Tuesday, December 23, 2014

One Last Pleasant Task

We thought that the chocolatadas in San Bernardino and El Pavo would be our last activities for the year but that was before we received a generous donation from Mrs. Taylor with instructions to use it to “help a needy family”. In the desert villages of the Lambayeque Region the word ‘needy’ is a matter of degrees. Nearly all of the families are needy; it’s just that some are poorer than others.

During the chocolatada in San Bernardino we asked Rosa, one of the pronoei directors if she could steer us to a needy family in the village. She told us of the Pinglo Santa Maria family, adding that she occasionally helps them with a bag of rice or article of clothing.

The Pinglo Santa Marias live in a modest adobe house on the edge of the village. Maria Ines and her husband Porfirio have six children: Maria 13, Daisy 12, Maritza 5, Janina 3, Giancarlo 2 and Luis Miguel 6 months, who is sleeping in the bag suspended from the ceiling. Porfirio works in farm fields owned by others. Maria takes care of the house and kids. Based on our walk through the village and discussion with others, the Pinglo Santa Marias probably are the poorest of the poor in San Bernardino.

When we asked Maria what would help her she said food and clothing for the kids, so that is what we returned with today. Maria had taken the baby to a clinic so was not at home when we arrived. Her mother was there watching the kids. Shown on the table is everything from paneton to toilet paper. There are noodles, rice, sugar, tuna, cooking oil, chocolate and candy among other things. Some of the canned and packaged items are probably new to the family, being beyond their financial means. Augmented with food from their garden these items will probably carry them through for the next four weeks.

Each of the six children were given two pairs of shorts and two tops. The family won’t need to buy clothing for the kids for the coming summer months.

Half of the village kids were in that house thirty seconds after we arrived. It was hard to ignore their stares as we gave a toy to each of Maria's three youngest kids. Maritza already had her toy from the chocolatada.

Maribel and I were impressed with the responsibility shown by Maria and Daisy, the two older girls. They took charge of the food, toys and clothing, telling their siblings they couldn’t eat, wear or play with anything until mom came back. We like to see those indications of training and discipline in the home.

It was a good experience in San Bernardino this morning. Lots of happy people including us! Mrs. Taylor, thank you from the Pinglo Santa Maria family, and thank you from Promesa Peru for allowing us to finish our year on a high note.

Happy Holiday Season to Everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Marcos’s House

We were about fifteen miles south of Tùcume, returning from the San Bernardino chocolatada when Marcos turned off the highway onto a dirt road. He said he wanted to show us something. He and Saida, me and Maribel were all feeling that combination of satisfaction and weariness we usually experience after a successful event and weren’t quite ready to return to Chiclayo. We drove for several miles and with each passing mile the road got narrower and the houses fewer. At a point in the road he slowed and began to turn, and when I saw what he apparently was going to turn onto, I couldn’t believe it. He eased the car onto a mud ramp that stood two feet above a surrounding, recently plowed field. The ramp led to a tiny house several hundred yards in the distance. If Marcos had varied the car three inches either way, of if a small section of the ramp had collapsed I have no doubt that we would have spent the night in his car, waiting for a tow truck the next morning. But he didn’t vary and it didn’t collapse, and after several harrowing minutes (for me and Maribel) we arrived at the house.

This is the house Marcos was born in. It sits on an island surround by farm fields as far as the eye can see. The house was built, and the fields farmed years ago by Marcos’s father. The father is gone…the fields now owned by Marcos and his siblings are rented to others to farm. But the house remains and will remain as a tribute to their father.

The adobe house had two rooms, one used as a bedroom and the other for everything else. Though the roof is gone, the walls are still surprisingly intact. On the west side of the house there is a bench and a flat rock. The rock was the father’s favorite place to sit after the day’s chores were finished – the kids and mom sat on the bench.

There are grape arbors on two sides of the house, where several of the ancient vines are still producing grapes. Shading the house is a small grove of mango trees of two varieties – criollo and alcanforado. The branches were drooping with fruit. On the south side of the house there are two tamarindo trees, also loaded with fruit. Marcos shook the branches while Maribel and Saida gathered the fallen fruit.

While the others were gathering mangos and tamarindo I slowly circled and listened to the house. It talked to me. I sat on the rock that Marcos’s father sat on and listened as he must have done to the wind rustling the leaves of the mango trees. Occasionally I could hear the others talking, and once a single-engine plane passed in the distance, but beyond that there was nothing…only the wind in the trees.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The El Pavo chocolatada

I’d like to start this post with a general observation about small desert villages and ‘events’, be it a birthday, anniversary or chocolatada. After five years of attending these things, It seems to me that the purpose of these activities is to have the event…. enjoying it isn’t even a consideration. All the ingredients for fun are there – a cause, food and music, but rarely is there laughter. That’s not a complaint, merely an observation. If that’s the custom and culture of these villagers, fine with me.

Brian is home during a university break and offered to help with the El Pavo chocolatada. He has seen poor villages in his travels but I think he was a bit surprised at the degree of poverty in El Pavo. His question to me, “This is the school….?” is what tipped me off.

