Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Return Visit to Las Salinas Norte

We were in Las Salinas Norte last June at the invitation of the pronoei school. Last Friday's visit was requested by Patricia Gil, the director of the primary school.

Patricia has been at Las Salinas Norte less than a year, having taught previously at a school in Morrope. Patricia is ably assisted by Las Salinas 15-year veteran Presentacion Bernilla who has been teaching for over 35 years and has thoughts of retirement but says he will “stay around until Patricia is settled in”.  Patricia teaches grades 1 through 3 with 8 kids while Presentacion has 16 kids in grades 4 through 6.

The school is reasonably well maintained and equipped and has a surplus of furniture. Presentacion told us there were more students in the past but some of them transferred to the school in Sapamè when the additional classrooms were built three years ago. We suggested that Patricia talk with her counterpart in Sapamè to see if some of that surplus furniture could be transferred to Sapamè but were told that district authorities would need to get involved with a property transfer. School supplies are not a problem, and most of the kids have formal school uniforms, something not often seen in these outlying villages.

One of the reasons Patricia called us was to ask for help with the noon lunch program. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, requests for bottled gas stoves and kitchen equipment have become common. Qali Warma is the name of the national food program run by the Minister of Education in Lima. Recently representatives of Qali Warma have been visiting schools in villages throughout Peru, stressing proper food handling and preparation. They are providing picture posters and instructions but not the means to implement the program. Patricia and Presentacion have asked Promesa Peru for a stove. Surprisingly, they said they had kitchen equipment, but would like two storage shelves to hold that equipment.

A more immediate concern and the primary reason Patricia called us is that they can’t get water from their well. The well was dug in 2003 with funds from a charity that no one remembers the name of. The parent’s association built the structure over the well. At that time a rope with a bucket on the end was wound around a cylinder and water was gotten by manually turning the cylinder. One year ago Tùcume District authorities added an electric pump, a water holding tank, and underground pipes to the school’s restrooms and several water faucets on the school property.

Recently the pump stopped working. None of the village men have the knowledge to diagnose the problem or make repairs. We were told that an appeal for help in Tùcume resulted in being told that, “there is no money because the former mayor absconded with all the money” - an amusing twist to a common theme. There is no visible water in the well so reverting to the bucket system won’t work. We have been asked to help resolve the problem.

Sometimes we're not sure what our role in a community should be. Water and electricity are basic needs. District administrators should be held accountable for providing them, but if it doesn’t happen…then what? The charity that dug the well in 2003 (an expensive project in the desert) apparently decided that taking on the responsibility for water was the right thing to do.

What we’ve decided to do is donate two storage shelves and a gas stove with gas tank. That will cost about $200 including transportation. We also want to contract an electrician from Tùcume to go to the village to identify the problem with the well. We have no idea what that will cost but it can’t be much…maybe $35 - $50. When we know what the problem is and what it would cost to fix it we’ll decide what to do about it. If you’d like to help with this project please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

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