Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lurdes- the inspiration for MySmallHelp Peru

Louise Whitaker
28th March 2011

Leander Hollings, president and founder of Mysmallhelp Peru was introduced to Lurdes in June 2010 and was asked if she could help her in any way. Leander quickly accepted her role as godmother and committed to finding a way for Lurdes to have access to an education, training and a wheel chair. This was the beginning of MySmallHelps involvement with children in Peru , following the previous years emergency relief work with the community of Paucarbamba.

Lurdes is eighteen years old and has a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, which causes bones to break, bend, and twist easily . 

Lurdes lives in Rumira with an abusive and alcoholic mother and step father. Her alcoholic father left her mother when she was young. Lurdes suffers from neglect.. Lurdes can´t walk. Until 9 months ago, Lurdes was immobile and spent all her time at home, never attending school or venturing out into the community. During the second half of 2010, Lurdes received a wheelchair from a Spanish donor and began to receive private tuition lessons at home from a local teacher and was introduced to Cusceñan jewellery teacher- all through the work of MySmallHelp.
 Lurdes jewellery business is growing steadily. She is now out and about in the community more but she still needs support to be able to get in and out of her wheel chair and to access certain areas.

 Lurdes is very keen to learn to read and write but is progressing slowly because her school teacher is currently only visiting her for 6 hours a week.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with Lurdes for a while whilst in Ollantytambo and can say that for all that she has been through, she is an absolute delight to be around. She´s  a teenager who loves styling her hair, painting her nails and  she loves clothes! She has an infectious giggle and is great fun to be around.  Her dream is to live independently and  to look after her sister and brother and the team at MySmallHelp hope to work with Lurdes´strong spirit to help her achieve this through both donations and through supporting Lourdes to run her own jewellery business.  I and my family hope to help Lurdes through the work of MySmallHelp.

MySmallHelp continues to work in Peru

Louise Whitaker
28th March 2011

Following the work undertaken by Leander Hollings and numerous volunteers working with MySmallHelp , Leander had decided to continue working in Peru for the forseeable future.  The first stage in this decision was getting MySmallHelp registered as a Peruvian Association (similar to NGO status) which took several months and was surrounded by the usual red tape!

As the guinea pig project is now nearly self sustaining and as Leander´s initial motivation 5 years ago was to set up projects to help marginalized children access education, this will be the charity´s primary focus.
There are two geographical locations where MySmallHelp will work in Peru, Ollantytambo in the Sacred Valley beyond Cusco and a barrio of Trujillo called El Milagro, which is around 10 hours north of Lima by bus, in the coastal dessert.

In Ollantytambo MySmallHelp in partnership with Awamaki, an American run NGO have identified around 40 children who are in need of assistance. These children are marginalized through poverty, social problems within the family or disability- and sometimes all three.

The work of MySmallHelp is centered around understanding the needs of each family, helping illiterate parents complete all relevant paperwork required for their children to attend school and be entitled to state benefits such as healthcare.  Funding in the form of child sponsorship will be looked for to support the family in their initial requirements, whether it be paying the fees to enable to child to attend school or paying for specific equipment or tutoring as required by disabled children. Each family will be provided for on a needs identification basis. 

Details of the childrens needs can be found at
Donors will be encouraged to support the child through a monthly child sponsorship fee which will fund the identified requirement and provide additional services such as those of a child psychologist, nutritionalist and education specialists to visit the children and families where an identified need has been seen.

In Trujillo the system is much the same. Here there are 16 children from 5 famillies who through poverty and the absence of their fathers have not been able to attend school as they have been working on the rubbish dump with their mothers to fund the family. MySmallHelp hopes to help these children, again through the form of child sponsorship, to deliver the same support to get the children in to school as is being offered to families in Ollantytambo.

Cuylandia, our Peruvian Guinea Pig Project with Mysmallhelp Peru

24th March 2011
Louise Whitaker
Around this time last year, Peros kindly donated money to help the flood affected region of Paucarbamba (in the Sacred Valley of Peru) get back on their feet. After initial support of food, shelter and school equipment for the children we spoke with the community members and they wanted the donated money to help them develop small businesses,  so they could generate income quickly to rebuild their houses.
As guinea pig meat is seen as a delicacy in Peru, as they are cheap and relatively easy to rear and because they are ready to sell after 6 months of so after the initial set up, we supported the 19 families who wished to participate in the project with tools they needed to set up and offered them the support of a Peruvian Agronomist, Nelida.

