CONGRATULATIONS to all the Challengers on our first six Charity Challenges of 2011, biking from Guatemala to Honduras, the inaugural Nicaragua Volcano Challenge, Brazil's Chapada Diamantina Challenge , Guatemala's first Caribbean Kayak Challenge, Perú´s Cerani Pass and Ecuador's Volcano Challenge. Nicaragua's second volcano Challenge is set for 3rd-6th November and the third Guatemala Volcano Challenge dates are set for 27th November -2nd December.

Click on the following for our most recent official project reports for Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Perú and Brazil.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The lives of our children in the Pueblos Jovenes in Perú

The children we work with in the communities of Victor Maldonado and Villa el Triunfo have lives most of us cannot comprehend let alone relate to, especially at their ages.

Education in Peru is free and compulsory, however this is not enforced, with parents or guardians out in the Chakras (fields) all day, earning barely enough for food.

The extra costs in “utiles” of school supplies they must buy, is often prohibitive especially because after food there is no spare money for school supplies, and often leads to desertion from the school.

Also because having a child in school removes them from the “workforce”, as an extra pair of hands increases family income.

The schools in/near these communities have been, for a better word, ignored for many years. When GVI Phoenix first arrived at both, most windows were broken, there were no books or reading materials, no pencils etc.

There is also a very high student-teacher ratio with more than one grade per class, thus leading to a low level of attention on individual children and poor teaching, not the fault of the teachers, but the fault of their working environment.

Victor Maldonado & Villa el Triunfo are Pueblo Jovenes (Young Towns), which have been established through people moving to the cities (Arequipa is Peru’s 2nd City) from the Sierra in search of work and a better life for their families.

They arrive with nowhere to live and thus have found a patch of “land” (on hills of rubble) on the outskirts of the city and built their homes.

These are known as Pueblos Jovenes, and have not been recognised by the Government for many years, as on paper they officially did not exist!

The houses do not have 24hr water, there is no sewage system, many lack electricity etc.

Their homes consist of mainly one room breeze block constructions, with corrugated metal as a roof, and dirt for the floor. A lot do not have glass in their windows, and have a plastic sheet for a door.

Over time some have been able to improve their homes i.e. they have doors, built a second room, but a great deal still live in these conditions. The majority of the houses have no toilet facilities (if they do it is a hole in the ground), and thus they go anywhere they can, resulting in even higher levels of dirt and bacteria.

Arequipa is at the top of the Atacama Desert, the world’s driest desert, and is at an altitude of approx. 2300m.

This leads to great variances in the climate, from bitterly cold nights, especially if your house has no door, windows, insulation... extremely hot days when the houses with metal roofs turn into greenhouses. There is no money for new clothing and there are only so many times clothes can be handed down from siblings.

They often sleep in extremely cramped conditions, sometimes on a bed, sometimes on the dirt floor, often sharing the space with the families animals e.g. chickens, goats.
Hand in hand with little money and thus not able to afford an adequate supply of food let alone a balanced diet, the children suffer from nutritional and health issues – weak bones, malnutrition, chest infections, bronchitis, frequent nose bleeds etc.

A balanced diet is pretty much unheard of for our children. For many the fruit and hot lunch GVI Phoenix provides is their only food of the day.

Obviously this has health related issues, but also hinders their learning at school, as concentration is difficult when hungry, which for many of our children is a daily sensation they live with.

Some of our children sometimes fall asleep at school through lack of energy due to hunger and pure exhaustion. One child in our Inicial at Triunfo has been seen eating paper on a number of occasions because he is so hungry.

The self-esteem of many of our children is low, often due to home conditions e.g. violence and alcohol related issues and lack of attention, which are unfortunately common in these poor areas.

A lot of the families are large e.g. At Maldonado we have 5 brothers who are 5 of 12 children (all live in a 1 room house with their parents), thus after a back breaking day at work, having the energy and time to spend with 12 children is extremely difficult.

It is not that their parents do not love their children, but they work every hour they can in order to try and feed their families.

Thus by the time they get home in an evening the youngest are normally already asleep, or they simply lack the time and energy to spend time with their kids.

A lot of our children don’t live with their parents and rarely get to see them, some because the parents have to go away to work, some because their parents have abandoned them on unwilling relatives.

For example Milagros (1st grade) & Alsonso (Inicial), their father left when they were merely babies, their mother unable to earn money here has to go away to work in the flower fields, and thus leaves them with relatives that in the past have physically and mentally abused them (beatings, left outside, not fed, threatened to kill them).

Because of this they were both extremely withdrawn, stealing from other children (as they have had to steal in order to survive), unable to understand human affection when offered to them by the vols, in fact scared of it! However we’re now seeing real development in them, they love giving and receiving hugs, both are learning and enjoying it, and their health is improving due to the lunch & fruit we provide. Alsonso still has social problems in terms of stealing and being violent, but little by little with the love and attention we provide we can see definite progression.

The children here have to learn the meaning of responsibility at a very young age. 5 year olds are responsible for looking after their younger siblings whilst their parents are at work.

After school numerous children have to clean or cook (if food is an option) for their siblings, many get up at 4/5am in order to clean the house and look after their siblings. They have to tend to the families animals such as sheep, goats.

Estefani, Yovana & Ruth are regularly seen after school herding the animals to a field where hopefully they can graze.

Juanito in 5th grade works every day in a wealthier family’s home, cleaning and organising their house, in order to help support his family. Mon – Fri he starts work at 6:30am – 8am, and then comes to school already tired. Sat 7am – 9am, and Sun 8am – 11am.

Pablo in 6th grade, who is the life and soul of Maldonado works every night 1am – 6:30am in a bakery in order to help support his family.

He then comes to school 8am-3pm, goes home and helps at home, gets a few hours sleep and then starts the cycle again.

These children are amazing as they are tired, under-fed, cold and have low self-esteem, though they are extremely welcoming and loving, with a huge desire to learn.

They have the same right as every child in the world, to know what a full stomach every day feels like, to have the love and attention they so rightly deserve, to feel warm and safe at home, and the right to an education for a better future.


Dom Williams said...

From Ian Baker:

I worked in Arequipa for thirteen weeks. i had a wonderful time with the other volunteers there, and the organisation that goes into the project is second to none. It´s clear where the money goes. But what i saw happen to everyone, including me is this......

Whatever heaven is to you , being here allows a part of heaven to touch you. It´s only when you leave and the children have there chance to say thankyou and goodbye , that is is impossible not to cry for all the joy and happiness that has been shared. Everyone around you is so grateful for the part you have played in the development of there worlds.

You may think i´ll be strong and not cry, but you've already made the choice to come here and in doing so, you are giving a part of yourself to help. And at a level the children knowthis, and love you for it.

Here you are given the chance to show what every child needs to know ; that hey do matter. That they are worthy of your attention ad love. That someone does care. The children´s smiles do not lie. Go and see, go and touch a part of heaven .

Annabel Vooght said...

I only spent 6 weeks in Peru, but it was incredible to see what progress the children could make in such a short time. Providing them with basic things that western children would take for granted can bring out such potential in them. I'm so glad to hear that Alonso making such good progress, I worked with him closely in the inicial and whilst he drove me insane for that time, I was so sad to leave him as you could tell that all he needed was someone to spend some quality time with him and give him a hug when he needed it, as he responds so well when he gets it. I hope there are always plenty of vols who can give him that attention he deserves and that all the children in the pueblos jovenes need.

How does GVI Phoenix make a difference?

The following film was made in Guatemala, though the message is the same across all GVI Phoenix projects