by BWB Quality Assurance Specialist, Janet Robinson Stevens
I am writing you from the hotel lobby of the Casa Adino Centro in Miaflores Lima Peru. Lima is to my surprise a desert region snuggled between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It never rains here. We took a guided tour today and our guide told us that because it is so dry here that if the people did not clean every day, within two days they would be able to write their names on the table tops inside their homes. However, the humidity ranges from 85 to 100% daily, so even though it is cool you still sweat.
The people here are very kind and thoughtful and patient, especially with my Spanish (or lack there of).
On our first day after our arrival we went to a Catholic school in the hills within one of the many districts here. When we arrived we were welcomed as if we were rock stars. It was very grand. The children were waving flags and cheering. They were all dressed in uniforms and presented banners and their flag. We were serenaded by the children, and then we turned the corner and saw just how many children this school supports. There were over 800 kids there. It blew my mind. Everyone is so incredibly kind and generous.
The children made us pictures and signed there names to them. From just this one school alone we have enough pictures and letters of thanks that we could create our own mural at work. The community is 90% Catholic and very devout. The city is rich in its history, there are buildings here that date back to the 1500’s.
From what I understand they are more prepared for a major earthquake then Los Angeles, California is. The buildings are made with bamboo and clay which allows the buildings to move when the earth shakes. What they are not prepared for is if it were to rain, our guide explained.
Now, on to the difficult part. It is clearly easy to see just how much need there is here. I went to Portland, Oregon with my daughter Ashley and my niece Crissy earlier this year to do the “twilight tour” and the homes we saw on the mountains and the hills were beautiful, but the bonus to having that kind of home is the view. NOT HERE. These shacks or shanties on the mountains and hills are the epitome of destitution. They have no running water, and the water itself is not safe to drink even if they did. There are no streets on the hills, only dirt walk ways and boarded walks. The shanties are closely packed together and they are everywhere.
I was trying to understand the dynamic of the different demographics of the people here. From what I see there are a few very wealthy, there are some middle class that have nice homes and a good living and there are numerous poor – to omany to imagine. This is why these Catholic schools are here. If it were not for these schools, the children may not be able to even eat. They have breakfast, lunch and a snack each day at school. Eating is one of life’s basic necessities. The schools provide that. However there are many children out there that are either too far away from the school or they have no parents so they have to spend their time scrounging for food. These people come down from the mountains to find a better life, only to end up in these slums.
Luis, our guide this day, is also the English teacher at the school. Both he and his wife along with many others have dedicated their lives to helping at this school. Luis said there are three choices in this life – good or bad – as he put it. There is going to school, going to the jail or going to the cemetery. So go to school. As harsh as that sounds, it is the truth. Anyone that has ever had to struggle in their life financially understands what it does psychologically to ones self esteem.
Even I have had my own share of struggles, so it is easy to see how one would end up in jail or the cemetery without an education. These kids have the potential just like anyone else to succeed. I had the opportunity to ask one class full of older girls if they could do anything that they wanted what it would be. The responses I got were not what I was expecting. I figured I would hear dreams such as to be a ballerina or an actress. What they said was I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a doctor. How could anyone deny a child such a determined dream? When prompted for what the school’s needs are, the teachers asked for desks for the kids and a computer among other important items. If you are interested in helping or would like to comment you can respond to this blog post.
I will write more soon and post my pictures as well as soon as I find an SD port… hugs to all and God bless, Janet.
PS – buenos noches!