Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My first visit to an SOS children's village

One of the first days in Peru the friend I was traveling with was going to visit her 'daughter' at an SOS Children's Village  My friend and her family supports several kids through different organizations here in Peru. I asked if I might join her to visit with the family her 'daughter' lives with.

My interest in going along for this family visit stems from the fact that since I was myself in my late teens I have always supported a kid somewhere in the world - India, Rwanda, Tanzania and at the moment a child in Bolivia.

For the first child I was active and wrote letters and noted birthdays etc. When this girl graduated and got a scholarship to go to university we no longer kept in touch. I was given a chance to support another child and I did, and so once one little person moved out of the system I welcomed the next. I am not very active any longer on the correspondence side other than in always making sure the monthly payments are done.

However the visit at the SOS village in Peru has given me some food for thought.

The village is in the middle of a very urban area - and there is a 'cluster' of houses all belonging to different families of the SOS organization.

The family I had the good fortune to visit consisted of 9 children from around 10 to 21 - the 21 year old has chosen to stay on with the family whilst she finishes her university studies.

In this particular house two of the kids were blood siblings  .....  often though  'family' does not mean there are blood relations,  it means that the children and young people live together as a family would, sharing house, cleaning, shopping, cooking, fun and tears, they become each others sisters and brothers. They create their own family. There is a designated paid housemother - as I understood it in this case the housemother has been with the kids for many many years - watched them all grow up and is guiding and helping them along within a system which can be pretty rough on children if there are no family members to look after them or if their original family is so poverty stricken that they have given up hope looking after the child.

My friend goes to visit this family every time she travels in the area - they all know her well - and she knows them well. There is a lovely connection between them all. The connection that helps a child remember that someone outside or far away cares about..... his/her well-being, the efforts to do the best he/she can in school, in life in general - through a foster parent plan a child or young person does feel their worth and they are given hope that they will themselves be able to move on and up and become the best person they can hope to be!

I had not thought that deeply about why and how and what the real impact would be - really, it is often hard to know and understand things and events fully until one has seen with ones own eyes or felt it on ones own body the true colour of the situation. There are always sponsorship drives going on from many different aid groups. The children I have sponsored over the years have been through Christian Children's Fund - the reason for this being that at the time I sponsored my first kid this to my knowledge was the only sponsor organization available in Denmark.

I have continued on with this Fund. Must say though that I do question the need to mix religion into bringing up children of other cultures - should I choose today I would choose a non-denominational organization like for instance SOS Children's villages - or another organization Foster Parents Plan. I am sure there are many others out there. The fact is that an amount of $50 or less a month is enough to get a kid to school, to provide food and clothes. In many cases there is money for the rest of his/her family as well for improved living conditions, more animals for better nutrition etc. It takes so little and I highly recommend it. In some cases one can even go visit with the kid(s) like we had the chance to do. It is a learning experience.

I have not put up any photos of the village and the children for privacy reasons - only the sheep which were part of a small flock which this family of children and young adults had to look after -  for food and wool - there was a vegetable garden, and hens for eggs and roosters for soup (I am sure) shared fruit trees of different kinds. For the kids who  enjoy sports there was a nice paved sports field and there was a community house close by for bigger mixed family gatherings. Truly an impressive spot. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to go and visit and talk and laugh and discover the happy family feel that was very evident within this group of children and their caretaker.

Volunteering at a school near Calca, Peru

It is winter here in Canada now, cold, windy, snowy. I have a husband on a tractor cleaning up the two driveways in the dark from the snowstorm that we had on Monday this week.
And for me it is time to do a little more blogging about my adventures in Peru.

I had prepared the photos in this blog a while back, just didn't seem able to find the words to adequately describe the joy and the learning and the pleasure that surrounded and overflowed in me when we visited the school and had some fun learning hours with the kids a few times a week during the last part of my stay in Calca. 

Emerita taught classes on colour theory with the kids using some of Johannes Itten's methods of seeing complementary and contrasting colours. They were all eyes and 'some' ears.

 Letting them paint with brushes and aniline paints, using old soup tins to hold the water and off they were after some show and tell instructions.

Here they are looking at a boy/men's traditional hat (chullo), knitted in brilliant colours and with patterns/icons that have significance for the family, telling about their fields, their mountains - their life in/with Mother Nature/PachaMama.

Younger kids expressing themselves - the youngest class was grade one, I believe the kids were around 5 or 6 years old. This being their first year in school we got the class room teacher to translate into Quechua some of what Emerita had shared with everyone in Spanish, just to make sure that the kids had a chance to understand better what it was we were up to in their class room. Some of them hadn't started learning Spanish until this year in school.

