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.