14th to 28th May
I can hardly believe I only have one week left!! It has just flown in and I haven’t nearly completed my “to do” list for Living Heart which I have built up since I first arrived. Oh well, most of it I can do in the UK when I return. I must admit I have been quite focussed on making sure the majority of the things I needed to do while I have been here have been completed as far as possible. Sonia has also been keen to sort out a lot especially the finance stuff. Ineke as always has been a star and makes sure all the figures are accurate especially correcting Fani and I when we had not read a spreadsheet properly, which was a relief as the figures nearly gave us a heart attack!
Living Heart runs a lot more smoothly since Ineke took over the office management and books, I can tell you.
Anyway, things are beginning to pick up pace between meetings and visits. You could hardly believe it but trying to see my little god daughter Lonita has proved to be very challenging between meetings always landing on the days that Rita would visit little Jose Antonio (her brother) that we finally went today after dropping off the food delivery to a neighbouring community. As I had visited this community 2 weeks ago I didn’t really feel the need to go back but as it turned out it was worthwhile. I haven’t visited all the communities this time as I felt other things were more important from an administrative point of view and helping with the all the other stuff that keeps Living Heart going. My visits to this particular school and community proved worthwhile because this school is the one we wish to focus on next for a greenhouse and the toothbrush campaign (and soap). I decided I wanted to speak to Dionissio, the school director, about these projects but to make sure he understood we still had to find the money for these projects. This school is by far our largest with about 130 children including the pronoei (kindergarten). Regarding the toothbrush campaign we have just introduced them into the smaller of the two schools in this area. The reason we chose that school was because we had seen the posters on the walls last year and knew the teacher here knew how to ensure the children would use them properly. We thought it important to learn from him and support the other school with the information if necessary. Following a visit by a dentist recently who had done an initial assessment of their teeth it had been decided not to give them toothpaste as the salt in Peru mostly contains fluoride and the salt we provide them with, absolutely does...too much fluoride is not good! It had been decided that the children could use a little salt if anything. We do stress the importance of the teachers taking ownership of the toothbrush campaign to ensure the children are brushing their teeth regularly. We shall see how it goes. After my little soap incident last year I was also very keen to give soap to the teachers so when the children asked permission to go to the toilet they could borrow one of the bars of soap and return it when finished. One of the teachers today came up with a better suggestion. They would prefer liquid soap so they are controlling how much the children use. This is particularly important for the little ones who would struggle with a bar of soap. I think we should look for large dispensers to refill smaller containers of soap in each classroom. That way we can reduce the plastic waste here.
It was break time when we arrived with the food delivery (the vegetables only on this occasion) and was introduced to 2 new teachers this year. I must tell you about the food delivery. The children are usually waiting on us arriving and are very enthusiastic about helping take it to the storeroom, right down to the littlest tot. It is so lovely. I have, hopefully, some lovely pictures of this. Watching them try to lift a huge bag of potatoes and laughing all the time – you just can’t help smiling. Anyway back to the teachers, most only have a contract for a year so come and go being sent to closer schools (in the valley) in between times. Others stay in the same school for long periods of time travelling long distances each day or staying in situ during the week...humbling really! Anyway there seems to be a promotion on just now where grade 6 can go on a trip for 3 days with some supervisory adults. This obviously comes at a cost and which we couldn’t support from our current funds. I will need to speak to the others to see if we should do a particular campaign as the visit isn’t until November. With our children’s home focus (more on this further down) this will be a big decision. If we give to this school should we be offering it to the other school across the mountain or the one in the valley mostly made up of mountain children??? A problem really!!
Regarding our most remote community we have had no access for a number of weeks now. They have been repairing the road..not a long stretch, just a few hundred metres but I think they are doing it with kitchen utensils (only joking) but it is taking forever! Anyway we are hopeful we will get up there this week (Thursday) to see the progress if any with the greenhouse and harvesting of the vegetables. I can update you about that this visit in the next blog.
