Sunday, May 18, 2014

How to ‘Discover’ a Remote Desert Village

I’ve written before that one of my favorite activities in Peru is taking a leisurely, meandering walk through the streets (often nothing more than paths) of a small isolated village, looking for that object, person or custom that gives uniqueness to this particular village. Initially we would locate the villages by looking at satellite views on Google Maps. The smaller villages are never named on the map so we would look for clusters of dwellings and then try to figure out how to get to them, which usually involved going to the nearest large village and then asking anyone we came across if they knew of a caserio (a community too small to be called a village) located about x kilometers in whatever direction. Eventually we would find someone who knew of the caserio; knew its name and how to get there. The ‘how to get there’ part normally involves haggling over a price with a mototaxi driver who says it is “too far and takes too long and I will lose time and customers and the road is terrible and I might damage my mototaxi”, but eventually we agree on a price with him or some other driver and enjoy a semi-scenic, teeth rattling 10 – 15 minute ride to our destination. Sometimes we walk. Getting back is always an adventure, though with the help of the villagers who after 15 minutes treat us as long lost friends, we somehow return to the larger village and then to Chiclayo.

That’s how we located these caserios in the past. Now, as our Promesa Peru activities are becoming more well known it’s the opposite… the villages find us. As an example, just yesterday Maribel got a phone call from a professor at a primary school in the caserio of Cascajal, a tiny community located near the city of Olmos quite a distance north of Chiclayo. The professor had learned of Promesa Peru during a teacher conference in Lambayeque and phoned to invite us to visit his school/community. The unspoken intent of these invitations is always with the hope that we will provide assistance to the school, one or more students, or to the community in the form of a chocolatada or medical campaign. Though the motive may be financial, the friendliness of the villagers upon welcoming us is genuine and lasting friendships have been formed.  

Often upon returning to Chiclayo I am usually unable to locate the village we visited on Google Maps because as I said, they are not named on the map and reaching them involves mototaxi rides on winding paths through sugar cane fields, rice paddies and rock hills. To solve this problem I started carrying an old hand-held GPS that I used while hunting many years ago in Wisconsin. When we get to the village I take a satellite reading; mark the coordinates and after converting them to decimal enter them in Google Map and, bingo!.. a little green arrow usually appears on the site of the village. I like to know where I’ve been!

Sometimes we come upon a village by pure chance. That was the case recently when Marcos, Saida, Maribel and I were traveling to the village of Eureka. We were driving on one of those sugar cane field paths raising a ton of dust behind us when I glanced to the right and saw what appeared to be a school among a hand full of buildings. We stopped to check it out. The words Pronoei Capullitos written on the side of the school need a bit of explaining. Pronoei is an acronym for ‘program unschooled initial education.’ Capullitos in this context translates to cocoon or bud, indicating the kids are in the process of blossoming. Pronoei capullitos are not Peruvian government supported schools. They are cheaply made one-room buildings constructed and minimally supported by the regional government. Though they are not officially recognized as kinder schools, kids graduating from them are regarded as having completed kinder and are accepted into government primary schools. Pronoei capullitos can have their status changed to a government recognized kinder school by submitting a petition and going through a lengthy documentation process. The school in El Faicalito where we recently donated a whiteboard and shelves is in that process now. If successful the temporary one-room building will be replaced by a permanent three classroom kinder.

Based on the initial impression of the school and its surroundings we expected to find primitive conditions inside but were surprised. The classroom is clean, organized and reasonably well equipped. Even more surprising was that the kids were in uniform. And their lunches from home were packed in modern plastic containers. The teacher is Karen Flores Castillo and like many teachers in these tiny villages/schools she is very young and a recent college graduate. She told us that the village…Horcon One (there is a Horcon Two) is generally poor, but fortunately the parents place importance on education and do their best to send their kids to school with supplies and in uniform. Karen said she has what she needs to teach, but added that three of the students did not have uniforms because their parents could not afford them. The uniforms cost $21 each which is a bit more than typical but they also include an apron. We think those three kids should have uniforms. If you agree, please help us/them by donating at the Promesa Peru webpage.  Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment