Thursday, August 3, 2017

Better Late Than Never…

On July 8 we wrote about the village of Paredones San Juan; their pronoei and the prospect of furnishing the classroom. We had estimated a cost of $910 to cover the project. For several weeks we had no response to our request for donations and it was beginning to look like we would not be able to contribute anything to the village. Fortunately the Alice Cool Foundation, our long-time friend and supporter contacted us, offering to underwrite the entire project.

Magali was swarmed upon arrival yesterday morning. Several mothers had told her that they were not sure she would come, or at least not with the promised items. Villagers have often been disappointed when promises made by local governmental authorities are not realized because of lack of funds. Promesa Peru is proud to say that we have never reneged once a promise has been made.

The Alice Cool Foundation’s generosity allowed us to deliver 6 tables, 24 chairs, 4 storage shelves, 1 whiteboard with erasers and markers plus puzzles and story books for each of the 24 students. Magali said there is a completely different environment and attitude among the kids and their mothers. We’ve seen this before…the new furnishings creating a seriousness and formality to the learning process. Teachers have told us that attendance almost always increases after we’ve furnished the classrooms.

The project cost was $943…$23 over estimate, again due to transportation of the furniture from the carpenter to the far distant village.

An interesting side note is that two of Magali’s former classmates who are in the business of manufacturing classroom furniture contacted Magali seeking our business. Both of them quoted prices that were in excess of 20% more than our carpenter in Tucume has been charging us. That’s good information.

Again, our thanks to the Alice Cool Foundation for contributing to the education  of these kids.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adapting to Change

A few years ago two Canadian couples visited Chiclayo, Peru and asked Maribel and I to guide them to non-touristy places. On the first day we took them to Collud, one of the more primitive villages in the Lambayeque Region. Stepping out of the car their faces took on a stunned expression. One of the women muttered, “My God…it’s like walking into a National Geographic article.” As is so often the case, being told in advance what to expect doesn’t do it…you need to see and feel it yourself.

Now, I am not saying that the town of Rossville, Georgia where we now live is anything like those Peruvian villages I grew to love, but in the past six weeks we have often had the feeling that we’ve stepped into the 1940s. Take this morning for instance.

We’ve got nearly all of the furniture we want but haven’t found a TV stand we like. We live in rural Rossville. It’s more like country than city. About a quarter mile from our house on a side road is a collection of old buildings…a few houses, a gas station and a used furniture store. We were on our way to downtown Chattanooga; about a 20-minute drive when we decided to check out the store. If you’re familiar with Norman Rockwell paintings you’ll have some idea of what the ‘town’ looks like as well as the store front and interior. The building served some other purpose years ago. Now it is crammed full of used furniture, mostly wooden items. Prices range from $50 to $150. There weren’t any TV stands but there were a few tables that could serve as a stand. In a corner was a table and matching chair with some of the most beautifully grained wood I have ever seen, with a $150 tag on it. I looked long and hard at that item but decided we didn’t need it.

While we were inside looking around the proprietor was out back unloading some chairs from an old pickup truck. He looked to be about 80, wearing faded jeans and plaid long-sleeve shirt, a baseball cap and worn leather boots. When he had finished his work and came into the store his southern drawl was so deep and so slow that neither Maribel or I could understand him (the southern drawl has been a problem for us more than once. When I commented to a woman that I couldn’t understand her accent, she said, “I’m from Tennessee and this is the way we talk! You’re the one with the accent!).

When we left the store I shook hands with the man and thanked him for letting us look around. That led to another five minutes of near unintelligible conversation. The whole experience…the town, the store, the man was indeed reminiscent of the 1940s. And that’s not an isolated case. There are what I call pockets of the past all over this area, including downtown Chattanooga. In time we’ll get used to these pockets of the past but at the moment there’s a feeling of being off balance when we find ourselves in these situations.

I had my army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in the early 1960s. When I returned home after six months my mother asked, “Why are you talking like that?” It was then I realized I had picked up a southern twang. A few days ago, after only six weeks here, Maribel asked why I was talking like that. I think I’m adapting to change.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Village of Paredones San Juan

On the official Mochumi District map the name is Paredones. Ask anyone who lives in the village and they will tell you the name is Paredones San Juan. The San Juan part has an interesting story behind it. An unofficial village historian who seemed to know what he was talking about told Magali that on July 16, 1624 when the Spaniards were governing the area the villagers protested to the governor that the village had no water. In response a canal was built that to this day brings water from some distant source. The canal was named Saint John.

No one is sure how the name Paredones came about or even what it means, though it is possibly associated with the hill (in Spanish ‘huaca’) the village was built upon.

The huaca was apparently part of a Moche culture village dating back to approximately 800 AD, and like all such huacas associated with the Moche culture it has been illegally excavated over time by individuals hoping to find pottery to sell. Those people are referred to as huaqueros. They usually work at night with hand shovels. Wherever they have been the landscape resembles a cratered moonlike surface.

There are over 200 families living in and about Paredones San Juan. Like most villages in this area, the economy is based on agriculture with mangos being the dominant crop.

The name of the pronoei is Las Fresitas, meaning little strawberries. The teacher, Mariela Sandoval (right) has been there 8 years. This year she has 24 students. The building is a crude structure and there is little inside that would suggest it is a classroom.

To equip this classroom as we normally do would be an expensive proposition:

6 tables - $166.26
24 chairs – 369.46
4 storage shelves – 104.68
1 whiteboard with markers – 60.04
Teaching aids – 96.06
Transport – 65
Magali’s salary – 49.26
Total = $910.76

That’s a lot of money. Promesa Peru has $35 so we have a long way to go but we believe this village and these kids are deserving. We’d like to try to help them, or at least see how far we can get. Please help by visiting the Promesa Peru website to donate whatever you can. Thank you. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Huaca de Toro is complete…on to the next?

On Wednesday, July 5 Magali was at the village of Huaca de Toro delivering the last of the items Promesa Peru had promised to the pronoei. Everybody looks happy, and most importantly the kids are off the floor.

The physical items…3 tables, 12 chairs, 2 storage shelves, 1 whiteboard, erasers and markers cost $380; within $3 of our estimate. Transportation came to $63, $8 more than estimated. Magali’s time was 8 hours for $49, though we suspect it took longer than that and she is donating to the cause. The total project cost was $492.

We and the people of Huaca de Toro thank Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, Denny Wallette, and The Alice Cool Foundation for making this project possible.

This was Magali’s first solo project and our first remote project. Overall it went better than anticipated. There were some communication delays, primarily due to Magali’s other roles as a wife, mother and teacher, something certainly understandable.  

Magali has visited several villages this past month but is recommending that we donate to only one of them; the village of Paredones San Juan mentioned in an earlier post. Maribel and I still have not had the time to study the information Magali sent to us, and with preparing for our house closing on Monday it will probably take a few days more to sort it out.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An Update on the Village of Huaca de Toro

After several false starts the Huaca de Toro project is underway. So far the system with Maribel and I in the US and Magali in the Lambayeque Region has worked smoother than we’d expected. Magali has done a good job when visiting the villages of taking photos and gathering information, identifying needs and offering her opinions to us. Delays were caused by a condition we did not anticipate but probably should have…how to get the money from the US to Peru.

Paypal didn’t work, because although Paypal says it works in Peru, only one bank in Peru ‘partners’ with Paypal, and as I understand it that bank requires a minimum balance and minimum deposit. An internet attempt to send money through Wells Fargo apparently seceded until we received notification that it had failed.

Yesterday after registering with a store here we were able to send the money directly to Magali in Chiclayo through Money Gram at a reasonable fee. Today she will be purchasing the storage shelves and whiteboard. Usually the carpenter who makes the chairs and tables requires 50% down before he begins work, but on Magali’s word that the money will be coming he started two days ago. That’s rare in Peru. Hopefully we’ll have photos of the new classroom furnishings at Huaca de Toro early next week.

Magali has not been idle while waiting for the cash to arrive. She recently visited the village of Paradones San Juan. Maribel and I are strapped for time now but hope to be able soon to study the photos and digest all the information Magali sent to us about the village. It certainly looks like a Promesa Peru project.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Things We Didn’t Expect

In Peru, before I lost my awkward tourist mannerisms, I was panhandled nearly every day. It would usually start as a friendly discussion, “You are not Peruvian…where are you from?” Inevitably it would lead to, “Senor, two soles for bread please?” In addition there were women sitting on sidewalks in the downtown area; a baby in their arms and pleading to buy their candy. I often saw many of those same women over the years, sitting in the same locations with babies who never seemed to grow.

We’ve been in the US for three weeks now, and I have been panhandled several times, each time beginning with a seemingly friendly comment. We’ve seen many men (and some women) standing at main intersections holding hand-printed signs reading, “homeless – hungry – God bless.” We saw three college-age kids sitting under upturned shopping carts in a slight rain hold a sign saying “please help us.” At least one was a female. They had smiles on their faces as we passed, making me think that perhaps this was a college survey for a sociology class. We expected to see these things in Peru, but was not expecting them in the US. Maybe we had lived a sheltered life up there in northern Wisconsin.


We’re not sure when the closing on our house will happen but we do know that when it happens we’ll need furniture and a car quickly. Yesterday we were at a car dealer in one of those small towns I mentioned in a previous post. We were talking with a salesman about a particular SUV we liked, when Maribel mentioned it was smaller than most SUVs and could be a problem for transporting furniture items to our house if we needed to. The salesman replied, “No problem…come into our dealership and borrow one of our trucks. We do that often”. Okay! Then I raised another possible issue.

Maribel hasn’t driven in nearly eight years, and will need some practice before taking to the road again. If we were to buy the car we were looking at, we’d be at the dealership with our new car and the rental car. We’d need to return the rental to the airport, and I obviously can’t drive both. The salesman, never missing a beat said, “We’ll deliver the car to the airport for you.” When I asked him if he was really serious about the offers he was making, he looked at me with a slightly offended expression and said, “You’re in Georgia now.”


Speaking of motor vehicles, we did not expect the seemingly constant congestion on the interstates and secondary highways going through and around the city. The city population is less than 200,000 yet traffic conditions are equal to Miami during rush hour. Stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper is the norm during peak hours. That is something we never considered during our research of the area. We thought we had left behind the chaos of Chiclayo streets during ‘hora punta.’ We are very happy that we chose a home in one of those outlying communities, with enough shopping and entertainment support to allow us to go into the city center only when we choose to.

It seems as though we have a lot to learn about living in the south. We’re looking forward to the journey.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Huaca de Toro is a go!

On June 15, we wrote about the village of Huaca de Toro and the equipment needed for the pronoei Mi Nino Jesus. We’re happy to report that thanks to Denny Wallette and The Alice Cool Foundation we have the money to go ahead with that project. The time table for the delivery of the items has not been worked out yet but should be within the next week.

We learned a little more about how the village got its name. There is a hill in the distance that, using a little imagination, resembles a reclining bull. At various times in the past people have reported seeing a bull running in the area at night. It was so long ago that the story has been relegated to legend, but still, no one goes there in the evening.

When looking at the photos and reading the report from Magali, Maribel and I both felt good that Promesa Peru is continuing, and yet a little sad. For the first time in eight years a Promesa Peru project is happening and we’re not there.

So where are we? We’re in the United States. Before leaving Chiclayo we spent months researching weather, taxes, cost of living, geography, crime rates and availability of leisure time activities. We ended up focusing on one metropolitan area, and so far it looks like we made a good choice.

It’s a nice town…not too big and not too small. The 117 page official visitors guide book is full of things to do and places to see, as well as the usual listings for hotels and restaurants. We walked four miles of the river walk today, stopping to talk with just about anybody who indicated a notion to pass the time. People are friendly here. We talked with fishermen fishing on the bank of the river that flows right through the town and learned that although catfish are the prized catch, the river holds perch, crappie, bluegill, rock bass and walleye among others.

Trees are everywhere; so are birds and squirrels. There are no palm trees, but plenty of pine and oaks along with others that I have yet to identify. The town is in a valley surrounded by mountains. Flat terrain is at a premium…you’re always walking or driving on an angle. It’s a good thing they don’t often get snow or icy roads here. In fact January is the only month with an average low temperature below freezing, but the average January high is 50 so any snow or ice melts quickly.

The city is within easy driving distance of three major cities and is itself surrounded by smaller bedroom communities just 20 minutes from the city center. It’s the best of both worlds…all the advantages of a big city while living in a home in a country setting. 

We felt so good about the area that we made an offer on a home in one of those smaller towns and it was accepted. Now we’re in the process of going through all the stuff involved in buying a home. We’re told we’re within ten days of closing. We hope so, ‘cause living in a hotel is not fun.

Another thing on my mind is what to do about this blog? I don’t live in Peru anymore, but I’ve got so many memories and experiences during my time there that I probably could continue writing about Peru, but that would somehow feel like cheating. I don’t know if anyone would be interested in reading about My Slice of Smalltown USA. I guess I’ll wait awhile and play it by ear.

In the meantime, Promesa Peru is still in Peru and is alive and well, and needs your help to continue providing an education for those village kids. You can do that by visiting the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Village is Huaca de Torro

On Monday when Magali Mestar, our new Promesa Peru representative in the Lambayeque Region visited Huaca de Toro, she learned that there are about 20 families living in this little village located about 15 miles south west of the city of Mochumi. Huaca de Toro means land of the bull, though no one knows or remembers how the village got its name.

There is a small chapel in the center of the village named La Manito de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo. Inside the chapel is an ornate statue of a hand (upper center). The villagers refer to it as the hand of Jesus, and every August 5th there is a three-day celebration of the “little hand of Jesus.” Throughout the year villagers pray to the hand, asking for a good growing season, avoidance of illness, and prosperity for family and friends.

Monday through Friday the chapel is home to the pronoei Mi Nino Jesus (my baby Jesus), where Regina (left) has taught for two years. She has 12 students ages three to five who attend more or less regularly. The furnishings are sparse, and the few chairs are broken or nearly so.