So my other focus has been the children’s home. There is a lovely and very passionate team of people who have come together to support this project all with different backgrounds and skills. This has led to some great ideas which the team are currently exploring. We feel time is of the essence and are hoping to find the right plot of land ASAP. We have now had 2 meetings and are now actively looking for the right site for our children’s home with a focus on the land and also the community as it is important that we integrate and have strong relations with them. Ensuring the children are still part of a community and maintaining their culture is very important. We are meeting weekly to bring all our findings to the table so I have one more meeting before I head home... which is creeping up fast...next Tuesday I start my flights, hopefully arriving on Wednesday, which will be a first with this particular flight plan! It is important we learn from other children’s homes too, to learn of any great ideas and also be aware of any pitfalls so I am looking forward to hearing the update on Wednesday from a couple of visits that have been done. Another feature we are absolutely passionate about is Halfway Houses, for those older children who wish to stay to continue further with their education or learn a trade, so they can feel part of an extended family and not feel abandoned for a second time.
......so lots going on with Living Heart.
Other than work what else have I been up to?
I seem to have been really tired actually. I have helped in the cafe a couple of weeks now so took a break last weekend and visited Carol and Paul in Cusco. Friday night is darts night after all. This was a nice rest and change of scenery. I had hoped to go dancing on the Saturday night with Esmaran but that didn’t happen. I still had a nice night though with Esmaran and a few friends, just chatting over dinner. As it had been 1.30am the night before this quieter night wasn’t an issue for me. Esmaran stays in a very nice apartment near Sachsaywaman, the beautiful ruins above Cusco.
On the Sunday I went to Pisac and was going to meet Mary and Ineke for a nice lunch, then potter around the extensive Sunday market, doing a little shopping. What I had forgotten was it is Fiesta time is in Urubamba. I had got it into my head this was a little later. Anyway you can hear the loud music all over Urubamba until late into the night; fireworks exploding everywhere. It lasts at least a week, although the fireworks seem to go on a lot longer. Each community looks forward to their festival each year saving up for the whole year, so we really shouldn’t moan. Poor Ineke couldn’t get out of Urubamba at all. She tried for 2 hours but all roads were blocked!! I was glad I was in Cusco and had no problems. Mary stays in Calca, further out towards Pisac so also had no problems. Have I told you about Mary?? Mary is another volunteer here at the moment. She is from Chicago and was volunteering with another NGO a couple of years ago when she came across Hearts cafe and our work. She decided she wanted to help and came back for 4 months to help with our fundraising campaign and helping in the cafe one afternoon a week, amongst other things. That is the one thing about a small NGO like ours, you never know what you will be involved in next. After our lovely lunch and shopping Mary asked me if I would come back to her house as her landlady wanted to meet me. We duly did this. What a lovely house and garden! Her landlady was just lovely and both her and her husband have built it up from nothing. They are originally from Arequipa and her kitchen is like one from home..I was well impressed. Mary pays a lot more rent than I do but gets 2 meals a day – breakfast and lunch. The problem with that, for me, is often we will be away so would miss lunch. Calca isn’t that easy to get to either from my perspective so I don’t think I will be using this accomodation..but it was absolutely lovely.
The week before (20th) we had all been invited to Sonia’s for a lunch. As I had been so tired after working all week and then in the cafe on the Saturday; after lunch I chilled out while the rest chatted. You know that way when you are really tired and the noise just gets too much. Well that was me that day...relaxing was just lovely actually. Sonia has a lovely space - a group of trees just down from the main area. In it she had laid out blankets and pillows. I “bagsied” one of the blankets and a pillow and just lay there in the shade of the trees..How nice was that! As people drifted away, most of the ones I didn’t really know, the ones who were left got together in my spot amongst the trees. This was a special day as it was the special solar eclipse. We had a lovely little ceremony amongst the trees...with just a few of us with some Andean songs and music from Nino playing his instruments, before we all drifted off home.
Interestingly enough later that night just as the eclipse was finished (Lima time) we had an earth tremor. I had been watching the second series of my Downtown Abbey obsession and about 9.20pm I felt the whole room shake. I wondered what the heck it was. It was the next day I heard. It was reported in Cusco and was fairly powerful I understand.
You did read correctly... Sonia had lent me Downtown Abbey and I didn’t get around to watching it until a week or so after she had lent it to me...but when I started I couldn’t stop!! I watched both series over a matter of 4 evenings!! I did enjoy them though.
So that is my news to date. Until my last instalment for this trip...Adios amigos...cuidate (take care)