Friday, July 24, 2015

Los Reynoza part one completed

We completed the first part of our Los Reynoza project this morning and also learned something in the process. Recently we’ve been asked by several schools to donate bottled gas cooking stoves. We didn’t understand what was prompting the requests until we noticed these bulletins taped to a wall in the school. The bulletins are being distributed to all national schools by the ministry of education and health. The bulletin on the left (click on it to enlarge) emphasizes the importance of cleanliness in the kitchen and proper food preparation. The second talks about washing hands prior to eating, and finishes with the proper disposal of uneaten food and clean up. I can’t help but marvel at how far these images are from reality in 95% of the Lambayeque Region schools.

Contrast the idealized kitchen in the above illustrations with the kitchen of the Los Reynoza school which is representative of most schools we’ve visited. Many of them have not been used in months or years. It takes too much time to prepare food for 25 or more students over a small wood fire using common household cooking equipment. And many villagers tell us that wood for cooking has gotten scarce over the years. We and the villagers certainly agree with the message in the bulletins…the problem is the government doesn’t supply the means to comply.

We bridged part of that gap this morning when we delivered a two-burner bottled gas stove with an industrial sized cooking pot, fry pan and serving spoons. We also supplied plates and cups for each student and took their measurements for uniforms to be delivered in mid-August along with storage shelves.

We were able to help this community through the generosity of Chris R., Clif Brown, the Alice Cool Foundation and others. Thank you from us and the folks of Los Reynoza.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Village of Los Reynoza

Los Reynoza is a very small agricultural village located six miles west of the city of Tùcume very near the Chancay River. The river is a good source of irrigation, thus every inch of soil not occupied by a house is under cultivation with a variety of crops. Yesterday the men were working in fields close to the school we had come to visit. Hundreds of egrets were patiently waiting their turn to get at the insects unearthed by the workers.

Los Reynoza, like many of the villages we visit is named after the family who founded it, probably in the early to mid 1900s. As these communities grow outsiders move into them but the family name usually remains dominant. For example, of the eleven students in this class eight of them are descendants of the original Los Reynoza settlers.  Notice the slight difference in the spelling. That happens because most of the adults in these small villages are illiterate, so when births are recorded or the kids are enrolled in church or school whoever is doing the recording has to guess at the spelling…the parents can’t tell them. Thankfully illiteracy in even the most remote villages is slowly disappearing, but it takes keeping the kids in school day after day. We’d like to think that Promesa Peru is helping to do that.

The school sits off by itself surrounded by farm fields. The students come from many different locations and distances. The school is well maintained inside and out. According to Fulgencia Lizana, the director and one of two teachers, the parent’s association does a good job of pitching in to help with school maintenance and projects. The concrete surface fronting the school and overhead shelter were the result of the association from monthly dues, and plans are to slowly extend that project the full length of the school.  The fenced-in area is a small vegetable garden to teach responsibility and to augment government donated food.

The work of the parent’s association is also visible inside the two classrooms. Fulgencia explained that last year the village decided to use part of the budget to buy paint and lumber to construct new chairs and tables. Apparently they were enthusiastic about the project because this is one of the few schools we’ve visited that has more chairs and tables than students. Of the three classrooms two are being used; one with fourteen students in grades one through three and the other with eleven students in grades four through six.

Los Reynoza is one of those villages that ‘feels good’. The people are friendly, hard working and responsible. Their involvement with the school is very apparent and is a good example of people helping themselves. Fulgencia has asked for two storage shelves, uniforms and some cooking equipment including a two-burner bottled gas stove. Just like our previous project in Los Riojas earlier this month, the purpose of the cooking equipment is to keep the kids at school for lunch instead of them walking home.

We’ve had several recent requests to donate stoves but haven’t done it because we weren’t comfortable with the answers we got when we asked how the gas would be paid for. We can see the potential for saving time (and trees) but don’t want to donate stoves that won’t be used if the village can’t afford bottled gas. Fulgencia told us the parent’s association promised to pay for the gas from their monthly dues. We believe her.

