Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Chocolatada…..Plan B

We met with Rosa Lopez and her kids and some of their parents this morning to discuss the status of the hoped-for joint chocolatada for two pronoeis in San Bernardino.

Sometimes we have to make some tough choices. It looks like there will not be enough money to cover the cost for both schools, and space is also a problem so we reluctantly decided to focus on just one. We explained the circumstances to Viviana, the director of the other pronoei and promised her that we would try our hardest to give her kids a chocolatada next year. It was a disappointing moment for her and us.

On the bright side, there will be a chocolatada for pronoei “My Sweet Home” on or about December 17. Members of the parent’s association said they can provide chicken, empanadas, and the beverage if Promesa Peru will provide milk, chocolate and sweetbread (panetòne). That we can do…. those three items cost $57. What is still uncertain is if there will be toys and a clown. Rosa now has 28 kids in her class. If we can find $5 toys, that would be $140. A clown is $75, and transport would be $70. So our portion of the cost would be $342. We have $115. We’re only short $227. If we have to we can go without the clown, but that would be a shame.

If you’re able to donate to the San Bernardino chocolatada, please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Papa Noel has an Empty Sleigh

We’ve never been very successful at raising money for a chocolatada. We assume a donation of $10 or so isn’t going to bankrupt anyone, so either we’re not doing the job of describing how important a chocolatada is in the life of a village community, or the cause simply doesn’t appeal to potential donors.

A few years ago we routinely sponsored one and sometimes two chocolatadas each December. We would ask for donations but never received much and usually ended up paying most of the cost ourselves. We could do that because the cost of a chocolatada was half of what it is today. Today, except for ‘hot wheel’ cars it’s difficult to find a $3 toy, even in the mercado modelo. Toys in Tottus or Plaza Vea start at around $7 and go up to as high as $125 with an average of probably $17. There is a whole new middle class of Chiclayanos today that didn’t exist 10 years ago, and they are paying those prices. But they’re not the people who are asking us for a chocolatada. The people who call us are the school directors in small isolated villages like Payesa, Horcòn, El Pavo and San Bernardino where a ‘toy’ is a can swung on a string, or straddling a broom and pretending it’s a horse.

We’ve had 11 phone calls in the past 3 weeks…. two this morning asking if we can sponsor a chocolatada. In each case we’ve had to say no, explaining that we committed some time ago to trying to raise money for a chocolatada for two schools in San Bernardino. What usually follows is, “I understand, but if you could just donate the toys….” We can’t. We’d like to but we can’t.

We spoke yesterday with Rosa Lopez, the director of one of the schools in San Bernardino. She said she’s collected just $10 from parents so far toward a chocolatada. The goal of the parents association was to raise $265. Several of the parents who work at a sugar cane factory in Tùcume have promised to pay their share at the end of the month when they get paid, but that’s probably not going to happen. So Rosa hasn’t been successful and neither have we. We’ve received $115 in donations…far short of the $650 needed to put on a real chocolatada for the two pronoei schools in the village.

Most of these kids have never been to a bigger city like Chiclayo. Many of them have never even left their village except to walk to school and back. A full blown chocolatada with toys and a clown would be the biggest event of their young lives, and probably for many of the parents.

We’re going to return to San Bernardino next Wednesday to talk with Rosa to see if there is something less we can do that would at least resemble a chocolatada. If you can help us…if you have $10 to spare please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. It would be very much appreciated.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to Transport Stuff Cheaply to El Pavo

When we donate classroom equipment or school supplies or school uniforms, transportation is usually 15% to 20% of the project’s cost. The standard fee for a small truck to transport us and the donated items to any village within 50 km of Chiclayo is from $70 to $90.  We have a couple of friends who own trucks but even they charge us $70, explaining that they’d be losing money if they did it for less. Maybe so, but every time I look at the project receipts and see the one for transportation it bothers me. We didn’t have a lot to deliver to El Pavo today so we made up our minds to find a cheaper method.

A neighbor has an older station wagon with a good sized rack on top. The rack was big enough to hold a whiteboard. Everything else could fit in the back. He said he would take us to the city of Tùcume for $18 but would not go to El Pavo because of the poor roads. El Pavo is only 1 ½ miles from Tùcume so we accepted his offer. In Tùcume we unloaded our stuff on the side of the road, and I stood guard while Maribel went to pick up the tables a local carpenter had built. I assumed that we would need a convoy of at least 3 motos to transport our stuff to El Pavo. I was wrong.