All 19 members have been trained in how to best care for the guinea pigs , the best type of food for them so they grow to be big and strong, how to breed and maintain a selection of the best guinea pigs for future breeding and they have received training on the best places to sell them.

Nelida our agronomist has been delighted with the success of the project so far, with each family now having either their first guinea pig births or having guinea pigs pregnant with the first litter. The first sale of the guinea pigs will take place in April and the community is going to hold a big food festival in June to celebrate their new businesses and to sell more guinea pigs.

Once these first sales have been made we are confident, as are the women, that the business will become self sustaining.  At a recent meeting the cooperative members agreed that they were delighted with their new businesses and the training they had been given and that after a little more support from the agronomist at the April sales of the guinea pigs, they would be able to work together without further financial support to run the project.

The pictures below show proud members of the community with their guinea pigs and Leander Hollings, Director of Mysmallhelp, speaking to the women at a recent meeting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Trujillo, Peru

5th March.
  Deisy Baltodano

This week I went with Omar, Ely, Yovana and Josieto the first day of their school, Marco is still at home recovering but should be able to attend school soon! I also went with Jorlan, Marlon and Lucero to their first day of their school, it is fantastic to know that these children are finally getting the education they deserve and is rightfully theirrs! However at the school Senor de Milagros we encountered problems with Yovanaand Omar. The director told me (after I had brought all the equipment they need for the fourth grade) that actually they hadn’t finished two courses with good enough grades to be in the fourth grade. Therefore we would either have to pay for them to take an exam in both of these or they would have to repeat the third grade.

 I explained to the director that no one had informed us of this when we registered the children so in light of this it was their fault and we should not have to pay anything. Neither was it acceptable that the children would be repeating the third grade when we had just spent a lot of money on their school equipment for fourth grade! The school then compromised with me that they would give us a reduced price for the exams, but the children would have to take them and could not attend school and till they had done so. Yovanna and Omar have taken their mathematics exam and both passed, just communications to go…all fingers and toes crosses please!!!

We need also have some very sad news this week that the baby girl of one of the families has died. It is very tragic and shocking news and all our thoughts are with Senora Franisca and her family at this time.

Trujillo, Peru

Monday 28th February.
Deisy Baltodano

Monday 28th of February was the day of the operation for Marco.  We had alreadybrought all the medicine he may need as it had originally been planned for the previous Friday. The operation thankfully went very well, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person that helped in whatever way they could to support the Marco appeal, your help was incredibly appreciated and will not be forgotten by anyone here.

After buying all the uniforms, shoes and school materials needed for each child, I made a visit to each house to drop these off to some very excited children!! Three more children, Marlon, Jordan, and Lucero were also registerd in to school, this will be the first time for all three that they have attended school! Tuesday was the first day of school for Cesar, Esmerelda, Estefania and Jesús!! All three arrived in beautifully clean new uniforms with all new school equipment….I think starting the year as your mean to go on is very applicable to these children! Marco was also discharged from hospital quickly after his operation, he is recovering very well at home and I am visiting him every day. All the necessary information we need for Jesús to receive his national identity card is also now all up to date and I will be sorting this out for him asap!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trujillo, Peru

25th February 2011, 
Deisy Baltodano

This week Helen and I went to buy the rucksacks for the children, we luckily  stumbled across a great offer of 11 soles per rucksack! So of course we jumped on this and got all 16!!! The next day I went to Milagro to get the list of things the children would need for when they began school the following week, I also went to visit each of the childrens houses to get all the uniform and shoe sizes….because of course I couldn’t take all 16 children shopping with me! 

Of course I also went to see Marco, to see how he was doing and buy any more medicine he may need. The two youngest children of our group were also this week registered into the local nursery school. Although Franley and Cristian are starting nursery a couple of years late they are both extremely excited and eager!! I have a feeling they won’t be behind for long!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A simple life

18th March 2011                                                                                                    

Louise Whitaker

Sometimes it is good to reflect on the differences between our lives in the UK and life for many
in the Sacred Valley in Peru. Whilst visiting the community of Paucarbabma, the community
where most of our efforts have been made to help them recover after the flooding of January
2010, I took stock of my surroundings.