The focus of a few of the bigger kids. Having first written a poem about their lives on the mountain. They run back up to 4200m on the weekends to spend time with their family and friends - when they have to go and herd animals, sheep, llamas, alpacas up into the remote spots to find good grazing for their family herd

The last class that I was part of - the kids had brought in weaving from their families - and the topic was 'Icons in your mothers weaving, what does it tell us' - there was chatter and focus and stories and afterwards eager kids with pencils, paintbrushes, paint and beautiful poems illustrated by the authors.

The sink where the kids washed their hands and their plates and spoons after any of the meals they had at school and where they just splashed each other for the fun of it because ..... what else is there to do with running water on a reasonably warm day at school!

Boys playing soccer in the back ground and the girls having a serious conversation amongst themselves and with Emerita about their lives in the mountains, about herding, living, playing, and going to school.

If you go to the Apulaya website, there is a short movie with more in-depth information on the work that Emerita and Valerio do at the school, sometimes by themselves sometimes with fortunate volunteers like myself.  

It was a privilege to participate!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Market photos

Market in Calca, Sunday Market - extra vendors, lots of people and dogs
Below: The quail egg lady in action - she boils eggs right there and
peels them so you can enjoy a quick snack.
We took home 6 eggs in the usual plastic bag - raw eggs - so we could have sunny side up fried eggs for supper. The yolks were the size of my thumbnail
And then there were the cheese tables. 
These here are unpasteurized local cheeses- artfully pressed and decorated.
Yolanda, the wonderful cheese lady who always had time for a chat and a smile in her eyes. I got my pasteurized (in the yellow wrap) local cheese from her, and some other treats for different occasions. We have an agreement that when I come down next time I will bring my husband (he agrees too)
A fruit and vegetable booth and ..... this is where I got some of the small cocoa bars which I brought home for Christmas gifts. For the price of five little bars a sixth was always slipped into the bag - I didn't think about this until I got back to my room and looked over my loot =-)
Picking up food, vegetables, fruits or treats at this market was always fun and lovely, and .... as ever when one goes to a market, be prepared for the urge to do impulse shopping, that is .... the nature of market going - one never knows when leaving home what might be available on this particular day.

Weaving with Apolonia

To start off the year 2013 what follows here is a lineup of photos from Peru of how we (Apolonia from Apulaya and I) proceeded when we started up my last weaving project about 10 days prior to my return to Canada.
 It was a relaxing and yet very exciting time. I had spent the weekend putting extra twist into some of my naturally dyed yarns from Chinchero and I had played with my colour pencils, as well as thought about which of the patterns I had previously woven on narrow bands would be the ones to put together to attempt a wider piece of weaving.
Anais came to join us, she even gave me a hand for a few minutes rolling the balls of yarn back and forth. It is in her hands and mind, she has watched her grandmother prepare warps and weave so many times. She has not yet woven a band, but .... she will, sooooon!
The cross, so beautiful between the two sticks in the ground - the only back draw to making a warp like this is ... if you are not limber enough in your hips and legs you might get a bit sore and fidget a bit while you are working on getting it all together.
The sheep skins are lovely they keep the dampness and potential coolness off your butt and adds a bit of softness between your knees and Pachamama (Mother Earth) as you focus on the task at hand.
Fingers picking up/making string heddles - I was excited to be doing this particular piece because it was a wider warp and that meant incorporating a heddle stick = something which I hadn't worked with before  and thus.... a new challenge.
One would have thought that looping a string around every other warp thread would be 'easy' - and well, it is easy, but ... never the less it is also easy to accidentally pick up the 'wrong' warp end or get them twisted or.... there is ample ground for learning experiences which need a little bit of correction and thus an insightful repetition of the action just performed.
And the birds were singing and the dog(s) came around to help out and lend a paw!
Then the actual weaving began, one pick at a time, slowly meticulously and with absolute concentration.
The first little bit has been done - a zigzag river pattern on each side of the star - and progress was slow - the trick is to memorize the pattern and so it flows effortlessly from your fingertips (a real Andean weaver does this) I am as ever thankful that I had pen and paper, not to mention the colour pencils, for those were/are tools of need for me still - perhaps one day I will be able to have it all in my 'internal confuser' on top of my shoulders.
Happy New Year!
Wishing everyone lots of exciting and successful projects of all kinds for 2013.