Sport uniforms for the 25 students would cost $495. Two storage shelves are $50 and the cooking equipment (1 pot, 1 pan, 2 serving spoons, 25 cups and plates) will add another $85. We can buy the stove in Chiclayo for $57.  We’d like to donate the stove as a sort of experiment and check back occasionally to see how and if it’s being used.

We need about $725 including transportation. If you would like to take part in eliminating illiteracy in Los Reynoza please consider making a donation. Any amount will help. Thank you.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Earning a living in Chiclayo II

Often when Maribel and I are walking on one of Chiclayo’s busy streets one of us will look at the other and ask,”What’s the name of the game?” The other will answer…”Transportation.”

In another land in the age of long ago I had a friend who drove truck for a living. He was fond of saying, “If you’ve got it, a truck brought it.” He was right of course, and I assume that that phrase is true in Peru as well, though the big semi-trailer rigs and huge truck terminals aren’t nearly as prominent in Chiclayo as I recall them being in the USA. But it’s not the transportation of goods that prompts our ‘name of the game’ exchange.  It’s the ubiquitous sights and sounds of people transportation that draws our attention.

Taxies, combis and mototaxies absolutely dominate Chiclayo’s streets morning, noon and night. They are not passive in seeking your business. Each of the three has their own method of getting in your face. Combis are the most aggressive. They stop at irregular intervals where the cobrador (the guy who collects the money) gets out and literally shouts their next destination to passersby, and if you even glance at him or the combi he may grab you by the arm and try to steer you to a seat on board, whether you want to go or not. And in between stops the driver is not hesitant to use his horn to get your attention. It is a highly competitive business; there are only minutes and frequently seconds separating the combis. It is not unusual to see a potential passenger with each arm being held by a different cobrador trying to guide the person to their combi.

Taxi drivers aren’t physically aggressive, but they don’t take a back seat to combis when it comes to horn blowing. If you’re a gringo walking the street, or if you have a package in your arms, or if you stop for a second you’ll have a taxi blow his horn at you, as if to say, “Hey…this is your lucky moment. I just happen to be available.” The 50 taxis behind him also just happen to be available and each will blow his horn, even though they have seen you ignore the first 50 and have given no indication that you want a ride. I’ve never quite understood that.

Mototaxi drivers don’t blow their horns, and they don’t scream at you. What they do is softly say, “Moto moto”…almost in an inquisitive or apologetic tone. I don’t know why they say moto twice. Maybe it’s because they say it softly and want to make sure you heard it.

Okay…let’s say that you’re fed up with your high-pressure job on Wall Street and want to drive a mototaxi in Chiclayo. How do you get started and what can you expect from your new occupation? First you need to buy a moto. That will cost you between $1170 and $1270 depending on if you want doors and a windshield. You could add colored lights and a radio with CD player but that won’t bring you any additional business (Chiclayanos don’t care about such things) and they will probably be stolen.  Maintenance on your new moto amounts to changing oil every 20 days, and occasionally replacing the plastic seat material that passengers have a penchant for ripping, though not intentionally. You don’t have to buy a moto…you can rent one for about $4.50 per day - about 30% of your daily earnings which is why 80% of moto drivers own theirs.

On an average day you will earn between $12.50 to $16 - that’s provided you work the normal 10 – 11 hours starting at 6:00 am. There are basically two strategies for operating your moto. You can cruise the streets looking for business; those who advocate this method acknowledge they use more gas but feel they expose themselves to more potential customers, or you can base at a specific location, usually as a member of an association. Most moto drivers take this last approach.

From your base location you will make about 25 trips per day, at an average fare of $0.57. You will transport from 1 to 3 people, but the fare is per trip, not per customer. The average distance you will travel is about one-half mile, with two miles being the extreme limit. On some of your return trips you will be hailed by another customer before you reach your home base. Many customers will have groceries or other items to carry. Moto drivers are agreeable to transporting a variety of items but most will refuse metal, fearing damage to the interior, or animals.

