Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Remarkable Lady

Last December during a chocolatada at the school in Las Colmenas we noticed a middle aged, diminutive lady standing outside of the school. We assumed she was a local woman who for whatever reason didn’t want to take part in the activity. When the chocolatada concluded she was still there and literally chased after our moto taxi as we were leaving. We assumed she wanted a toy or candy for a child, but having nothing left to give her we didn’t stop. Last week by chance we learned that the woman running after us is the director of a school near the city of Chongoyape and that she wanted to ask if we could in some way help her school kids. Yesterday Maribel and I returned to Chongoyape to see if we could locate her and learn more about her school (and also to relieve a feeling of guilt on my part for ignoring her).

This is Lady (pronounced Laddie) Gonzales Saenz. It wasn’t hard to locate her. Everyone in town knows her. It turns out that chasing after strangers to plead her case isn’t unusual behavior for her. Several merchants told us she regularly calls on them asking for things like a can of paint, a bag of rice, a pair of shoes and anything else that can be used at the school, and can be very assertive with her requests.

This is her school. Its name is I.E.I. #118 NiƱo Del Milagro. It is located in the tiny village of Tierras Blancas (white lands). When it opened its doors for the first time in March of 1984 Lady was there as its first director. It is kinder only, with 40 students ranging in ages from two to five. Lady teaches the older kids. She has the help of Joana, another teacher who teaches the younger kids. School hours are 8:00am to noon. When school is finished Lady, Joana and several mothers provide lunch from food donated by the Lambayeque Regional authorities.

It didn’t surprise us to see how well the school is maintained inside and out. As mentioned, Lady is an assertive individual and I can well imagine mothers and fathers willingly painting and cleaning the school under her ‘persuasion’. Personally, I would like to see more school directors like Lady, and Martin in Monte Hermoso. Too many of them simply accept circumstances, as opposed to Lady and Martin who are imaginative, dedicated and tireless, and who make things happen. The houses surrounding the school are typical of poor villages. The moto taxi driver who took us to the school confirmed what Lady had told us – the people are very poor and the kids attend school barefoot.

Lady has asked us to help with school supplies. She gave us the requirement list published by school authorities in Lambayeque. The list is really meaningless…at a cost of about $22 per student it is far beyond the means of most families. For 40 students the total is $880 which is beyond our means also, but we will do what we can. If anyone would like to help, please visit the Promesa Peru web page.

I always enjoy the ride to Chongoyape. It is near the foothills of the Andes Mountains, which means creeks and rivers and green valleys. This is the rainy season, and the Baden Juana River amongst other has overflowed its banks, flooding the highway for about a half-mile. It doesn’t hamper travel and people take advantage of it to wash clothing, vehicles and to swim and play in. Also, Chongoyape has a reputation for the best pastries in northern Peru. Tell anyone in the Chiclayo area that you’ going to Chongoyape and you will be swamped with request to bring back pastries. We look forward to going back there again on March 1st when school starts.



  1. Hi Tom! Tried to donate through the Promesa site (using Mozilla) but the PayPal button does not work. Regards, Maria

  2. Hi Maria,

    It’s nice to hear from you again, even if only in brief.

    I don’t know what to do about Paypal. We’re probably the only charity in the world that makes it virtually impossible for people to donate. On the Promesa Peru web page we have a name and address in Milwaukee to send a check to, but I realize people don’t do that kind of thing anymore. I’m told I have to get off Google sites and go to a custom domain name and web page but I don’t want to do that. It costs money for the domain and we’d have to hire someone to design the page. I just can’t justify that. As a charity we’re not that big, never will be and don’t want to be.

    Anyway, I thank you for your good intensions hope all is well with you and yours.


    1. Found your email address from past donation and already sent donation using just your emaill!! Maybe you could display your email (verified) by Paypal for donations?

      Well, Small gift, hope helps a little! Take care. Maria

  3. Maria - we received your donation. Thank you. I think I will use your suggestion about displaying the email address. By the way, school openings have been postponed to next Monday the 5th, which gives us more time to get a few more items.