Monday, December 28, 2015

Promesa Peru 2015 Year in Review

It doesn’t seem possible that we’re looking at 2015 in the rear-view mirror. To our group it feels like we were putting our plans together just a few weeks ago. Those plans called for us to do eight projects at an estimated cost of $3400. We felt that eight projects; one every six weeks plus a chocolatada in December was as much as we could handle and still have personal time for ourselves. We were less sure we could raise the money to support the plan. As it turned out we sponsored thirteen activities; nine school equipment projects, a school anniversary celebration, two chocolatadas, and provided school supplies to a needy family. There were times in the 2nd quarter when we felt a bit overwhelmed but it was manageable. The cost of these projects was $4519.45. They were:

February – Pinglo family school supplies
April – Conchucos pronoei school equipment
April – Conchucos primary school equipment
June – Santos Vera pronoei school equipment
July – Las Salinas pronoei school equipment
July – Los Riojas pronoei school equipment
July – Los Riojas primary school equipment
August – Los Reynoza primary school equipment
September – Sapamè primary school equipment
September – Las Salinas primary school equipment
October – La Raya primary school anniversary celebration
December - Las Salinas chocolatada
December – Los Reynoza chocolatada

Included in ‘school equipment’ are chairs, tables, storage shelves, white boards, propane gas stoves with gas tanks, teaching aids, and for the students cups, plates, school supplies and uniforms. Beginning in 2016 any chairs we provide will be wood instead of plastic. The cost will be about $18 per chair as opposed to $4 for plastic but we’ve seen too many plastic chairs collapse and break. Wood chairs are safer, last longer and can be repaired by parent’s association members.

All but two of our projects were in the Tùcume District. We would have preferred to work in the Tumàn District because poverty is more extreme there and it is closer to Chiclayo which saves time and reduces transportation cost but because of the lack of financial support from either the sugar cane cooperative or the Tumàn Education Office the school year was a shambles. Teachers were not paid; school supplies were not furnished and school maintenance was ignored. This post contains a more detailed explanation of the issue. It has been reported recently that both parties have reached agreement on financial responsibility for the education sector. Hopefully schools can open for the new term in March under near-normal conditions.

We visited five village schools that we declined to get involved with, either because we didn’t see evidence of the community trying to help themselves or in our opinion their need wasn’t urgent compared to other villages. Sometimes a situation is borderline and it’s difficult to say no but our time and financial resources are limited. We’re happy and satisfied with those projects we did sponsor but would have liked to have found something out of the ordinary such as the Alice Cool library project in 2014. Maybe this year will give us something new to work with.

We started the year slowly because of the unexpected turmoil in the Tumàn District, not completing our first school project until April. The year 2016 looks to be different. We already have requests to visit four schools starting in January when registrations begin plus a backlog of two schools we didn’t get to in 2015. The psychology department of the University of Sipàn has student teams working with schools in the region and they have begun referring needy schools to us. And if the situation is indeed back to normal in the Tumàn District we anticipate many calls from school directors there.

We provided educational assistance for 196 students this past year. In every classroom we visited we made a brief speech directed at the kids. We talked about why Promesa Peru is helping to provide the opportunity to study; that their education is important for them, their families and for the development of Peru. We tell them that every parent wants their child to have a better life than they have (any parents present always emphatically nod their heads), and education is the only route to that better life. We ask them to promise to stay away from crime and drugs; telling them that education builds futures...crime and drugs destroys them. We’re always hopeful that the message gets through to at least some of them.

If we’re going to continue to spread that message we’re going to need help. As already mentioned indications are that it could be a very busy 2016 if we have financial support. Donations can be made anytime for any amount at the Promesa Peru webpage. 

The thirteen activities we sponsored in 2015 were made possible by Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, the Alice Cool Foundation and others. Thank you. Because of you those 196 students have a better chance at a brighter future.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Grand Chocolatada

Though Juanita Amenero moved to Los Angeles California 30 years ago with her family she never forgot her Chiclayo roots. The family prospered in Los Angeles and every year without fail she financed a chocolatada for her old neighborhood. Juanita passed away in 2014 and now her sons are carrying on the tradition.

There is an incredible amount of work that goes into organizing a chocolatada for 300 kids in a Chiclayo neighborhood, beginning with the permit needed to close and erect a structure on a city street. Then there’s chair rental, entertainment contracts, soliciting donations and dozens of other details. This chocolatada was held last Sunday.

Fortunately there are dozens of volunteers from the neighborhood who have participated in past chocolatadas and know the routine for distributing food, chocolate milk and toys. They also do a great job of controlling 300 kids. Just trying to keep the kids in their seats is a monumental task. With the exception of nursing mothers adults are prohibited.

