Sunday, January 4, 2015

Promesa Peru Year in Review

Every year in December we look back at what we’ve done and ask ourselves if the projects we sponsored were in keeping with both our motto; ‘helping people to help themselves’, and with our belief that education is the key to improved quality of life in Peru. In reviewing our activities we think we stayed on track.

As we see it there are four basic things we can do to promote education. We can help to ensure that:

1) Classrooms are properly equipped. This usually means tables, chairs, storage shelves and a whiteboard. In national primary and secondary schools the local government normally supplies those items. In pronoeis (pre-schools) the government supplies just four walls and a roof – no water, electricity, restrooms or furnishings. In theory the community is responsible for those things.

2) Teachers have teaching aids. These items include tangrams, abacus, whiteboard erasers and markers, poster paper and dozens of other miscellaneous things. If the teachers have them it’s because they paid for them from their own pocket.

3) Students have school supplies. These are the basic items such as pencils, paper, notebook, crayons, scissors, glue, etc. Parents are responsible for providing these items but all too often it’s the teacher who does what she can to help, or when possible the students share, or a student simply goes without. In the later case they usually drop out of school.

4) Students have uniforms where the culture or climate calls for them. Usually in poor villages the requirement for uniforms is waived and the kids attend class in whatever everyday clothing they have. In some villages/districts the culture is that the parents won’t send their kids to school dressed improperly, and because they can’t afford ‘proper clothing’ the kids don’t attend. Also, in the winter months it’s cold in the morning when these young kids are walking to school. Having a warm uniform to wear can make the difference between a mother sending her child to school or not.

There are other things that can be done to promote education that are not as obvious. The cooking equipment we supplied to the Tùcume Viejo school helped education indirectly by taking less time for food preparation thus providing more time for classes. Providing a CD player can facilitate both physical education and general learning.

It could be added that students need proper nourishment to study effectively. A recent government report said that 17.5% of Peruvian youths suffer from chronic malnourishment, but that mostly applies to families in the Andes. None of the Lambayeque Region doctors we’ve talked with have mentioned malnourishment as a problem.

Overall health is a larger issue. Villages like La Raya and Tùcume Viejo have medical clinics staffed by a technician and visited weekly by a doctor. Most villages are not so lucky. If the distance is great and transportation difficult parents are less likely to take their kids to a clinic for anything other than an obviously serious condition. And making a second trip for a follow-up visit or prescription refill may or may not happen. We don’t mean to imply that parents are derelict, but time and expense are considerations for anything that may not seem to them to be critical.

In our opinion a perfect location to build a medical clinic would be the village of Collique Alto. It’s a small, poor village surrounded by several even smaller and poorer villages. It’s located 10 difficult miles from the nearest clinic and 25 miles from a hospital. There is a vacant lot in the center of the village that eight years ago was supposed to be the site for a medical clinic but construction never began. Back in March 2011 we were asked by the village president if Promesa Peru could help to build a medical clinic on that lot. We had to say no. We received another call from the village last spring with the same request. We again said no, but who knows?....maybe someday.

We had many good moments this year but none bigger than when the director of the school in San Miguel called us to say that her students won the district math contest, and that she credited the Alice Cool Library in part for being a perfect place for the students to study. We would love to be able to get involved in more projects like the library in the coming year.

There were no real problems other than the usual transportation issue. Contracting a truck is expensive, and while it can carry all of the donated items, it is limited in the people it can transport. Contracting a private car provides for the people but not the baggage. Contracting two vehicles is too expensive. Maybe this is the year we will find an individual who owns a reliable combi (a vehicle capable of carrying all of our items and crew) and will give us a discount, and who understands that departure at 9:00 AM means departure at 9:00 AM.

All in all it was very good and very busy year, primarily because donations increased substantially over the previous years. And with the increased donations came an increased sense of responsibility to use the money wisely. We think we did that.

This is a list of the activities we either sponsored in 2014 or took part in. All of them have been written about individually on this blog.

May - El Faicalito pronoei equipment                           

May – San Miguel pronoei equipment                             

June – Eureka pronoei uniforms/school supplies                 

July – San Miguel Alice Cool Library creation                                    

September - Tùcume Viejo primary school equipment         

September – Payesa primary school equipment                   

September – Payesa pronoei school equipment                   

October – El Pavo pronoei school equipment

October – A Special Education celebration                   

December – San Bernardino chocolatada                                

December – El Pavo chocolatada                                               

December – Pinglo Santa Maria family assistance

Most of our focus this year was on pronoeis, because they’re usually poorly equipped and because teachers tell us the 3 to 5 age group is where discipline and study habits are formed. We don’t dispute their opinions and experience, but we think the 6 to 12 age group in primary schools are certainly still in their formative years and may be as important. In the coming year we’re going to take a closer look at some of those schools.

There is no way to know for sure that equipping classrooms, providing teaching aids, and supplying students with school supplies and uniforms is helping to keep kids in school. It would be nice to see documentation showing that the continuation rate in the schools we’ve worked with has improved, but to our knowledge statistics like that do not exist. Still, it seems like we’re doing the right thing and hopefully we’ll be able to continue in 2015.

Our thanks to Chris R. and the Alice Cool Foundation for supporting us throughout the year, and to the many others who contributed to individual projects/activities.

1 comment:

  1. Tom, what a year!!!! I can assure you the efforts you put towards helping children in the Chiclayo area are making a difference. I believe results are not necessarily measured by tests, charts, or numbers but by quality of life. The opportunities you have created are unparalleled. Looking forward to 2015!!!!

    Take care,