Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Significant Change for Maribel, Me and Promesa Peru

After nine wonderful years of living in Chiclayo Peru and traveling the length and breadth of this fascinating country, Maribel and I will soon be returning permanently to the United States. Maybe some day we’ll get into the various factors that led up to this decision, but for now it's enough to say it's the right time and the right thing to do.

Our focus at this moment is planning the move to the US, but also in our thoughts is Promesa Peru. For eight years we've been visiting make-shift schools in poverty-stricken desert villages, providing them with classroom furnishings, school supplies, uniforms and teaching aids. There are still so many more schools in need of help that the thought of discontinuing Promesa Peru is weighing heavily on us. After giving it a lot of thought, we believe we have an option to continue helping those kids.

Magali (center) is Maribel’s younger sister. She is a wife, mother and teacher. She has a bachelor's degree in literature and teaches the subject afternoons in a high school. She does private tutoring in the morning to augment family income. On weekends she studies toward a master’s degree.

During the past six weeks she's had an unexpected break in her tutoring schedule, and has accompanied us on some projects so is familiar with our routine. Being a teacher she relates well to the pronoei teachers. Several times she has offered solid suggestions to us and the teachers about how to deal with specific problems, including physical classroom needs and administrative issues. 

We're confident that Magali could carry on with the work. She is willing and enthusiastic about helping Promesa Peru to continue, but a problem is that she cannot afford the loss of her tutoring income to work on Promesa Peru projects. She would need to be compensated for her time, which is in conflict with the philosophy we started with eight years ago that no one in the Promesa Peru organization will ever be paid for their work. To this date that has been true, but conditions and circumstances we could not have foreseen at the time have changed. We never imagined a time when we would not be in Peru to do the work. We don't have another option...we either compensate Magali for her time when working on a project or close the doors on Promesa Peru.

We have had several discussions with her about formally taking on the responsibility of representing Promesa Peru in the Lambayeque Region, and have been training her for the past month. We agreed that if she were to represent us, 20 Peruvian Soles per hour for her time ($6.15 at today’s rate) would be fair. A private tutor typically earns 25 to 40 Soles per hour. Depending on the complexity of the project this could add anywhere from $45 to $75 (9 to 14%) to the cost of an average project.

Maribel and I would continue to make all decisions. The scenario we see is that when Magali receives a request to visit a village she would forward that request to us. If we approve the visit, Magali will go to the village with a questionnaire we've prepared, designed to learn as much about the area, village, people, pronoei and pronoei needs as possible. Magaly will send the information she gathers to us along with photos and her opinion as to what if anything should be donated. If we approve we will write a post describing the village, school and scope of the project. If we receive donations to fund the project Magali would be responsible for purchasing and transporting the items. She would take photos of the donated items in the classrooms as we do now and send them to us for publication in this blog and the Promesa Per webpage. In theory the system would operate as it does now.

Magali is the only person we would trust with this responsibility. When circumstances permit we're going to do a trial project with her flying solo. If it doesn’t work out for her or us, or if it turns out to be too cumbersome or costly, we will have to say goodbye to Promesa Peru.

We would welcome any thoughts from our readers about this subject.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

When we have to say no…

We always write about and post photos describing our visits to the villages/schools that we decide to donate to. I don’t think we’ve ever written about the schools we visit and decide not to support. The pronoei Caritas Felices (Happy Faces) in the village of El Carrizo is one recent example. Readers may be interested in how that scenario plays out.

We stopped at El Carrizo on the same morning we visited the village of La Carpa Casinelli. The pronoei in El Carrizo is unusual in that it is located in an unneeded classroom inside of a government sponsored primary school (pink building).

There are other very obvious differences between the two schools mentioned. In La Carpa Casinelli the schoolroom is bright, cheery and organized. In El Carrizo the classroom is dark bordering on gloomy. There is the feeling of a lack of organization; a sense more of a storage room than classroom.

Maria (not her real name) has 11 students. She’s been teaching at Caritas Felices for three years. She has a nervous energy about her that contributes to the unsettled feeling in the classroom. That being said she is probably a very effective teacher. We have no way of knowing so we don’t form judgements.