This guy insisted he could get everything on his moto. And he did. There is a whiteboard, 25 chairs, 5 tables and 2 storage shelves tied to his moto. It was not the most comfortable ride we’ve ever had, but we got to El Pavo without damaging or losing anything. He charged us $7, which included waiting for us and taking us back to Tùcume.

When we arrived at El Pavo the villagers were waiting for us. Almost before we got out of the moto some of the women were carrying tables, and the kids were hurrying to help.  

The kids made a game of carrying the chairs. They were squealing and laughing and trying to see who could carry the most chairs and make the most trips. One of them told Maribel it wasn’t her job when she lifted some chairs.

I’m sure their excitement won’t last long, but they really enjoyed arranging and sitting at the new tables in their new chairs.

This is an example of what we have replaced… chairs held together with string. We’re going to feel a lot better knowing that there won’t be any more chair or table legs collapsing under the kids.

The villagers and kids were grateful for what they were given. As we were leaving we were given a hand-made basket filled with fresh picked peas and corn, and a box containing a cooked chicken.

So how did we do on the transportation cost? The combi ride back to Chiclayo was $2, for a grand total of $27 – a savings of $43. That, plus Maribel negotiating a frequent buyer discount on the whiteboard brought the entire project cost to $378… a full $72 under the $450 budget.

Our thanks to David P., Chris R., the Alice Cool Foundation and others for making this project possible.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Some good news!

We received a phone call yesterday from Guadalupe Gallardo, the director of the primary school in the village of San Miguel. She said that her students won first place in an inter-district math contest. Picsi is a large district with many schools. Winning this competition is an impressive accomplishment. Guadalupe credited the Alice Cool library donated last July for a part of the kid’s achievement, saying that the library gave them the perfect place to study. This is a good example of helping people to help themselves. Good job kids!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beto is in the Slammer!

Roberto ‘Beto’ Torres, former mayor of Chiclayo is in the big house. His new address is c/o the federal prison in the town of Picsi. Beto was sentenced to an initial 18 months after pleading guilty to charges of money laundering, criminal conspiracy and corruption of officials. Beto changed his plea from innocent to guilty after being confronted with a notebook found in his house listing business transactions including names and dollar amounts. He has pledged to cooperate with authorities during the ongoing investigation.

The 18 month sentence is just the beginning. During this period judges will be deciding on the merits of at least 10 separate charges, which could conceivably lead to a 30 year prison term.

During country-wide elections for mayor and regional presidents held this month, at least1300 candidates are known to have criminal records. Peru law allows convicted felons to run for and hold office if a court has declared them to be ‘rehabilitated’. Presumably each of the 1300 rehabilitated candidates is dedicated to running a clean administration.

Chiclayo’s new mayor David Cornejo Chinguel takes office January 2. He has pledged to “…eliminate the scourge of corruption and theft in government”. Vamos a ver.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Tribute to Special Education

Every year on a day in October special education is commemorated throughout Peru. It is done in recognition of the schools, teachers and the kids themselves. Today one of Chiclayo’s special educations schools; La Victoria, held their celebration at the Beirut Restaurant. We felt privileged in being asked to help sponsor and attend.

Approximately 25 of La Victoria’s 35 special education students were in attendance. The age range appeared to be from 4 – 5 to late teens. The differences in cognitive ability were striking, with some seemingly only slightly impaired and others nearly catatonic. About half of those present were able to understand the directions of the clown and participate in the games. The others were less able to focus but seemed to enjoy the excitement around them.

The highlight of the day was when candy was handed out and the cake was about to be cut. At that moment the excited anticipation and laughter of the kids made them indistinguishable from ordinary kids everywhere. The highlighted phrase on the banner reads, “People, like birds in flight are different but equal in their right to fly”.

Our hats are off to these teachers. We have no doubt that the patience and loving care we saw them display toward the kids on this day happens every day at the special education school of La Victoria. In our view the kids and the teachers are special.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Discovering Chiclayo’s Street Art

It was one of those days where I felt like writing but couldn't think of anything to write about, so I put a camera in my pocket and Maribel and I took a walk to look for something inspiring. It took awhile before we discovered that what we were looking for was right under our noses, and had been there all along.

Street art is probably a worldwide phenomenon. There are lots of talented people, and when given a blank wall to express themselves on they can produce some really beautiful art…at least in my opinion.

This is where the idea for this post came from. We walk past sidewalk chalk artists almost every day, usually oblivious to their work. On this day for no real reason his creation caught our attention, which started us wondering about what other ‘art’ might exist on the streets of Chiclayo. We didn’t see any other chalk artists on this day, but we did discover dozens of street murals, most of which we’d probably walked past hundreds of times without noticing.  