The Juanita Amenero Foundation was created both as a memorial to Juanita and for a mechanism to continue her philanthropy. Ricardo Amenero (pictured) and his brother Victor, both living in Los Angeles are two of the principals and though they spend several thousand dollars to sponsor the December chocolatada their main focus as was their mother’s is to help needy families. Every year six families are selected to receive what amounts to nearly total support for a year. Children’s school expenses are covered. They are given clothing when needed and on the 20th of every month food is delivered to their door. But before receiving aid the families are asked to promise in front of witnesses that they will not sell or do anything other than use personally what they are given. Maribel was asked to be a witness to the oath-taking. The foundation also awarded $600 in scholarships though we don’t know the particulars.

To finance their activities the foundation relies on the generosity of a substantial Peruvian population in the greater Los Angeles area. Various kinds of fund raisers are held throughout the year, and there are a significant number of people who donate monthly to the fund.

We were impressed by what we saw and learned. During a discussion with Ricardo we talked about possible synergies between Promesa Peru and the Juanita Amenero Foundation and agreed to stay in contact.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Come See Our Tree

In the late 1940s there was a Christmas tradition in our extended family. I don’t know that the tradition ever had a name but the theme was ‘come see our tree.’ It involved maybe 8 to 10 families. Each family would extend an invitation to see their tree; always between Christmas and New Year. Conflicting dates/times would be resolved and a visitation schedule would evolve. Sometimes there were two or three visits on the same day.

What would happen is everyone would meet at the appointed time for example at Aunt Annie’s and Uncle Ollie’s house. Christmas cookies and beverages were provided by the hosts. While the guests were munching cookies the hosts would show their tree and the presents they’d received. Oohs and ahhs were mandatory. Aunt Annie was really good at withering looks of disapproval if the proper appreciation was not forthcoming. My dad referred to her as “any face” because of the countless expressions she had in her arsenal. They and everyone from that generation are gone so I can say that without offending anyone.

The trees were fresh; bought at one of the many lots that sprang up on Milwaukee’s south-side, so each tree was unique. I vividly remember walking up and down the rows of trees, hoping my dad would buy one so we could leave. There was always a chill and dampness in those lots that didn’t seem natural to me. It was kind of spooky. If mom was with us I could count on this verbal exchange between them - “Hank, don’t tie that tree on the car top. It’ll fall off.” Dad would reply, “Dorothy, it’s going on top! I don’t want those damn needles in the trunk!” It always went on top and never fell off.

You could sort of gauge a family’s financial condition by the type and height of their tree…the taller the tree the more it cost. A 6’ Scotch pine was the cheapest and that’s what most of us had. If you had an 8’ Douglas fir…well, you were the cat’s meow. There were no artificial trees that I remember. You could buy a spray to ‘flock’ your tree but no one in our family did it. That was for snooty rich people earning $2.00 an hour or more and living in $30,000 houses. Tree decorations were usually a mix of boughten and home-made ornaments, many of the later being generations old. Christmas cookies were home-baked, and here too it was proper form to compliment the hostess. For Christmas drinks there was beer and soda with ginger ale being a favorite, but also a cocktail. Brandy alexanders and strawberry daiquiris were favorites of the ladies while the men usually opted for ‘a shot ‘n beer.’ For us kids the cookies and soda were the best part of those visits. They wouldn’t let us play with the new toys under the tree. After two hours or so we’d leave and regroup at Aunt Helen’s and Uncle Tony’s house where the whole scenario would be repeated.

The presents under the trees were usually socks, ties or underwear for the men (gee…thanks a lot! I really needed this!). The kids would have a few modest toys; dolls for the girls and cowboy stuff for the boys. The women usually were given jewelry but occasionally a man would buy a new stove or set of pots and pans for his wife “for her kitchen.” The other women would turn green with envy. All the jewelry giving guys knew that during the drive home they’d be hearing some version of, “…I hope you saw what Bill gave Evelyn?” How times have changed!

Those Christmas visits provided a lot of enjoyment, and helped to refresh family bonds. They also provided fodder for critiques afterward. When my mother and her sister got together I’d hear comments like: “…and that necklace Frank gave Judy that she was making such a fuss about? Well I know I saw it at the five-and-dime two weeks ago.” or, “Marge used too much sugar in her cookies again. Why doesn’t somebody tell her?” and, “don’t tell me Alice baked those cookies. I know bakery cookies when I see them!” There were occasional comments about someone’s cocktail, “…there wasn’t much brandy in Carl’s brandy alexanders but I suppose they need their money for other things; he’s not working steady you know.” They had to know that others were likely making similar comments about them and that was probably their justification. Except for grandmas and grandpas. You never back-bit a grandma or grandpa. It just wasn’t done. If something wasn’t quite right at their house during the Christmas visit you excused it because of their age and respect due them. Everybody else was fair game. Including me. We were at Aunt Helen and Uncle Huntz’s house. They had Grandpa Graf root beer which was my favorite soda. I asked for a second bottle and was told by Uncle Huntz that I’d already had one bottle. I blurted out, “but you had three beers!” Word got back to my mother that Aunt Helen said I was ill-behaved. Well la-di-da!