There has been discussion with the mayor of Mochumi about constructing a modular pronoei, perhaps as soon as august, though there is no guarantee. If a building is constructed, it will be just a shell, with nothing else provided, so whether class continues in the chapel or a new building, equipment for the school will still be needed. 

We would like to provide 3 tables, 12 chairs, two storage shelves and a whiteboard. Those items will cost $377.44. Transportation will be costly because we’re talking long distances for the furniture from Tucume and remaining items from Chiclayo. That will cost about $55. Magali’s time at an estimated 8 hours will add $48.90, for a total project cost of $481,34.

We believe this is a good project. If you agree with us and would like to help, please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

By the way, We think that Magali did a fine job gathering information and taking photos on her first solo project. And there is no doubting her ability to relate to the villagers.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Full Body Contact Shelf Assembly at La Carpa Casinelli

There was a holiday feeling in the air when we arrived this morning at the village of La Carpa Casinelli with the items we had promised. Maybe it was because the sun was shining and the fall temperature was perfect. Or perhaps it was excitement about the new furnishings being brought one by one into the classroom. Whatever it was, the village women descended on the two storage shelves like kids racing for free candy. As usual there was lots of discussion about shelf spacing. As I watched, one women placed a bolt in the wrong location. A woman next to her pulled the bolt and placed it into another hole, promptly followed by the first woman pulling the bolt and throwing it on the floor. This led to an outburst of group laughter and before long bolts and nuts were flying in all directions. When the free-for all finally ran out of steam all nuts and bolts were accounted for and the shelves proudly stood against a wall.

We’ve noticed a gradual improvement in quality in the tables and chairs. We suspect that is because we’ve given the carpenter a lot of business and he probably wants to continue to be our supplier. He has held his price this year, and with quality improving that’s a win-win situation.

The teacher, Martina (left) and the Mochumi District pronoei coordinator Patricia know that we’re returning to the United States, and to thank us for our work presented us with a beautiful wall plaque. It will occupy a place of prominence on our living room wall, wherever that will be.  

We did make a brief stop at El Carrizo to deliver the whiteboard we’d promised. Maria seemed pleased to receive it.

The costs for the El Carrizo project was:

One whiteboard       $51.96
Markers & erasers       7.64
Transport                     1.52
Total                         $61.12

The cost for La Carpa Casinelli was:

Three tables & 12 chairs    $265.56
One whiteboard                     51.96
Markers & erasers                   7.64
Two storage shelves              51.96
Puzzles & books                      3.97
Transport                               42.77
Total                                   $423.86

Not charged to either of the above projects is the training time for Magali, mentioned in previous posts and who will be ‘the new face of Promesa Peru’ in the Lambayeque Region. We agreed to pay her 10 soles per hour while training, which is now completed, and 20 soles per hour when she is fully on her own. Her training time amounted to 12.5 hours for $38.17. Her future time will be charged to whatever project she is working on at the time.

As always, our thanks to Chris Raupe, Clif Brown, Denny Wallette, and The Alice Cool Foundation for funding these projects.

The completion of the La Carpa Casinelli project brings to an end Maribel’s and my in-the-field involvement with Promesa Peru activity. We’re going to miss those tiny, isolated villages, the warm and friendly villagers, and the excitement and gratitude upon first seeing the donated items. But who knows….? We’ll be returning to Peru for visits and may not be able to resist the urge to get back into the field one more time.   

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Significant Change for Maribel, Me and Promesa Peru

After nine wonderful years of living in Chiclayo Peru and traveling the length and breadth of this fascinating country, Maribel and I will soon be returning permanently to the United States. Maybe some day we’ll get into the various factors that led up to this decision, but for now it's enough to say it's the right time and the right thing to do.

Our focus at this moment is planning the move to the US, but also in our thoughts is Promesa Peru. For eight years we've been visiting make-shift schools in poverty-stricken desert villages, providing them with classroom furnishings, school supplies, uniforms and teaching aids. There are still so many more schools in need of help that the thought of discontinuing Promesa Peru is weighing heavily on us. After giving it a lot of thought, we believe we have an option to continue helping those kids.

Magali (center) is Maribel’s younger sister. She is a wife, mother and teacher. She has a bachelor's degree in literature and teaches the subject afternoons in a high school. She does private tutoring in the morning to augment family income. On weekends she studies toward a master’s degree.

During the past six weeks she's had an unexpected break in her tutoring schedule, and has accompanied us on some projects so is familiar with our routine. Being a teacher she relates well to the pronoei teachers. Several times she has offered solid suggestions to us and the teachers about how to deal with specific problems, including physical classroom needs and administrative issues. 