Maria asked us for new furnishings for the classroom. Sometimes, when trying to provide the best possible learning environment for their students, teachers forget the distinction between need and want. Maria has enough tables and chairs for the present enrollment. Yes, they’re old and mismatched but they are still serviceable. She has an odd assortment of storage shelves. They’re not the greatest but they do hold things. Rather than getting more shelving, in our opinion fully half of the things on the floor in front of each wall is junk and could be tossed without being missed. Among all the stuff we noticed a good assortment of learning materials.

This is not an indictment of Maria. We don’t fault her for asking. She’s seen the shiny new chairs, tables, storage shelves and whiteboard we supplied to nearby Carrizo Bajo two weeks ago. She knows that we also provided books and puzzles for the kids. We’re certain that she has the interest of the kids at heart and is working to the best of her ability. If we were to be critical at all it would be directed at the parents association. They could help to organize the classroom, and should see that a fresh paint job with vivid colors is long overdue. An old plaster chalkboard is badly pitted and chipped. We will donate a whiteboard with erasers and markers ($60), but declined Maria’s other requests.

We don’t like saying no. There is always the downcast facial expression, and usually a final plea to provide “only a few of the things” asked for. Our explanation that we have limited funds and in our opinion there are other pronoeis with greater needs never seems to assuage the disappointment. It is those moments when we try to remember all the schools we have supported.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in the Mochumi District Again

We had completed the 45 minute combi ride from Chiclayo to Mochumi and were in the mayor’s office by 8:00 AM. He had invited us to visit to learn about Promesa Peru and what it is that we do.

Alex Rodriguez is a straight-forward man, meaning there are no frills about him. He doesn’t smile unnecessarily, is neither patronizing or pompous, and doesn’t speak just to hear himself talk. In other words he is not the typical politician. But what really sets him apart is that his constituents love him. Without exception, everyone we talked with told us that Alex listens, is fair, and gets things done. That is a glowing endorsement in a region where being critical of a mayor is almost like a religion.

We had a busy morning scheduled so after a brief discussion, and promising Alex that we would invite him to our next school donation, we boarded a mototaxi for a 20-minute ride to the village of La Carpa Casinelli. It was still early and there was a bit of a chill in the air as we slowly traversed the gravel road bordered on both sides by what seemed like endless rice paddies; the rice nearing harvesting time.

This is the village of La Carpa Casinelli. It has an interesting history…both past and present. Years ago a family named Casinelli owned all of the land for miles around. At some point the patriarch decided to reward the field workers by giving them land. At first the workers had no money to erect houses, so they put up tents. Thus the village of La Carpa Casinelli (in English la carpa means ‘the tent’) was born.

Recently an event took place that made the evening television news and was not so well received by the villagers. One morning about six weeks ago the teacher and students approached the school to find that someone had welded a hasp on the door and placed a padlock on it. Though the lot had been legally donated to the community by a deceased community member, one of the descendants decided to rescind the donation and reclaim the lot. The problem was somehow resolved but not until the school had been closed for two weeks.

Ninos Talentos (talented children) is the name of the pronoei. The building is well maintained inside and out. The animals seem to like it also.

Martina Cajusol is in her first year teaching at this school. She has 11 students. For the 11 students she has two tables and four chairs; two chairs with broken backs. We feel the village and school are deserving and would like to donate 12 Chairs ($182.82), 3 tables ($82.27), 2 storage shelves ($51.80), 1 whiteboard ($51.80), markers and erasers ($7.62) and an estimated $30.47 for transport, bringing the total to $406.78. We have $215. We need $192 to complete the project. If you can help us please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

We did visit another village school after leaving La Carpa Casinelli, but we need some discussion before deciding if we want to get involved with that school.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We Need Material for ‘Sector De Hogar’

Last April 28 when we met in the village of Cruze Sandoval with all of the pronoei teachers of the Mochumi District, we asked each of them what they needed for their classrooms. Most of their wants were for the items we usually donate…chairs, tables, etc., but every one of them also asked for “material para sector de hogar” which translates to material for the home sector. We had never heard that request or term before and explained that we needed to understand what it was they were asking for and why. Their responses were both informative and fascinating.
Much of Peru is still considered to be what is described as a macho society. By ‘macho’ I don’t mean guys sitting around the house in wife-beater shirts swilling beer and occasionally getting up to beat their wives. Some of that does exist but not in the vast majority of households. What does exist is a clear division of labor that is not in favor of females. In the small villages what this means is men work in the fields while women clean the house, sweep the grounds, feed the kids and get them ready for school, feed the livestock, get water from the community well, cut or gather fire wood for cooking, go to town to purchase needed items, wash clothes and hang them to dry, shuck peas, beans and corn, kill and clean a chicken and cook everything in preparation for the man and children returning home for lunch. She performs similar tasks for the remainder of the day, finishing with laying out clean clothing for the man and kids to wear next day before turning of the lights.

