Local volunteers lend many helping hands in Peru
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Daycare services provide a learning experience for the children of women that learning sewing as a trade.
Journalist James Armstrong has joined the team of volunteers who are helping the Hudson-based Pure Art Foundation's humanitarian work in Pucallpa, Peru. He'll be filing regular reports over the next two weeks. See our Facebook page for photo and video updates.
Fifty-eight local volunteers are participating in the Pure Art Foundation’s humanitarian aid trip to ‘The Hub of Hope’ in Pucallpa, Peru, and are spending their first week in the Amazonian rainforest frontier town.
Many arrived March 2, as planned, others were caught up in an Air Canada flight cancellation scenario that left them searching for alternative flight plans. It’s warm and humid in Pucallpa and the rainy season ended a few days ago.
The local population is looking forward to the beginning of the school year for their children and some Christians were celebrating Carnival, those joyous few days before the more somber season of Lent.
The group was treated to a wide variety of colour, activity, scents and sounds during their bus trip from their comfortable air-conditioned hotel the Hub of Hope in the poorest section of town. Some streets are paved. Most are not and all of them seriously rival our Quebec roads for potholes.
The Hub, located in the Manantay sector, is a well-maintained and colourful series of buildings that host community services for the poorest of the poor. One of those buildings was providing basic and essential medical services to young children. Moms were bringing their tots and school-aged children for routine vaccinations and a medical history and checkup.
Although somewhat shy with the foreign invaders, the children began to exchange smiles with the visitors. Many of the boys were offered a free haircut outside once the vaccinations were over. The work of the day for the volunteers was building the walls of two new homes while local craftsmen mixed and poured concrete by hand to create the floors of the buildings. By day’s end, the floors were in place and smoothed and the walls nearly complete. It was a beautiful day, as the clouds of the morning broke open to reveal a clear blue sky. Some of the neighbours erected a pole decorated with balloons, colourful decorations, and bananas. They delighted in spraying each other and passersby with cold water and the red dust soon became a sticky red paste. Despite the profound and overwhelming poverty of the area, there are moments of joy, outbursts of beauty and inherent sense of community.
Education was the theme of the day March 4 for the volunteers. School begins Monday, March 11 so there was a sense of urgency in the air. A renovation project aimed at upgrading two classrooms on a local school needs to be finished. The registration process for the 250 children who are sponsored through the Pure Art Foundation One School for All program was scheduled to begin Monday afternoon and would wind up on Tuesday evening. The third educational event was a class that is part of the Sewing Initiative that provides training for women in sewing and entrepreneurship.
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Moms bringing their tots and school-aged children for routine vaccinations, medical history, and checkup.
An adjacent building houses a daycare centre for the children of the women taking the course. The daycare centre is dedicated to the memory of Ben McKinnon who had travelled to Pucallpa many times with his parents, Brigitte and Robert McKinnon and had grown close to many of the families in the community.
There’s a sign posted in the doorway of the building that states in Spanish “Welcome to the Ben Daycare.” Norika, a qualified schoolteacher and her assistant Kelly, volunteer their time to supervise and teach the children.
The schoolroom renovation project is a joint venture between the Foundation and a publicly run primary school.
“This is a first for us, for this type of project,” said Foundation Director Robert McKinnon. According to McKinnon, the school system had decided not to spend any money on the school building although classes would continue to be held there. With the help of generous donation from Dr. Laurent Trempe and his wife Natalie Cliché, and the support of a Pucallpa teacher, the renovation project came into being.
Registering children for school through the sponsorship program provides each child with the necessary uniform, shoes, and school supplies for the year. Besides being a simple act of kindness, the provision of these items gives a child a sense of dignity and self-worth. Over 300 students have been sponsored through this initiative including 11 university students who have received scholarships to pursue their ambitions.
The activity began on Monday afternoon as proud parents brought their well-dressed children, polished shoes, pressed shirts, blouses, skirts and trousers to begin the process that ended with each child photographed and given a bag of candy. It was also an opportunity for sponsors that were on the trip to meet their child.
Remember to check our Facebook page for James Armstrong’s regular updates from Peru.