Other than the chalk art I don’t think I've ever seen street art actually being created. I guess I assumed that phantoms painted these wall murals in the dark of the night, so I was surprised when we came across these folks doing their thing. The guy holding the hat had quite a few coins in it contributed by passers-by. We were told the mural would be finished that afternoon.

This photo shows the finished product. It reads, “Cañaris, you are not alone!” Cañaris is an isolated district of 38 villages in a remote section of the Lambayeque Region. It has the reputation of a dangerous area. It is difficult to reach and receives minimum government attention. The majority of the people speak Quechua, the language of the Inca. The photos following are a sample of other murals we came across.

This could probably be called neighborhood pride street art. It reads, "A town with culture is a progressive town".

This mural extends uninterrupted for nearly one-quarter mile. It depicts historical events both real and mythical, and cultural aspects of the region. It is one part of an elaborate beautification project on a major street in Chiclayo.

There are some very talented people in Chiclayo. We're looking forward to discovering more of their work.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Bad Day for Beto

There are some days when just nothing goes right. Yesterday was that kind of day for Roberto ‘Beto’ Torres, the mayor of Chiclayo.

First, he discovered that he finished far back in the mayoral election on Sunday, perhaps marking the end of his political career. But worse than that, after 8 days of being a fugitive on charges of money laundering, embezzlement and corrupting public officials, Beto was arrested in the town of Mocupe located 25 miles south of Chiclayo.

He was discovered in a two-room house on the edge of town, reportedly owned by a friend. It is assumed that living conditions for the past 8 days were somewhat less than Beto was accustomed to.

Beto had only $8 in his pocket when arrested, claiming to police that this was proof of his innocence. The absence of ready cash can probably be attributed to Beto’s overgenerous nature, as evidenced by the $180,000 in cash plus jewelry and clothing found in the home of his 24 year old unemployed girlfriend. A value has not yet been placed on the dozens of 'bunny' and other fetish costumes found there. Beto further explained that the $2,500,000 found in his Chiclayo home is not his belongs to his father. One wonders how dad likes being thrown under the bus by his son.

But on a bright note – a family reunion of sorts was held later in the day in a Chiclayo jail where Beto’s father, daughter, girlfriend and about 20 others were also being held after being named in criminal indictments as part of Beto’s organization. In contrast to most family reunions, this one was subdued. There was no singing or dancing, and food choices were limited.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Run Beto, run…..

As of this writing Chiclayo’s mayor Beto Torres remains a fugitive, with police intensifying their efforts to apprehend him. So far 27 people have been detained by police, including the city manager, some common council members, Beto’s girlfriend (photo), and a police officer in the anticorruption unit. Cash, jewelry and other valuables were found by police while conducting 13 separate raids two nights ago. Court documents accuse Beto and the others of setting up ‘shadow corporations’ and awarding city contracts to those corporations. They would then sell those contracts to legitimate (?) companies for a sizable kickback.

Corruption in Peru goes with the territory. It is not accepted, but it is expected. The assumption is that every public employee, from the President to a postal worker is corrupt unless proven otherwise. That is probably too sweeping of an indictment, but one that all too often proves to be true.

The question is will Beto be caught and if so, where and when? There is probably no truth to reports that he is en route to Venezuela where he will apply for asylum and try to convince a sympathetic Maduro that the whole affair is a plot by the United States to discredit him.

Looking for a rental apartment in Pimentel?

There is a modern, completely furnished 3bd 3bath second floor condo with a huge balcony overlooking the beach available now for a one-year lease of $800/month. The boardwalk is located right outside the front door. The building and parking stall has 24 hour security. The condo is owned by friends of ours. We have spent many enjoyable hours there and can vouch for the apartment’s attractiveness and comfort. If interested send an email to me and we’ll put you in touch with the owners.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mr. Mayor…where are you?

As of this writing Chiclayo’s long-time mayor and leading candidate in this coming Sunday’s election, Roberto ‘Beto’ Torres is missing. Police raided his home yesterday, and though Beto was not there, they did find three suitcases full of money – about $2,150,000 USD. Another $180,000 was confiscated from the home of a female associate. At least twelve of Beto’s associates have been detained by police for questioning. A judge has issued an arrest warrant for Beto.

Beto has always run on a platform of “my hands are clean.” His detractors don’t disagree, but add that his clean hands are a natural result of washing so much money for so many years. Perhaps the three suitcases were destined for the laundry.

What this means for Sunday’s election is anyone’s guess. Probably there will be stepped up campaigning by the other candidates. And who knows? Maybe Beto will win another term, and reclaim his laundry. It could happen. The guy is a proven survivor.