Though the men complained about having to wear a tie I think all of us; adults and kids looked forward to ‘come see our tree’. The holiday season wouldn’t have seemed complete without it. I miss that tradition and the heady aroma of pine resin. That kind of thing isn’t done here in Chiclayo. Some families put up a few lights but I don’t see many trees, though there is a wide variety sold in stores. Families here do get together for Christmas and New Year dinner but it’s not a ‘come see our tree’ type thing. Maribel says that in the past it was common for people to erect large nativity scenes in their homes. Neighborhood kids would know who had a nativity and would go to the house and sing Christmas carols. The owner of the house would give the kids candy and chocolate milk.

We put up a tree this year. It’s artificial but it looks okay. I doubt if you can buy a real tree in this desert. The ornaments are mostly recently purchased but there are some that are personalized, like my old military dog tags, two Moroccan coin spoons, a mini-ball from the Gettysburg battlefield and an original nail from President Andrew Jackson’s hermitage home. And an acorn from Wisconsin. Don’t ask why we hung those things on our tree…we don’t know.

I’ll tell you what…in an attempt to start a Christmas visit tradition here in Chiclayo we invite you to come see our tree! We’ve got panetòn, beer and wine, and I’ll try to make a drinkable Señor Sipàn cocktail. How does that sound? There is one stipulation though. If you do come, please don’t talk about us afterwards….unless it’s complimentary.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

About Frank ‘n me ‘n Birthdays

Yesterday me and Frank Sinatra celebrated our birthdays. Frank was 100, or would have been if he hadn’t died in 1998. But when you’re a somebody like Frank it doesn’t matter if you’re dead…people continue to celebrate your birthday. Family, Friends and wannabes show up at some posh location decked out in their finest hoping to be seen on the next day’s news. And they don’t have to pony up for presents.

I was 75 yesterday. I didn’t think I’d make it this far. When I was a kid life expectancy was 67 years. You retired at 65 and died two years later, hopefully having enjoyed the allotted 730 days of your golden years. Now life expectancy is 79. That raises a question…which mortality table applies to me? If I go by the 1940 table I’ve lived eight years longer than average. Based on the 2014 table I’ve can expect maybe four or more years before my ticket to the white light express gets punched. But I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m still on the right side of the grass and enjoying life and that’s what counts.

the Tom Filipowicz Combo 
Frank and I have more in common than just birthdates. Frank was a singer. I was a singer. Frank earned a lot of money and won many awards for his singing. I did not. In the late 1950s and early 60s I had a band called the Tom Filipowicz Combo. There were four of us. I was the vocalist. We performed for weddings, birthdays, graduations and other activities, earning not much more than expense money. I added a female vocalist to the group who turned out to be pretty good, and shortly after that two of the guys suggested we go to Vegas and take a shot at breaking into the big time. I chickened out. They went, and one-by-one became disillusioned and went on to other things, except for Terry (playing the guitar) who stayed in Vegas and lived out his life as a session musician. Those were different times. The band and my voice are long gone, though I can still occasionally be heard in the shower belting out, ’…and that’s why the lady is a tramp!’

as Herr Schultz in Cabaret singing the pineapple song
Frank was an actor. I was an actor. Frank earned a lot of money and won many awards for his acting. I did not. I was okay as a community actor; at least the local reviewers thought so. My favorite role was that of the defense attorney Sir Wilfrid Robarts in Agatha Christie’s…’The Witness for the Prosecution.’ My favorite production was ‘Cabaret’ staged by the Actors Repertory Theater. I portrayed Herr Schultz. The male and female leads were New York professionals as was the director. The rest of us were locals. We did 17 evening shows and two matinees – each performance to a packed house. That was my first paid acting gig. I still have a copy of the first check somewhere. My acting in Cabaret led to some paid script writing and acting for in-house promotions for a Green Bay television station for about a year, but that was the extent of my entertainment career. Thankfully I never gave up my day job.

There were gala celebrations for Frank in many major cities in the USA and around the planet plus an all-star television special, but the “really big shew” as Ed Sullivan used to say was at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. Frank Sinatra Jr. and everyone who is anyone was there. Afterwards they probably dined on exotic dishes like Coquilles Saint-Jacques followed by bùche for desert and drank Dom Perignon at $400 a bottle.

