• Rafik Riad

Hudson’s Pure Art volunteers receive police escort to airport in Peru


Co-founder of Hudson's Pure Art Foundation Brigitte McKinnon waits for police escort to leave hotel where 34 volunteers, most from Hudson, stayed for a week building a house, a new sewing centre and other constructions in the Manantay slums of Pucallpa, Peru. A general strike earlier in the week had worsened every day, culminating in an atmosphere that required a police escort to the airport for Pure Art's volunteers. Four outriders accompanied the volunteers, two in the front and two in the back.

It was a nervous ending this past Saturday, March 12, to an otherwise successful week of work in the slums of Pucallpa, Peru when a police escort was required to protect 22 volunteers of Hudson’s Pure Art Foundation to an airport that had closed its gates following a general strike that had worsened over four days.

The day before, nine of the total 34 volunteers had traveled to the airport and were greeted by a closed gate though authorities allowed them in a side entrance. And on Sunday the remaining three volunteers made it out before the airport shut down completely later in the day (it re-opened several hours later).

There had been incidents throughout the week following an outbreak of political frustrations after the strike that began Wednesday. But thanks to a local Peruvian support team on the ground finding creative solutions each day, at no time was there any real danger.

“Everyone was so great,” said Pure Art Foundation’s Robert McKinnon. “We waited until the streets seemed clear and then drove out to the site or walked in the streets together, keeping an eye out for each other.”

Volunteers ‎finished a new house for a family in the slums of Pucallpa (Casa Hudson #5) as well as furthering work in the ‘Pure Art Hub of Hope.’ The huge effort of registering the almost 300 schoolchildren enrolled in the One School for All initiative as well as the 15 young adults now attending university was also accomplished.

“Though affected by the events that were spiralling into a bit of chaos, we were still able to deliver the things we said we would deliver in Pucallpa this year," said McKinnon. "Now that everyone is safely on their way home, we are tremendously relieved and happy. And the work got done.”

This was the ninth annual trip of Pure Art to Peru, and the 10th anniversary trip has already signed volunteers for next year, many of whom were in Pucallpa last week.

Rafik Riad is the founder of The Fair Trade Show and was one of Pure Art's volunteers in Peru last week.

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