We're confident that Magali could carry on with the work. She is willing and enthusiastic about helping Promesa Peru to continue, but a problem is that she cannot afford the loss of her tutoring income to work on Promesa Peru projects. She would need to be compensated for her time, which is in conflict with the philosophy we started with eight years ago that no one in the Promesa Peru organization will ever be paid for their work. To this date that has been true, but conditions and circumstances we could not have foreseen at the time have changed. We never imagined a time when we would not be in Peru to do the work. We don't have another option...we either compensate Magali for her time when working on a project or close the doors on Promesa Peru.

We have had several discussions with her about formally taking on the responsibility of representing Promesa Peru in the Lambayeque Region, and have been training her for the past month. We agreed that if she were to represent us, 20 Peruvian Soles per hour for her time ($6.15 at today’s rate) would be fair. A private tutor typically earns 25 to 40 Soles per hour. Depending on the complexity of the project this could add anywhere from $45 to $75 (9 to 14%) to the cost of an average project.

Maribel and I would continue to make all decisions. The scenario we see is that when Magali receives a request to visit a village she would forward that request to us. If we approve the visit, Magali will go to the village with a questionnaire we've prepared, designed to learn as much about the area, village, people, pronoei and pronoei needs as possible. Magaly will send the information she gathers to us along with photos and her opinion as to what if anything should be donated. If we approve we will write a post describing the village, school and scope of the project. If we receive donations to fund the project Magali would be responsible for purchasing and transporting the items. She would take photos of the donated items in the classrooms as we do now and send them to us for publication in this blog and the Promesa Per webpage. In theory the system would operate as it does now.

Magali is the only person we would trust with this responsibility. When circumstances permit we're going to do a trial project with her flying solo. If it doesn’t work out for her or us, or if it turns out to be too cumbersome or costly, we will have to say goodbye to Promesa Peru.

We would welcome any thoughts from our readers about this subject.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

When we have to say no…

We always write about and post photos describing our visits to the villages/schools that we decide to donate to. I don’t think we’ve ever written about the schools we visit and decide not to support. The pronoei Caritas Felices (Happy Faces) in the village of El Carrizo is one recent example. Readers may be interested in how that scenario plays out.

We stopped at El Carrizo on the same morning we visited the village of La Carpa Casinelli. The pronoei in El Carrizo is unusual in that it is located in an unneeded classroom inside of a government sponsored primary school (pink building).

There are other very obvious differences between the two schools mentioned. In La Carpa Casinelli the schoolroom is bright, cheery and organized. In El Carrizo the classroom is dark bordering on gloomy. There is the feeling of a lack of organization; a sense more of a storage room than classroom.

Maria (not her real name) has 11 students. She’s been teaching at Caritas Felices for three years. She has a nervous energy about her that contributes to the unsettled feeling in the classroom. That being said she is probably a very effective teacher. We have no way of knowing so we don’t form judgements.

Maria asked us for new furnishings for the classroom. Sometimes, when trying to provide the best possible learning environment for their students, teachers forget the distinction between need and want. Maria has enough tables and chairs for the present enrollment. Yes, they’re old and mismatched but they are still serviceable. She has an odd assortment of storage shelves. They’re not the greatest but they do hold things. Rather than getting more shelving, in our opinion fully half of the things on the floor in front of each wall is junk and could be tossed without being missed. Among all the stuff we noticed a good assortment of learning materials.

This is not an indictment of Maria. We don’t fault her for asking. She’s seen the shiny new chairs, tables, storage shelves and whiteboard we supplied to nearby Carrizo Bajo two weeks ago. She knows that we also provided books and puzzles for the kids. We’re certain that she has the interest of the kids at heart and is working to the best of her ability. If we were to be critical at all it would be directed at the parents association. They could help to organize the classroom, and should see that a fresh paint job with vivid colors is long overdue. An old plaster chalkboard is badly pitted and chipped. We will donate a whiteboard with erasers and markers ($60), but declined Maria’s other requests.

We don’t like saying no. There is always the downcast facial expression, and usually a final plea to provide “only a few of the things” asked for. Our explanation that we have limited funds and in our opinion there are other pronoeis with greater needs never seems to assuage the disappointment. It is those moments when we try to remember all the schools we have supported.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in the Mochumi District Again

We had completed the 45 minute combi ride from Chiclayo to Mochumi and were in the mayor’s office by 8:00 AM. He had invited us to visit to learn about Promesa Peru and what it is that we do.

Alex Rodriguez is a straight-forward man, meaning there are no frills about him. He doesn’t smile unnecessarily, is neither patronizing or pompous, and doesn’t speak just to hear himself talk. In other words he is not the typical politician. But what really sets him apart is that his constituents love him. Without exception, everyone we talked with told us that Alex listens, is fair, and gets things done. That is a glowing endorsement in a region where being critical of a mayor is almost like a religion.