My birthday party was at a back table in Chili’s restaurant in the Chiclayo mall. We dined on exotic dishes with names like ‘big mouth burger’ and ‘chicken fried chicken’ and drank Peruvian beer at $2 a pop. Okay…so it wasn’t the Saban Theater and there were no television cameras or tuxedos or fancy foods, but friends being together sharing convivial conversation and laughter aren’t the exclusive domain of high-rollers at celebrity parties, and we had our share of both.
In the evening there was another celebration, this time with family at a restaurant on the sixth floor of the Saranga Hotel. These are some of the same folks I celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday with, except for my niece CJ who is seven. At that time I had known them and Maribel for only four days, being on my first trip to Peru.

After returning home Maribel commented that “the whole day flowed like a river.” It really did. This was one of my more enjoyable birthdays. It was a relaxing day spent with friends and family. I couldn't ask for more.

Maybe in five years I’ll write another post about our birthdays when Frank is 105 and I’m 80. I’ll bet Frank’s party won’t be nearly as spectacular as the one this year. Reaching 105 is no big deal if you’re dead. It’s automatic…everyone does it. Turning 80 will be a milestone for me and I’ll be ready for another party. But this time no Chili’s restaurant. I’m thinking that the San Martin Ballroom at the JW Marriott Hotel in Lima Peru will be the place to be Saturday evening, December 12, 2020. Watch your email for the invitation.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Special Christmas Card

Last week at the chocolatada in Los Reynoza we were given a Christmas card. It was hand-made by Chiara…a young German woman who has been assisting the teachers at the school since last July. She will be returning to Germany at the end of this month. 

Things were a bit hectic at the time Chiara gave us the card so we didn’t look at it until we returned home. After reading it Maribel commented that the card really belongs to the people who funded our involvement with the school. She’s right. Please take a moment to read it.

Our primary purpose is to help with the education process, and according to Chiara what we’re doing…what you’re doing is working. And so to Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, the Alice Cool Foundation and others who helped us not only with Los Reynoza but many other schools throughout the year, this one's for you.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Nice Finish to a Good Year

The chocolatada this morning at the primary school in Los Reynoza was well planned. School director Fulgencia Lizana, her staff and mothers of the students had put a lot of effort into organizing the event. Decorations, chairs and tables, CD player and other things were all in place when we arrived. Mothers had started cooking early in the morning so lunch would be ready when it was needed. All of that preparation is the reason why the chocolatada went off without a hitch.

Fulgencia started the day with an inspiring speech. She talked about the effort the kids had shown and their progress during the year. She mentioned the work of the parent’s association in keeping the school in good condition. She thanked her staff and Chiara, a young woman from Germany who has been assisting since last July. But most importantly she talked about the value of education and how the kids need to keep focused. Lastly she singled out the six boys who were graduating and going to secondary school in Tùcume. Today would be their final involvement with this school.

Following Fulgencia’s speech one of the graduating boys took the microphone and said he loved this school and the teachers and was sad to leave. He thanked Promesa Peru for the help we had given the school and finished by saying, “I am leaving but I hope you will still watch over this school.”

Koko Roco the clown was a big hit with the kids and parents. Unlike the younger pronoei kids Wednesday at Las Salinas they were not afraid of him and were eager to be a part of his games. As usual he did a great job of involving kids and parents.
When the clown had finished it was time to eat. This is the traditional chocolatada meal, consisting of hot chocolate, paneton (sweetbread), chicken and an empanada. The parents association provided the hot chocolate, chicken and empanadas. We supplied the paneton, and on a previous visit the plates, cups, uniforms and the gas stove the chicken was cooked on.

Following the meal and clean-up the last thing on the agendas was to give the toys to the kids. We and the teachers were in a classroom determining which kid would get which toy, and you wouldn’t believe the number of excuses those kids came up with to try to get into the room to see the toys. As much as they enjoyed the clown, getting their toys was the highlight for the kids. And seeing the expressions on their faces, it’s probably the highlight for us too.
This will be Promesa Peru’s last activity for 2015. It was a great way to finish the year. Out thanks to Chris Raupe, Clif Brown and others who made this chocolatada one that will be remembered for a long time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Chocolatada for Copitos de Amor

The school term for many schools finished early this year on November 1st and some schools are taking advantage of the early closing by holding their chocolatadas this week before the feared weather phenomenon El Niño arrives. Last July Karina Suyon, the director of the pronoei Copitos de Amor in the village of Las Salinas asked if we could sponsor a chocolatada and we agreed that hers would be one of two schools we would sponsor this December.

We were there at 10:00am this morning in time to see the mothers finish decorating. The festivities started with Koko Roko the clown. He tried hard but was only able to get about half of the kids to participate. You have to realize that these pronoei kids are 3 to 5 years old, live in remote villages, have never seen a live clown and they’re afraid of him.

