest in the pyramids.

The ground of the complex is covered with more pottery shards than I have seen anywhere in the region. Most of the pieces appear to be of the Moche culture and are practical rather than ornamental. The young girl is Kathy. Her house is near the base of the pyramids. She told us that two years ago several gringos had visited the site to “study it.” This would have been the excavation sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She said that “after the study stopped and everything was covered with dirt” to her knowledge there have been no visitors to huaca el Pueblo.

Beside the many pottery shards another feature unique to this site is the horizontal lines on the adobe bricks. I have not seen that at any other site in the region. The lines are on all four sides of the bricks, and are in the interior as well as exterior parts of the pyramids. Bricks at the site of Señor Sipan have markings that supposedly indicate the person or group who made them, but those markings are only on the top of the brick.

At the base of one wall there appears to be remnants of a mural. The colors and placement remind me of several murals at the Ventarron site near the town of Pomalca.

Kathy told us of a legend regarding the gap at the top of the main pyramid. According to her none of the villagers come to the pyramids at night, because the gap opens and swallows anyone in the area ”and they are never seen again.” When I asked her if she believed the legend, she simply smiled, but added that she doesn't come here at night.

It had been an interesting but very hot day and after hiking back to Ucupe I was looking forward to returning to Chiclayo. During the next half hour we watched several full colectivos zoom by. I didn’t want to let on to the ladies, but I was starting to get a little apprehensive about our prospects for the evening. Knocking on doors begging for tamales and sleeping under the stars on a bed of sand has never been my strong suit. But not to worry…when the women had talked themselves out, Maribel got up and motioned to an approaching bus. It was one of those big double deck highway busses with reclining seats and air conditioning that travel the length of the Pan American highway. To my amazement it pulled over. It didn’t completely stop, but it pulled over on the shoulder, opened the door and slowed down long enough for us to board, which Maribel and Betzy did with style and I somehow managed with all the grace of a drunken peg-legged pirate. It felt good to get home.


Monday, March 14, 2011

In Today's Newspaper...

...there is an article about our effort to help the school kids in Collique Alto. The article is featured in La Industria’s Chiclayo edition. It talks about donations from the United States and Canada and also about our philosophy of helping people to help themselves.

Thanks for your help. Without you this doesn’t happen.

Tom & Maribel

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Awww…do I have to go to school?

Wednesday, March 9th and it’s the first day of the new cycle at I.E.P.N 10841 Jose Carlos Mariategui school in the village of Collique Alto. National schools officially open throughout Peru on March 1st but in the less populated areas opening day is determined by the individual communities.

This is the class room of Mrs. White; one of 11 such classrooms. Her students are in the second grade of primary, which contains 6 grades in total. The secondary level has 5 grades. Mrs. White has been teaching at Collique Alto for 8 years. Today will be mostly orientation. Students will receive their government supplied text books and be given the notebooks, pencils, pens, rulers, erasers and paper provided by you, some of which are displayed on the desk. Thanks to the amount of donations received we were able to purchase additional items for the younger kids such as scissors, glue and a coloring notebook, and for the higher grades bi-color pens.

All of the 18 registered students for Mrs. White’s class were in school plus one unregistered student (no problem…we had purchased extras so were prepared). When she commented that it was unusual to see so many students on the first day, we asked what she thought accounted for the additional kids (we were hoping to hear her say Promesa Peru…we’re only human). Instead she replied, “Who knows?” :(

We think these kids know. Some of these folks provided money and some are contributing in other ways. Gracias.

Kinder is in a different building on a separate piece of land. Monica (in shorts), who is the kinder director told us 10 days ago that she had 12 kids registered. She phoned two days ago to say she had 3 more. Maribel suggested we plan for 20, and that’s exactly how many kinder students were there.

Did we accomplish anything today? No doubt less than we’d like, but perhaps more than we’d expect. There’s no question in our minds that the large number of kids at school today were there because parents had gotten the word that Promesa Peru was providing school materials. We’d like to believe that what we provided is opportunity. That’s really all we can do. Now it’s up to the kids and their parents to continue the momentum. There may not be a future president in any of these photos (though I wouldn’t bet against the girl looking at the camera) but if not it won’t be because you weren’t there for them. They know that. Thank you.

In appreciation:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I’ve got a dilemma

I’ve got a dilemma, or at least it feels like one to me. The intent of this blog is to record my experiences in Peru, and secondly to provide some insight to daily life in Chiclayo to family, friends and others who may be interested. Since the formation of Promesa Peru – a charitable organization Maribel and I are members of, I’ve been devoting a lot of entries to that activity. The truth is I really don’t want to do that…not on this blog. I’d prefer to write about visits to small towns, or archeology sites, or interesting people or situations, or some facet of everyday life.

What I’m struggling with is this…I believe strongly in the work Promesa Peru has done and is doing and there are still many situations where we could be helping people to help themselves, but not enough people know we exist. Getting donations is all about numbers of readers and until enough people find the Promesa Peru web page the only means we have to reach them is this blog. Now, I’m not interested in having the world’s most read blog and if people lose interest in what I have to say that's okay, but I don’t want readers to leave because every other entry is asking for money.

We’ve recently tried another approach to reach potential donors. We sent emails to fifty Peruvian restaurants across the United States and Canada, asking them to make our brochures available to their customers, and in return offering to list their restaurant on this Promesa Peru web page:

As of this writing we’ve received eight replies. We know there are hundreds of Peruvian restaurants in the United States alone, but even those with web pages often do not have an email address so are difficult to reach. If you clicked on the page address you may have noticed there is only one participating restaurant in New Jersey, and none in Los Angeles or Miami where thousands of expatriate Peruvians live who might help us if they knew we were here.

So instead of asking you for a donation, can I ask this of you? Do you have a favorite Peruvian restaurant nearby? Would you be willing to ask them if they would display our brochures in exchange for free advertising? After they’ve said yes, and I can’t imagine why any restaurant would not want to do that, send an email to me at with the restaurant’s address and contact name and we’ll have brochures in the mail within two business days.

Please think about it - if we can reach thousands of people through a restaurant network I won’t have to use this blog to ask for donations, which will solve my dilemma, and you won’t have to experience that, "geeeze…he’s asking for money again!” feeling. Sounds fair to me.