We had a busy morning scheduled so after a brief discussion, and promising Alex that we would invite him to our next school donation, we boarded a mototaxi for a 20-minute ride to the village of La Carpa Casinelli. It was still early and there was a bit of a chill in the air as we slowly traversed the gravel road bordered on both sides by what seemed like endless rice paddies; the rice nearing harvesting time.

This is the village of La Carpa Casinelli. It has an interesting history…both past and present. Years ago a family named Casinelli owned all of the land for miles around. At some point the patriarch decided to reward the field workers by giving them land. At first the workers had no money to erect houses, so they put up tents. Thus the village of La Carpa Casinelli (in English la carpa means ‘the tent’) was born.

Recently an event took place that made the evening television news and was not so well received by the villagers. One morning about six weeks ago the teacher and students approached the school to find that someone had welded a hasp on the door and placed a padlock on it. Though the lot had been legally donated to the community by a deceased community member, one of the descendants decided to rescind the donation and reclaim the lot. The problem was somehow resolved but not until the school had been closed for two weeks.

Ninos Talentos (talented children) is the name of the pronoei. The building is well maintained inside and out. The animals seem to like it also.

Martina Cajusol is in her first year teaching at this school. She has 11 students. For the 11 students she has two tables and four chairs; two chairs with broken backs. We feel the village and school are deserving and would like to donate 12 Chairs ($182.82), 3 tables ($82.27), 2 storage shelves ($51.80), 1 whiteboard ($51.80), markers and erasers ($7.62) and an estimated $30.47 for transport, bringing the total to $406.78. We have $215. We need $192 to complete the project. If you can help us please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

We did visit another village school after leaving La Carpa Casinelli, but we need some discussion before deciding if we want to get involved with that school.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We Need Material for ‘Sector De Hogar’

Last April 28 when we met in the village of Cruze Sandoval with all of the pronoei teachers of the Mochumi District, we asked each of them what they needed for their classrooms. Most of their wants were for the items we usually donate…chairs, tables, etc., but every one of them also asked for “material para sector de hogar” which translates to material for the home sector. We had never heard that request or term before and explained that we needed to understand what it was they were asking for and why. Their responses were both informative and fascinating.
Much of Peru is still considered to be what is described as a macho society. By ‘macho’ I don’t mean guys sitting around the house in wife-beater shirts swilling beer and occasionally getting up to beat their wives. Some of that does exist but not in the vast majority of households. What does exist is a clear division of labor that is not in favor of females. In the small villages what this means is men work in the fields while women clean the house, sweep the grounds, feed the kids and get them ready for school, feed the livestock, get water from the community well, cut or gather fire wood for cooking, go to town to purchase needed items, wash clothes and hang them to dry, shuck peas, beans and corn, kill and clean a chicken and cook everything in preparation for the man and children returning home for lunch. She performs similar tasks for the remainder of the day, finishing with laying out clean clothing for the man and kids to wear next day before turning of the lights.

The men’s routine is much simpler. When they’re not working in the fields, they usually can be found sitting in groups under a shade tree discussing whatever while drinking their favorite beverage…probably brought to them by their wives. Helping with household chores is not something men normally do, those chores being regarded as women’s duties. Remember, we’re talking about small villages here, but that mindset exists even in larger cities. 

Over the last few years there has been a growing movement of protests and programs aimed at eliminating physical and mental abuse toward women, and promoting respect for women in general. Late last year the Minister of Education in Lima added a course called home sector to all government schools curriculum. The purpose of the course is to promote respect for women and the work they do, and to teach young kids that men sharing household work is a good thing.

In the upper level grades the teaching is done by lecture. In the lower grades like kinder and pronoei, teaching is supposed to be accomplished by play-acting with the use of props simulating a home setting. We don’t know what if anything the government is supplying to national schools to assist with the program, but as always pronoeis are left to their own resources to get the job done.

In this photo of the pronoei in Carrizo Bajo there is a miniature table and chairs located lower right. That’s all they have so far to implement the program.

The pronoei in the village of San Miguel incorporates some of the classroom furniture with other items they’ve managed to find to more closely resemble an actual home setting.

The following are internet photos found while researching the subject of Sector de Hogar, probably taken in larger cities where the parents association has the resources to donate the items pictured.

We’re certainly in favor of eliminating spousal abuse. Less well defined is the issue of attempting to change the men-women relationship and division of labor culture that has been in place for centuries. I remember several of my older female relatives, including my mother and her sister, and a few celebrities like Dale Evans, the wife of Roy Rogers saying that women were perfectly satisfied with their role in the home and that equality of sexes was “nonsense”. It would not be surprising if it were learned that many Peruvian village women, especially the older ones have that same attitude.

