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!