None of the kids were afraid when toys were handed out, though trying to get them together for a group photo with their toys was impossible. Karina and we finally gave up. The table in the background is loaded with panetone, cookies, candy, marshmallows and I don’t know what else. We probably over did it but it won’t go to waste. After the toys were distributed there was a meal of chicken and panetone with hot chocolate.

It was a chocolatada enjoyed very much by the kids and their mothers. To Chris Raupe, Clif Brown and the others who contributed, these people know that you donated to their chocolatada. This photo is their way and ours of saying thank you.

Monday, November 23, 2015

“I Don’t Go There”

Flag down a taxi anywhere in Chiclayo. Tell the driver you want to go to Colinas de Las Brisas. Nine out of ten will tell you “I don’t go there.” The one who will won’t go there at night.

Colinas de Las Brisas is what’s known by the ambiguous term as a ‘human settlement’ (squatters camp) on the outskirts of Chiclayo. It looks and feels like one of those decimated cities in an apocalyptic zombie movie that still harbors a remnant of human society . It has a well deserved reputation as the most dangerous place in Chiclayo. There is very little pedestrian or vehicle traffic during daylight hours. At night there is none. The people who live here aren’t here by choice. They are the poorest of the poor and have nowhere else to go.

The pronoei “Semillitas Kids” (this is the third pronoei we’ve visited recently with that same name) is a colorful island amidst the drab landscape. The house is owned by Cecilia (right) who is also the teacher.

We were there this morning in response to another invitation from two University of Sipàn psychology students, Bridgeth and Angelita who have been working with the parents of this school. As stated in previous posts, the theme of the student's work is to stress the importance and integration of family, school and kids.

Cecilia loves kids and teaching and believes strongly in education which is evident in the appearance of the pronoei. Outside, the picket fence, boulders, shrubbery and painted walls were a result of her prodding the parents association to get involved.

Last year she led the parents in a successful campaign to get sport uniforms. According to her the strategy was for each student to tell, not ask, every relative…aunts, uncles, and cousins etc to donate a small sum for a uniform. A bit heavy-handed perhaps, but it worked.  

For the past 5 years one room of the house has been a pronoei for about 28 students on average. The room is small but cheery. Cecelia’s son owns a house a short distance away. It has a larger room that he is willing to let the pronoei occupy but first he needs to complete the roof. It is hoped that will happen sometime next year.

At first glance there seems to be a wealth of teaching aids on a shelf in a corner but upon examination there are puzzles with pieces missing, tangrams with the colors worn completely off and old books with pages missing. In our view the entire collection should be trashed. The same can be said for about half of the plastic chairs in the room.

Cecelia has asked for new teaching aids, tables and chairs for the next school term. We’ll visit her classroom again in February or March to talk about the specifics…if we can find a taxi driver who’ll go there.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Potpourri in Patapo

Lots of interesting things going on in Patapo this Saturday morning. What brought us there was another invitation from university psychology students to visit a pronoei they were working with. This was a different group than the one in my previous post but from the same school; the University of Sipàn. Pronoei "Semillitas Kids" is located in the city of Patapo. It has been located in the same private home for the last four years. In the afternoon the owner uses the space to operate a business of some sort.

The university students (it ought to be illegal to be that young!) were there to talk to parents about how the home environment can positively or negatively affect the classroom environment. About a dozen mothers attended the session. Cecelia (pink blouse) has been the director/teacher for seven years; four at this location and three at a previous site. She has 30 kids in this school term. About 10 will graduate to primary school but there are more than enough new 3 year olds to take their place. We agreed to visit her classroom again next January when early registration begins to talk about what she may need.

There was a fair going on in Patapo for the past week that we didn’t know about. It ends next Monday. I was surprised at how extensive it was, with kiosks offering everything from shoes to flowers, food and fish. Many restaurants shared the streets with carnival booths offering games and rides. It wasn’t in full stride yet this morning but I imagine that later tonight the town of Patapo will be swinging.

After walking the streets and seeing what the fair had to offer we looked for a restaurant to get something to eat and to relax for awhile. Señora Muñoz’s chicharrôn stand got our attention because of the mouth watering aroma of fried pork and the huge pig waiting its turn for the skillet. All it took was an order for two portions of chicharrôn and a question about the pig to get Señora Muñoz talking non-stop.

The pig was a 24 month old female that she said weighed 330 kilos. That would be about 730 pounds. Not sure if I buy that but it’s possible. Wikipedia says that domestic pigs can weigh from 110 to 770 pounds. She and her husband raised it from a new born piglet. When its growth had maxed out there was a difference of opinion about what to do with it. Señora Muñoz said her husband was sentimental and wanted to sell it instead of butchering it. To which she replied, “Are you crazy? We can make four times as much selling it for chicharrôn than by selling it whole!” Her husband relented but said he could not kill it. When I asked Señora Muñoz if she took part in the butchering she said, “No…I went to visit a neighbor. I was sad and didn’t want to see it.”