Those parents who had the means chose to dress the kids in their best finery. The school director Amalia started the activities by leading the kids in a song. They sang Cholito Jesus, a common song that is sung at Christmas in schools throughout Peru.

While the kids were singing, the village women brought the food that they had prepared in their homes into the classroom. It was the standard chocolatada meal; chicken, paneton, and hot chocolate, followed by empanadas, candy and juice that had been donated by Promesa Peru member Yescenia.

When we began to hand out the toys we heard ooohs and ahhhs from several of the parents. The toys we gave to the kids were not extravagant, but the parents were expecting balls and other simple toys. If you click on the photo and look at the little girl lower left, you’ll see that she has discovered that her doll lights up and talks. Those are the good moments at a chocolatada.

This is a rare photo at a chocolatada… showing village men who attended. Usually they are either working or for whatever reason never show up. These men stood in the background and didn’t participate, but upon our leaving each of them thanked us for our contribution.  

The El Pavo villagers are poor and uneducated. They don’t have much but they do know how to work the land…and to show appreciation. They gave us these food items to take home with us.

Our thanks to Chris R, Amy B, Ray and Rose, Yescenia, Pablo and especially to Graham T for donating the toys.

Friday, December 19, 2014

It’s always a good idea to start a chocolatada…..

…. with a clown. People in villages like San Bernardino aren’t accustomed to organized events, and particularly to events sponsored by strangers so the atmosphere at first is always reserved. The clown quickly relaxes them, and when he gets the kids, parents and teachers involved in games and foolishness things really start to loosen up. Payasito the clown did a good job of setting the tone for the remainder of the time.

This is the classic chocolatada meal…pantone, empanadas, chicken and hot chocolate. The second course consisted of candy, cookies and orange juice. The kids knew that toys would be next so most of them ate at warp speed or gave what was left of their food to their mothers so they could show that their plates were empty. 

The reaction to the toys wasn’t what we expected. There wasn’t the excitement we usually see, and only a few of the kids took the toys out of the containers. Later we were told that most of the mothers had told their kids not to play with the toys until they got home and could share them with their siblings.

Teachers Viviana and Rosa had done most of the organizing including arranging for us to use the primary school for the party.

The Promesa Peru ‘crew’ included Maribel, Marcos, Saida and our newest member Yescenia. Yescenia had gathered donations of candy, used clothing, shoes and household items which were given to the teachers to be distributed to the villagers.

Three hours after it started the party was over. Mothers carrying leftover food, and kids with their toys returned to their homes. That was yesterday. Later today our crew will be returning to the Tùcume District for the El Pavo chocolatada. It’s going to be a smaller, less involved event. We’re curious to see how it turns out.

Thanks to Chris R, Amy B, Ray and Rose, and Graham T for making both chocolatadas possible.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It’s interesting how things work out

Six weeks ago it looked as if we wouldn’t be able to sponsor a chocolatada. Now we’re four days away from a chocolatada for two pronoeis in San Bernardino, and the following day in El Pavo. All the arrangements are in place and everything is bought and paid for. And on top of that we’ve just received a generous donation for the purpose of “helping needy families.” There are going to be a lot of happy and grateful kids, parents and teachers in those villages this Christmas season, and all because some caring and generous people stepped forward. 

We know you don’t need our thanks but we offer it anyway. Thank you. We hope you’ll enjoy the posts and photos to come.

Monday, December 1, 2014

You did it and we thank you

You did it. We’ve got the money for a chocolatada for both pronoeis in San Bernardino. It will take place on Thursday, December 18 at 2:00 PM. The primary school has agreed to let us use their facility which has plenty of room for the 50 kids plus parents, teachers and others attending. We’ve already purchased most of the toys and will soon buy the paneton and hot chocolate ingredients. The clown and transportation are arranged for. The Parent’s association will provide the food. Everything is in place.

It’s going to be a fun-filled and enjoyable afternoon and I don’t want to detract from it at all, but as we're buying these things Maribel and I can’t help but think of the 8 other schools we had to say no to, and especially the kids in the village of El Pavo, where we donated classroom equipment a few months ago. That village is just.....it's so poor and forlorn. If we hadn't already committed to trying to raise funds for a chocolatada for San Bernardino we would have chosen El Pavo instead. We spoke yesterday with the school director Amalia, hoping that a merchant or two in Tucùme might have donated things for a chocolatada, but no luck. This morning over breakfast we made a decision. We're going to give toys to those kids.

There are 15 of them…3 boys and 12 girls.  

This is a list of their names. The cost for a toy like those shown above is $7. If you'd like to provide a toy for Grecia or Kiara or Dayan or any of the others please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. That would take some of the financial burden from us and will give those kids something to treasure. Thank you.

*UPDATE* A very generous individual has donated the money to purchase toys for all 15 kids in El Pavo. We will provide panetone, candy and hot chocolate. El Pavo is going to have a chocolatada this year! Any further donations received this month will be held for activities in the coming year.