• T.M. O’Shaughnessy

Pure Art’s team of hope digs deeper on 10th anniversary trip to Peru


PHOTO BY BRIGITTE McKINNON

Together with fellow volunteers from throughout our region making life better for youngsters in Peru are Samuel McKinnon, Murielle Banackissa, Elizabeth Gadd, Lulu Lovering, Joel Robison, Chloé Picard, Joel Martinez, Kes Tagney, and Sebastian, Renault and Liam McKinnon.

The bright red dust of Pucallpa, Peru, is flying as Pure Art’s 10th humanitarian mission to the region shifted into high gear this week, constructing two houses and registering more than 250 children for school.

On this side of the equator, it is the end of summer and a new school year is just around the corner. With students sponsored directly via Pure Art’s One School for All initiative, the crisp white shirts of school uniforms showed no hint of the distinctive red earth that surrounds the two construction sites which are the focus of this year’s Construct a Structure Today (C.A.S.T) goals.

Founded by Hudsonites Brigitte and Robert McKinnon a decade ago, the volunteers who are building homes this week in the slums of this village by the Amazon are now midway through their work in this region of extreme poverty. Aged 14 to 85, they come from every sort of background and each has their own reason for participating.

Hudson resident Bob Johnson has been here six times. “Let me tell you, a trip to Pucallpa puts everything in perspective,” he said. “It shows you in no uncertain terms what’s important and what’s not important and you come back a changed person.”

Karine Joly of St-Lazare is here for the first time. “As a social worker for the past 25 years, I always wanted to take part in a humanitarian trip and Pure Art has allowed me to do that. It’s also such a blessing to be here with my daughter.” And while daughter Cathryn Joly is making the trip for the first time, it’s not the university student’s first such effort. “I’ve been on a previous humanitarian trip to Lima but am still very surprised by the conditions of such poverty here. And also surprised at the way so many people smile.”

Recently retired social worker Louise Gauthier of Vaudreuil-Dorion agreed. “I’ve never before seen such poverty, it’s devastating,” she said. “But I’ve also never seen so many children with happy faces.”

Hudson resident Dr. Rene Paulussen, managing director of a tropical diseases diagnostic firm, is busy building walls for one of the Pure Art houses - but that’s not all.

Explained Paulussen, “This year the Pure Art team has initiated a de-worming program for children that started up with a fundraiser at the Hudson Street Fair and H’OM Yoga Centre last August. Intestinal worm infections are a huge problem in the Pucallpa slums and we are very proud to help these children get healthy so they can attend school and start their future.”

Another Hudson resident, Leslie Blake-Cote, is here for the seventh time. “The first time I came, I saw a house on stilts over a garbage dump and stood there bawling,” she said. “But I knew I would do something. With my dear friends, we started the Bridge to Peru fundraiser in Hudson. People of the community, and the business community, have been so incredibly generous and we’re building Casa Hudson Number Six this week.”

Pure Art’s team will complete their work in Pucallpa this weekend, and start heading home, but plans are already being made for next year. In a moving ceremony on Sunday, the cornerstone for a new child care centre honouring the late Rigaud filmmaker, Ben McKinnon, was laid. And the work goes on. For everyone in Pucallpa, it’s a workload that is all about light. For more info, go to www.pureartfoundation.org

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