In addition to the pork Señora Muñoz sells fried intestines and guinea pig, which she also raises herself (the guinea pigs…not the intestines). Guinea pig is relatively expensive, costing about $13 but Peruvians going back to the time of the Incas consider them fine eating. We bought this one to take home.

By the way, chicharrôn is usually associated with pork but the word itself in practice means deep fried. In a restaurant if you order just chicharrôn you’ll get fried pork, but you can order chicharrôn de pollo (chicken) or chicharrôn de pescado (fish), both favorites of mine.

We’ll be back in Patapo in January to visit Cecelia at the pronoei. With luck we’ll run into Señora Muñoz. I could do with another plate of her fried pork and entertaining stories.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Emphasizing the link between home and school

The door on the right is the entrance to pronoei ‘Semillitas Kids’. It is different in two respects from any other pronoei we have visited. One, it is in the center of a large city, just two blocks from Monsefù’s central park. Secondly, it was not the kids but their parents who were to be the students at this learning session.

We were at the school today at the invitation of a team of psychology students from the University of Sipàn who have been working with the parents of children at this school since early September. As we understand it, there are indications of problems with child abuse. It was explained to us that Monsefù and the surrounding area has a ‘macho culture’ where men sometimes hit women and children. A university professor placed the students at this school. We don’t know how the professor was made aware of the problem or if the suspicions are even true.

Patricia Custodio (green blouse) has been teaching kids at this location for six years, and though her school is in the middle of a large city she has fewer resources than many desert village pronoeis. She had 18 kids this school term. Next March the school is moving to a different location on the outskirts of the city. Patricia anticipates 25 to 30 students at the new site. She will need to completely furnish the new classroom. She will phone us in March to visit and look at her situation.

We were invited to but didn’t stay for the training session. We weren’t sure how comfortable the parents would be with us in the room, or how comfortable we would be. So while the parents were learning about the psychology of violence we took a walk in the park.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It’s Almost Chocolatada Time!

Schools will be closing early this year on November 30 in anticipation of a severe El Niño, which means villages that can afford them will schedule their chocolatadas in the first two weeks of December. For newer readers who may not know what a chocolatada is, here is a link to a post written last year at this time that describes the event.

We had decided last month to try to sponsor two chocolatadas this year; one at the primary school in Los Reynoza and the other at the pronoei in Las Salinas Norte.

We were in the village of Los Reynoza yesterday to meet with teachers and parent’s association members to begin planning. We agreed that Friday, December 4 will be our target day. Parents will provide music, chocolate milk and food. Promesa Peru will provide:

Toys for 25 students at $7 each = $175
Six packages of Panetone (sweetbread) at $6 each = $36
A clown for entertainment = $25
Candy = $25
The subtotal is $261. Transportation will add another $65 for a total of $326.


The target date for the Las Salinas Norte pronoei chocolatada is Wednesday, December 2. As in Los Reynoza the parents will provide music, chocolate milk and food. Our budget for this school is:

Toys for 21 students at $7 each = $147
Six packages of Panetone at $6 each = $36
A clown for entertainment = $25
Candy = $25
The subtotal is $233 – transportation brings it to $298.


We need an estimated $587 to give the kids at both schools a Christmas party that they and their parents will cherish and remember for a long time. The good news is that we already have a good junk of that money. We need another $250 to finance both chocolatadas. If you can help us with these activities please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Important message regarding the Posope Alto pronoei

Last Thursday we wrote about the pronoei in Posope Alto and the help that it needs. Because of some internal problems with the teaching situation that project has been put on hold until next March. Please do not donate for this project. We have contacted those who have donated.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Village of Posope Alto

We had planned to return to the village of Posope Alto and their pronoei four weeks ago but two things happened to delay our visit. First, the pronoei teacher disappeared. One day three weeks ago she simply did not show up and no one has seen her since. She had made it known that she would be leaving at the end of the school term but apparently decided to leave early. And, with the absence of a teacher the owner of the house where the pronoei was located took it back. Fortunately another property owner stepped up and offered her vacant house to be used for one year and possibly longer. The new location is 200 meters from the former. The name of the pronoei is Los Pimpollitos which translates to a bud beginning to open or sapling tree beginning to grow.

The area surrounding Los Pimpollitos …in fact all of Posope Alto looks raw and wounded. The farms where the men work are located several miles distant in a narrow valley where water for irrigation is present. Women usually stay home to care for the kids, and the goats and chickens that are sold in nearby Patapo.

