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.