Below is a photo of one of the women members of our guinea pig businesses kitchen. This lady
is developing her own business with the help of Mysmallhelp and Desana Giving. She is rearing
guinea pigs to sell in the local market, to make money to invest in more guinea pigs and to
use the money to help rebuild her house . She is a business woman. She is trying to better her
current situation. Her kitchen is meager by our standards and her store ´table´fairly empty.
However she tries her best to feed her family and hopefully with the future earnings from her
guinea pig business, this food may become more varied and the risk of this store table being
bare, should be less.

Dental Mission in Peru

20th March 2011                                                                                   
By Louise Whitaker                                 

Following Peros´ financial support for several communities affected by the floods back in January 2010, I have headed back out to Peru to volunteer to see how the communities are getting along- one year on.

First stop was the Desana Giving Dental Mission in Yanahuara.  Mysmallhelp (to whom Peros had donated money for the flood victims) and Desana Giving worked together in 2010 to support the flood victims with food, educational materials, clothes, a dental mission and the development of small
businesses to help the communities get back on their feet.

Desana Giving, with the help of Mysmallhelp, had arranged a second dental mission in the nearby community of Yanahuara in the Sacred Vally in Peru. A team of 5 student dentists, led by Dr Michael Houk carried out over 650 treatments on over 150 people from the local community. Members of the community who we had helped over the last year were also able to attend and all procedures were free of charge. 

Dental care is largely neglected in poor communities in Peru. Education on the importance of dental cleanliness is largely overlooked and it was shocking to see children as young as 5 having 5 or 6 teeth removed as a result of decay. My job was to help with the translation, to reassure the children and adults who were having procedures and to provide advice on the importance of regularly cleaning your teeth.  There is no doubt that children have a sweet tooth here, children love to drink Inca Cola and Cocoa Cola but the results of this are really shocking. It was really brought home to me when I was speaking to the mother of one young girl who had just had 4 teeth out. I said that really she should limit fizzy drinks to one a week, because they contained lots of sugar which was bad for her daughter´s teeth. The mother looked completely shocked, like she had never made the link before. It was then that I realised Desana Giving and Mysmallhelp were doing great work in educating a small number of families, but that this was jus t a small drop in the ocean. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Anita Gurung to sit her SLC exam this year.

Anita, a beautiful and shy 17 years old girl, is preparing to sit her SLC  in this month . She is performing well at school and secured first division in her sent up exam but teachers think that she could do better. When we meet she’s polite, softly spoken but clearly a happy soul who is bright and conscientious.  

 She has ambition to be a nurse when she leaves school. Despite her steady progress My Small Help remains concerned about Anita and her future. Her situation has improved because she has been placed in a new home away from her own family. This is still considered to be the best option for her wellbeing and educational progress. When she is not at work she helps around the home with cooking and cleaning. 

She is the first girl to appear SLC  examination among all the students helped by Mysmallhelp. So, Mysmallhelp wishes for her bright future and will be happy to help her in near future too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Trip to Basantapur Durbar Square with children of Marybert.

by Jyoti Young

The children of Marybert School and Orphanage were all set for a trip down memory lane on Friday when  MySmallHelp organised a day trip to the museum at Durbar Square, Kathmandu. Excitement and much giggling surrounded the outing as 16 children and MSH squeezed onto the local bus. However, load shedding (power cuts) meant that our best laid plans were challenged; the museum was closed because there was no electricity.

Disappointed faces were soon replaced by smiles as we sat in the warming sun with sketch pads and pencils and drew pictures of the beautiful temples all around. Some of the children took control of the MSH camera and put their artistic talents to good use (and some of us now have around 300 images to edit!). The children were treated to samosa and snacks before we were shoehorned back into local tuk tuks and returned to Marybert School and Orphanage for jam and bread.

Although we could taste the disappointment at the closure of the museum it was heartening to see just how easily the children adapted to the new plan to draw the temples. They took comfort at being in the company of their friends and people who cared for them. They were quick to pose for lively photographs and experiment with different camera angles, and it was another enjoyable opportunity for them to bond more with MSH and enjoy the company of staff and volunteers.

For me (Jo Young, volunteer) the highlight of my day was when the children told me that I am in their daily devotional prayers, and finding a continuous stream of little hands entwined with mine (like human spaghetti) as we walked the chaotic streets back to the tuk tuk station avoiding cars and motorbikes, cycles, portable scales weighted down with vegetables, groups of tourists, meandering high school students, and local people who were keen to see why there was a group of 16 primary school children out in force.
So, although memory lane was closed on this occasion, we made memories of our own that will be cherished in our hearts and photo albums.