The interior of the school mirrors the communities’ raw look. Maria (left) is the new teacher. She had previously signed a contract to teach beginning next March when school reopens but has stepped in to finish the year. She has over 10 years of teaching experience with pronoeis.

There are 23 kids registered but only 10 to 14 are attending regularly. This photo pretty much explains why that is. They’re using flat rocks and pails as desks and chairs and they don’t have enough of those. The only real piece of furniture is a long bench serving as a desk. The building has the room to accommodate all of the kids registered but it needs to be completely outfitted.  This is what it would take to create an acceptable learning environment:

1 whiteboard with markers - $60
2 storage shelves - $46
6 tables - $225 to $375
24 chairs - $300 to $450
Teaching aids – tangrams, books, abacuses - $80
School supplies for every student - $234

The total is between $1095 and $1245

We are still looking at furniture prices. After our visit to the school we spent the rest of the morning with the teacher Maria and her husband talking with several carpenters in the city of Patapo. Prices for tables ranged from $37.50 to $62.50. For chairs the numbers were $12.50 to $18.75. It’s possible that with me being present these are inflated ‘gringo’ prices. Maria and her husband will continue to talk with carpenters this week to look for better prices.   

We’re going to defer the teaching aids and school supplies to next March when school begins so that’s $314 we don’t need now but we’d like to equip the classroom now so that everything is in place for next year and so the parent’s association can make improvements now to the room based on the volume and placement of furnishings.

Whatever the final furniture cost turns out to be, it’s going to take a minimum $780 now to furnish the Los Pimpollitos classroom. We can’t do this ourselves. Please visit the Promesa Peru webpage to donate to this project. Thank you.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Peru prepares for El Niño

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that disrupts normal weather patterns primarily in the eastern Pacific coastal areas. It was named by Peruvian fisherman in the 1800s who noticed warming ocean temperatures around Christmas time. There is an excellent article fully explaining El Niño; it’s effects and why the most destructive El Niño on record is being anticipated in the next few weeks here.

December through March is traditionally the rainy season in much of Peru. In the coastal areas where most of the major cities are located ‘rainy season’ usually means a total rainfall of ¼ to ½ inch during the entire four month period…except during an El Niño. The El Niño of 1997-1998 caused massive flooding in Peru and particularly in the north. Cities including Trujillo, Chimbote, Chiclayo and Piura were hard-hit, with adobe brick houses of entire neighborhoods disappearing.

These bridges and two others in Piura were built after the El Niño flood destroyed every bridge connecting the two halves of the city. The canal overflowed its banks, damaging buildings on both sides.

The Peruvian government does not want a repeat of 1997-1998 and is taking hurried steps to prevent it.

Every day in the news, from Tumbes in the north to Lima in the south; a distance of 630 miles we see images of heavy equipment dredging and widening canals. Earth embankments are being erected around public and private buildings in low laying areas. Schools are staging flooding simulations

Other measures being taken include canceling annual festivals and other activities by order of regional authorities. The Lambayeque Region governor has expressively prohibited any such events from December through March.

Last month schools began teaching on Saturdays to allow them to close November 30, two weeks earlier than normal.

Summer school programs usually offered December through February have been cancelled this year at all national schools and many private schools including universities.

It rained here in Chiclayo last night. Not much, but more than the normal drizzle. It rained last week also. That’s not usual. Many of the schools we’ve worked with are in low laying areas next to irrigation canals. San Bernardino, Sapamè, Conchucos and El Pavo come to mind. Let’s hope the government’s efforts are enough to save those schools should the predictions for El Niño come true.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

La Raya Celebrates an Anniversary

La Raya is one of our favorite villages. Physically it is a long, narrow village located on the eastern edge of Purgatory Mountain. Many of the houses are within a stone’s throw of what remains of ancient Moche culture pyramids and temples. Some of the houses were probably partially constructed from adobe bricks that had once been part of a majestic temple.  

Among the many poor villages of the Tùcume District, La Raya is exceptionally poor and yet there is a feeling of community spirit. The parent’s association does the best it can with limited means to support their school, so when school director Jorge Luis Cabrera phoned to invite us to attend their 44th anniversary yesterday we gladly accepted and offered to help them by providing candy and entertainment for the 75 plus students.  

The noise made by 75 kids in one room as the candy, cookies and chocolate milk were being unpacked was deafening. Jorge explained, “…these kids have never seen anything like this.” We thought they showed remarkable restraint in not approaching the table (later, when the clown was handing out candy both he and the table were nearly knocked over).

Cua-Cua the clown entertained the kids for over an hour, including a ‘parade’ they enjoyed on the school grounds. Notice the appearance of the school and the enclosing wall in the background. That is the work of the parent’s association with donated paint from a Tùcume merchant. That’s Purgatory Mountain in the background. Years ago villagers believed that the spirits of Moche rulers roamed the mountain and pyramids. Probably some still hold that belief.