If you ask any Chiclayo moto driver what his biggest headache is, he will tell you it is competition. There are more motos than passengers and often in the scramble for business the competition can turn ugly. But there is a lighter side. One moto driver, when asked what his most unusual customer request was, said that he was offered $3 by a man who wanted to follow his wife whom he suspected of cheating on him.  Think about it…that’s more excitement than your Wall Street job offers, isn’t it?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Students in Los Riojas have Uniforms

Most of these kids don’t live in Los Riojas and walk a long way to get to school. The long pants and jackets will keep them warm on these chilly desert mornings, and provide an added inducement for the parents to send the kids to school. Pots, cups and serving spoons will keep the kids at the school instead of walking home for lunch. If the estimate of Maria and Diana, the primary and pronoei school directors is correct that will add about an hour of classroom time each day.

The man in the above photo is Cesar Pejerrey, a supervisor from the Tùcume office of education. His job is to make sure that government donated food is being delivered on time and in the correct amount to the schools, and that schools are using it properly. He got caught up in our activity; enthusiastically helping the kids put on their uniforms, staging photos and thanking us for our work in his district. 

We’ve provided teaching aids for the pronoei, and storage shelves, cooking equipment and uniforms for both schools. The rest is up to them, and we’re confident that with Maria and Diana the teaching and learning is in good hands. As a point of information, we estimated $900 for this project. The actual cost was $907.29, the difference being individual drinking cups for each student that we didn’t initially plan on. Close enough.

Our thanks to Chris R., the Alice Cool Foundation, Joyce C., and others for providing the means to make this project happen.


We’re half-way through 2015 and have been involved in four projects: the villages of Conchucos, Santos Vera, Las Salinas and Los Riojas…all of them in the Tùcume District. The cost for these projects was $2480.26, which to us represents an investment in the education of the kids and hopefully advancement for the communities. We’d like to return to the Tumàn District, both because it’s closer to Chiclayo and there are more needy villages, but the political instability still hasn’t been resolved. Whenever the situation gets settled, there are going to be many small village schools that will need help to recover from a chaotic school year. Earlier in the year we visited several Morrope District communities but didn’t find a village that we philosophically matched up with.

What does the rest of the year look like? We’ve got three invitations to visit villages near Tùcume. And it just may be that we’ll be meeting with Tùcume authorities to discuss the possibility of a permanent school in El Pavo. We’ve never partnered with a governmental agency on any previous projects, so are approaching this situation very carefully. Also, it’s not too early to consider December chocolatada candidates. And as usually happens there will be a project or two that surfaces that is not even on our radar at present.

Again, thanks to those who are contributing to our work. Without you it doesn’t happen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Great Finish to the Las Salinas Project

During our first visit to Las Salinas the attitude was friendly but subdued. We were expecting the same this morning when we delivered the promised items to the pronoei Copitos de Amor, but that was anything but the case.  

All of the students, the director Karina Suyon and about twelve mothers were there to greet us. Based on the warmth of the welcome you would have thought we were giving them a million dollars instead of ten chairs, two tables and  two storage shelves… a very modest donation. Magaly Riojas, the president of the parent’s association made a brief speech that impressed us. She said, “We had students sitting on the floor. We went to the municipal authorities and were told there was no money for us. We went to merchants asking for donations but again were refused. We learned about Promesa Peru from a teacher in another village and invited you to visit. You came, said you would help us and you kept your promise. Thank you.” That means a lot to us.

Something else that means a lot to us is the eighty-five pounds of organically grown fresh food we were given to take home with us. We were told that thirty families had contributed to this bounty. We sincerely wish we could share it with those who made this project possible, but since we can’t do that we promise to think of you during meals. J 
What we can share with you is the thanks we received on your behalf from Karina Suyon of the pronoei Copitos de Amor  and the villagers of Las Salinas. Thank you to Chris R, the Alice Cool Foundation, Joyce C, and others.