The question we at Promesa Peru are asking ourselves is, would donating items for the Sector De Hogar program be in line with our definition of supporting education, or is it a social program better left to the villagers and local government to sort out? We’d welcome reader comments on this subject.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Busy Morning in the Mochumi District

Our first stop this morning was at the pronoei Corazon De Maria in the village of Carrizo Bajo.  The teacher Carmen Salazar, the kids and members of the parents association were waiting for us. The tables and chairs had been delivered two days ago.

We brought with us a whiteboard, two storage shelves and books and puzzles. What a different atmosphere those items brought to the classroom. Two weeks ago the kids were sitting on bricks and boards. Now there is a more formal, legitimate feeling, and the whiteboard and shelves will add to it.

The kids, Carmen, the parents and us would like to thank  Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for providing these kids with the opportunity for a better education.


From Carrizo Bajo we went to Huaca Quemada and the pronoei Little Explorers where members of the parents association began assembling shelves before we had even finished unloading.

The expression on the teacher's face, Esther Castro says it all. Everything is shiny new and ready to be used. And once again we thank Clif Brown, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Denny Wallette for their generous donations. You folks did a lot to help schools in the Tucume District last year, and so far this year you've earned the thanks and respect from many people in the Mochumi District.

The costs for both projects were:

                                                                           Carrizo Bajo      Huaca Quemada
4 tables & and 16 chairs*                                     $357.61             $353.46
2 storage shelves                                                        52.13                 52.13
1 whiteboard                                                               51.64                 51.64
Erasers & markers                                                        5.21                   5.21
12 puzzles & 12 books                                                44.16                 44.16
Transport furniture from carpenter to village      12.16                 10.65
Transport whiteboard & shelves from Chiclayo   15.23                 15.23
                                                      Total                    $538.14            $532.48

* - The cost difference for chairs and tables was because they were paid for on different dates and the dollar had risen against the Peruvian Sole when we paid for Huaca Quemada.

We have three projects under our belt so far this year, and invitations to many more villages. We may be looking at another project next week.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Meeting in the Village of Cruce Sandoval

Occasionally during the school year pronoei teachers in each district will get together to talk about common interests and problems. The meeting is usually called and chaired by the district coordinator. Such a meeting took place this morning at the pronoei 'Mi Segundo Hogar' (my second home) in the village of Cruce Sandoval in the Mochumi District.

Patricia, bottom row left is the Mochumi District coordinator. Last year she was the coordinator for the Tucume District and was the primary reason we were so busy in that district. This year she has called on us to help the pronoeis in her new district. Standing next to Patricia is Carmen Salazar from the village of Carrizo Bajo. Donations for her school, and for the school of Esther Castro (bottom row extreme right) from Huaca Quemada should arrive the second week in May.

There are 13 pronoeis in the Mochumi District; a relatively small number given the many villages in the district. The other 11 teachers have invited us to visit their schools, which are scattered all over the district, and some quite a distance from the city of Mochumi. We will try to visit all of them over the next few months. It was also suggested that we meet with the mayor and his people to coordinate our efforts to help the pronoeis.

A few weeks ago we were sitting back twiddling our thumbs waiting for calls for help from the villages. Now we've already got more invitations than we can handle, and more will be coming. It happens that way every year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Estimating Promesa Peru Project Costs

We're usually close on our project cost estimates. It's not difficult to do if two key factors are up to date. We use the Excel spread sheet below to do the estimating. This example is the actual estimate for the village of Carrizo Bajo. I forgot to enter a quantity for whiteboard erasers/markers.  Click on it to enlarge.

It all starts with column B, the unit price in Peruvian soles. Those are the prices we have to constantly monitor to keep the spread sheet accurate. Notice we don't have unit prices for school supplies. That's because we haven't been asked to donate school supplies for some time, and it takes a lot of work to check all of the prices for the items that comprise school supplies, such as paper, pens. pencils, scissors, glue, erasers, etc. If we are asked for school supplies we'll have to go through that process.

The other key factor is the exchange rate in cell I1. We check that number daily. The rate has been on a downward trend ever since it reached a high of 3.535 in February 2016. As the rate drops the cost in dollars increases. For example, those same 16 chairs that cost $246.84 now, had a price of $226.63 in February last year. Applying that same percentage difference to whiteboards, shelves and transport amounts to a significant difference in the total project cost. Incidentally, the same applies to donations.

For every $50 donation, we receive $48.25. PayPal takes $1.75. But because we pay the bills in soles, we're receiving less money as the rate drops. In February last year $48.25 gave us 170.32 soles. With today's rate of 3.241 we receive 156.38 soles. Obviously we'd like to see that rate increase. Back to the spread sheet.