We weren’t sure if the kids would appreciate the Marinera dancers who accompanied us but they were a big hit with the kids and adults. Two of the young boys asked if they could dance with the woman and were surprisingly good. The dancers are law students at a Chiclayo university and dance semi-professionally to pay their school expenses.

At 1:00 in the afternoon the party was over, which was a good time to finish as the desert heat was starting to make the room uncomfortable. Before leaving we, the dancers and clown were treated to a lunch of ‘arroz con pato’ (rice with duck) and thanked many times by teachers, parents and kids.

Our thanks to Chris R., Yescenia and Wilmer for making this event the success that it was.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Maria Idrogo Family Needs Your Help

During our mini-tour in the Patapo District last Wednesday we stopped briefly at a home in the city of Patapo because our guide Josè, who is a surgical nurse at a Chiclayo hospital said he wanted to check on one of his patients. I think he also wanted us to see her situation (click on the photos to enlarge them).

This is Maria Idrogo. She is 69, an invalid and partially blind. She and her three mentally challenged children - two daughters aged 25 and 19 and a son 20 live in this house along with a 16 year old granddaughter.  Once each month Maria goes to the hospital for the poor in Chiclayo where Josè treats her for multiple problems.

Maria’s husband died five years ago. Because of their handicaps none of her children were able to attend school. The son and the 19 year old daughter are noticeably impaired but are able to function. The granddaughter appears to be normal and is attending school. We don’t know anything about her circumstances…who her parents are or why she’s in this house. 

There is a nephew who works on a farm and occasionally gives food to the family as do several neighbors. Some of the food is eaten and the rest is sold. This is the only income the family has.

Their food is cooked in this kitchen. There is a small gas stove but they can’t afford gas so whoever does the cooking cooks with wood that members of a church supply. When we were there smoke filled the house, burning our eyes and throat. Lower left in the photo a hand is visible under the table.  It belongs to the 25 year old daughter who was frightened, hid under the table and would not come out.

This photo of one of the daughter’s sleeping area doesn’t need words to describe it.

It’s a tragic situation…an invalid grandmother who appears to have given up hope, a granddaughter and three mentally challenged adults. It’s not even clear who is taking care of whom, but somehow collectively they are surviving. Until now.

The immediate problem is that the house is literally collapsing around them. This section came down two months ago. It was the son’s bedroom. The entire roof is in danger of falling because the upper walls are disintegrating. The wall above the doorway in the first photo is already in the process of collapsing and could come down tomorrow. The family is absolutely helpless to do anything about it.

Josè knows people in the area who would donate their time to make emergency repairs to the house. We’re not talking about major rebuilding. It's too late for that. Sometime in the not too distant future the exterior walls are going to collapse. This is about a few bricks and some mortar to fill gaps between the roof and walls so that the roof beams stay up a few more years. And probably three or four galvanized plastic sheets to replace the roof.

The family obviously has many needs including furniture and clothing, but right now repairs to the house are the priority. If you have a few dollars to spare and would like to help this family, please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. We will give any money received for this family to Josè to purchase material, and will post photos of repairs as they are made. Thank you.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Things are good in Las Salinas

When we arrive at a village school to deliver donated items there is usually a simple ceremonial welcome. Today is the first time we were met by a marching band. The kids played well for primary school kids.

We delivered two storage shelves, a gas stove and tank asked for during our first visit by the director Patricia Gil and the other teacher Presentacion Bernilla. At that time they also asked for sport uniforms for the 24 students but we declined that request based on the kids having formal school uniforms. After taking a closer look at the uniforms today we think maybe we were wrong. Probably 90% of those uniforms were second hand; are faded and threadbare and won’t last much longer. Oh well.

We took the opportunity to ask Patricia and Presentacion what they knew about the QaliWarma stove program. Both are aware of the program and had gone to Tucumè authorities several months ago to ask for a stove but were told they would not get one. They were not told why. To their knowledge (and ours) no schools in the Tucumè District have gotten stoves. They were surprised to learn that the kinder in Las Canteras in the Patapo District had one.   

We were also asked to help restore water to the school, and are happy to report that water has been restored, at least temporarily. An electrician from Tucumè replaced a defective part in the pump and was able to get it working again, but cautioned that the pump will need to be replaced in the future. What the village authorities would like to do is replace the pump and add a second holding tank so that water could be shared with the entire village. As it is now the villagers must transport water from a well located 20 burro minutes from the village. A 2200 liter tank costs about $500. If you’d like to help the village purchase a tank please visit the Promesa Peru webpage

Our thanks to Chris R., the Alice Cool Foundation, Clif Brown and others for aiding the people of Las Salinas.