The men’s routine is much simpler. When they’re not working in the fields, they usually can be found sitting in groups under a shade tree discussing whatever while drinking their favorite beverage…probably brought to them by their wives. Helping with household chores is not something men normally do, those chores being regarded as women’s duties. Remember, we’re talking about small villages here, but that mindset exists even in larger cities. 

Over the last few years there has been a growing movement of protests and programs aimed at eliminating physical and mental abuse toward women, and promoting respect for women in general. Late last year the Minister of Education in Lima added a course called home sector to all government schools curriculum. The purpose of the course is to promote respect for women and the work they do, and to teach young kids that men sharing household work is a good thing.

In the upper level grades the teaching is done by lecture. In the lower grades like kinder and pronoei, teaching is supposed to be accomplished by play-acting with the use of props simulating a home setting. We don’t know what if anything the government is supplying to national schools to assist with the program, but as always pronoeis are left to their own resources to get the job done.

In this photo of the pronoei in Carrizo Bajo there is a miniature table and chairs located lower right. That’s all they have so far to implement the program.

The pronoei in the village of San Miguel incorporates some of the classroom furniture with other items they’ve managed to find to more closely resemble an actual home setting.

The following are internet photos found while researching the subject of Sector de Hogar, probably taken in larger cities where the parents association has the resources to donate the items pictured.

We’re certainly in favor of eliminating spousal abuse. Less well defined is the issue of attempting to change the men-women relationship and division of labor culture that has been in place for centuries. I remember several of my older female relatives, including my mother and her sister, and a few celebrities like Dale Evans, the wife of Roy Rogers saying that women were perfectly satisfied with their role in the home and that equality of sexes was “nonsense”. It would not be surprising if it were learned that many Peruvian village women, especially the older ones have that same attitude.

The question we at Promesa Peru are asking ourselves is, would donating items for the Sector De Hogar program be in line with our definition of supporting education, or is it a social program better left to the villagers and local government to sort out? We’d welcome reader comments on this subject.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Busy Morning in the Mochumi District

Our first stop this morning was at the pronoei Corazon De Maria in the village of Carrizo Bajo.  The teacher Carmen Salazar, the kids and members of the parents association were waiting for us. The tables and chairs had been delivered two days ago.

We brought with us a whiteboard, two storage shelves and books and puzzles. What a different atmosphere those items brought to the classroom. Two weeks ago the kids were sitting on bricks and boards. Now there is a more formal, legitimate feeling, and the whiteboard and shelves will add to it.

The kids, Carmen, the parents and us would like to thank  Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for providing these kids with the opportunity for a better education.


From Carrizo Bajo we went to Huaca Quemada and the pronoei Little Explorers where members of the parents association began assembling shelves before we had even finished unloading.

The expression on the teacher's face, Esther Castro says it all. Everything is shiny new and ready to be used. And once again we thank Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for their generous donations. You folks did a lot to help schools in the Tucume District last year, and so far this year you've earned the thanks and respect from many people in the Mochumi District.

The costs for both projects were:

                                                                           Carrizo Bajo      Huaca Quemada
4 tables & and 16 chairs*                                     $357.61             $353.46
2 storage shelves                                                        52.13                 52.13
1 whiteboard                                                               51.64                 51.64
Erasers & markers                                                        5.21                   5.21
12 puzzles & 12 books                                                44.16                 44.16
Transport furniture from carpenter to village      12.16                 10.65
Transport whiteboard & shelves from Chiclayo   15.23                 15.23
                                                      Total                    $538.14            $532.48

* - The cost difference for chairs and tables was because they were paid for on different dates and the dollar had risen against the Peruvian Sole when we paid for Huaca Quemada.

We have three projects under our belt so far this year, and invitations to many more villages. We may be looking at another project next week.