With both the unit prices in soles and the exchange rate up to date, all we have to do is enter quantities. The spread sheet calculates all the other numbers. We pay particular attention to the percent numbers in column G. That number tells us if we need to look for different suppliers or different modes of transportation to control costs. Notice in the spread sheet we have a quantity of 3 in transport. That's because we have to hire a motocar, not mototaxi to transport the chairs and tables from the carpenter in Tucume to the village of Carrizo Bajo, a distance of 13 very difficult miles. The further away we operate from Tucume, the more that cost is going to increase.

And speaking of transport, we've just learned that the furniture for Carrizo Bajo and Huaco Quemada will be ready for pick-up on Tuesday May 9, so we should be in those two villages shortly after that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Good Morning in Los Bances

Parents, kids and the teacher had good reasons to celebrate this morning. Yesterday they moved into their new classroom, which is actually the village town hall but is rarely used except on weekends and some evenings. Rather than have it sitting empty the villagers decided the pronoei should use it.

Also yesterday, the new tables and chairs were delivered. everyone was happy with the quality and colors. Usually 5 tables and 20 chairs would fill the typical classroom, but here they seem lost in all the space.

This morning we gave them puzzles and books as promised. We usually tell the teacher the names of the people who donated the items, in case they want to recognize those individuals. Though they don't always get the spelling right their thanks is sincere and heartfelt. We and they thank Denny Wallette, Chris Raupe, The Alice Cool Foundation and Clif Brown for making this project possible.

The cost for this project was:
5 tables & 20 chairs - $447.08
Puzzles & books - 45.38
Transport - $15.41
Total - $507.87

As we were leaving with beans, chicha, and a turkey they had given us, the teacher Martha (wearing the apron) asked us for a chocolatada next December. She said she was asking now because she wanted to be sure they were first on our list. On a devilish impulse Maribel told her she was third. She looked crestfallen.

During the mototaxi ride back to Tucume our driver stopped to help a fellow driver. His moto had broken down. We towed his moto several miles to a small village where a repair shop was located. No payment was offered nor did our driver expect it. The reason I mention this is because it's funny how a minor incident like this can trigger long forgotten memories.

Many years ago on a rainy spring day in Wisconsin I was driving into town when I saw a woman parked on the shoulder helplessly staring at a flat tire. I had time and didn't mind getting wet so I stopped and changed tires for her. When I was finished she offered $5 to me. I told her to forget it...that maybe someday her husband would change a tire for my wife. She looked at me with a puzzled expression and then asked, "But how will he know who she is"?

We had to wait about 20 minutes for passengers at the Tucume combi station, so to use the time Maribel got a good start on shuckin' beans. Fortunately the turkey had already been killed and cleaned when given to us. It was a good morning. We were back in Chiclayo by noon.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Village of Huaca Quemada

Huaca Quemada is a small village located two miles west of the city of Mochumi. The closest we can come to an English translation is 'burnt-out mountain or hill'. Like the village of Carrizo Bajo that we visited on the same morning, the village homes are scattered over a wide area. We were there to see the pronoei Pequeños Exploradores...'Little Explorers'. We like that name.

This is without a doubt the best physical facility we've seen for a pronoei. The brick school was intentionally built 12 years ago as a pronoei, which is very unusual. When local authorities build a pronoei it is usually modular. The building is sturdy and reasonably well maintained. The concrete column with four holes held a plaque probably placed there during the building's inauguration. It was probably metal so suffered the same fate of nearly all metal plaques in Peru; it was stolen and sold. Most commemorative plaques these days are made of plastic. They don't normally get stolen.

It's a relatively large building with lots of interior space and includes a restroom, also very uncommon. The classroom was not used for the last two years. The reason for that was simply because there were no kids in the 3 to 5 age range. This school term 6 kids registered, and first-year teacher Esther Castro knew there were more so she went knocking on doors to find them. She now has 16 students enrolled.

Esther is the sort of teacher we like to see. She's vibrant; a natural leader and very good with the kids. She has already earned the respect of the parents association. She has asked for 2 storage shelves, 4 tables and 16 chairs. We were told that the plastic chairs and two wood tables that were in the school prior to its closing last year had been returned to the owners. She doesn't want a whiteboard, saying that the old plaster chalkboard is perfectly serviceable.

The carpenter we use in Tucume has increased the price of tables to $27.75 from $24.69 last year, but has held the cost of chairs to $15.42. His prices are still the least expensive of other carpenters we've checked.

The tables, chairs and storage shelves will cost $407.03. We'd like to add some teaching aids...puzzles, books etc for another $50. Transport will bring the total to $500. After the Carrizo Bajo expenses have been paid Promesa Peru will be broke so we have no money for this project. If you can help us please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. Thank you.

### Update on other projects ###

The furniture has been delivered to Los Bances. We will be there Tuesday to deliver teaching aids and take photos.

We received the money to finance the Carrizo Bajo project. Thank you. The furniture order has been placed. We still need to buy the storage shelves. Hopefully we can return to the village with everything in place the first week of May.