In other news, MSH has relocated to a new office where there is running water and bathroom facilities. The new space also accommodates the Mysmalldesign team so that we can strengthen our working relationship and enjoy working on the different strands as one larger team.
Mysmalldesign is a team of web and IT professionals who will create websites for international clients whilst donating 10% of all profits back to Mysmallhelp. It’s an idea that’s been circulating for a while but this year sees it come to fruition, after all you can throw a seed on the ground in the wrong season and get nothing, but in the right environment it will flourish.


In August 2009 I worked for a NGO in the barrio of Milagro, Trujillo. The system of this NGO was to set-up informal preparatory schools for children who had never been to school and then put them into the state system the following year, but only with a bit of financial support, not complete.  

In Peru it is illegal for all children, of whatever age and whatever level of education, no to be in school. In 2010 I went back to visit the children I had worked with the year before, only to find that the NGO had pulled out, none of the children attended school, many worked in the rubbish dump, and nothing about their impoverished situation had changed, or looked likely to in the future.  
I felt extremely strongly that I couldn’t leave these children and their families without trying to help further. These children, each and every one, is wonderful and has the right to an education. If I could help and support these children to get an education then we could also give them the chance to create a life out of poverty. So after meeting and speaking to Leander Hollings (founder of MSH Nepal), knowing that she wanted to set-up MSH Peru we agreed to work together, and for it to be my responsibility to setup the program in Trujillo.  

After discovering that the formation of informal preparatory schools is unnecessary we decided on a program of help for the mothers. For this year we had no choice but to pay for all the children to attend school - including entrances fees, book, pens, pencils etc. If we hadn’t paid for everything these kids would have gone another year without school as it is near enough impossible for these women to pay for their children to attend school.  We interviewed each family and collected the information of each child e.g. age, grade, previous schooling. From this we could establish which children would be able to attend the state schools and which children would have attend the escolarisado, the state's system for children who have never attended school or whose education is too poor for them to be part of the state system. We had four children whose education was considered too bad or who had never attend school. For three of them they are going to be attending a school run by nuns, this was the mother’s personal choice, as she, like us wanted her children in school 5 days a week not just at weekends. The mother of the fourth child, Anderson, opted for the escolarisado option as she was not in favour of this school. All the other children with one exception will be attending the state schools. 
The one exception is a boy named Angel. Angel is 12 years old, and he has never attended school and is unable to speak. For Angel we have found a private school for children with learning difficulties. This is the one and only year we want to pay for these children to go to school. Over the next year we want to work with the mothers to help them start a micro-enterprise that will hopefully generate enough money for each of them to pay for their children to go to school next year and the years thereafter. The primary idea is that we want to teach the women to make artisan products from recyclable materials. This idea came about as some of the women and children work in the rubbish dump collecting recyclable goods to sell, we thought this would be a good way of not just generating money for the women but also highlighting that women and children are working in terrible, dangerous conditions in the rubbish dumps in Peru. Leander’s boyfriend Abel Torres is a very talented artist and maybe able to teach these women how to make such products. We have also come to an agreement with an artisan in Huanchaco, a beach town near Milagro, that we can share half his shop to sell our products.  
The second part of our work with these women is to get each and every one of them the legal documents that are rightfully theirs and their children’s, these being birth certificates, DÑI (national identity cards in Peru) and SIS ( free health insurance for children and the elderly). A lot of people living in the barrios never leave the barrios and quite often are unaware, or have not bothered, to go and get the legal documents they need and are there to help them. For example in the last month one of the children we work with, Marco, was involved in an incident that left him with a second degree burn to his leg. His mother took him to hospital but could not afford to keep him there as she did not have her SIS and could not afford to pay the medical bills herself. Therefore MSH Peru raised the money to put Marco back in hospital and have him treated properly, we got his mother the SIS which helped pay for the bed and some of the medication from the date of the SIS, but it did not cover everything and of course did not cover the skin graft he needed, but it certainly helped. If we had not helped, the situation could have been very nasty, but it does not need to be this way and this is what we want to communicate to these women. We have also just had news that the baby of one of the families we work with has also died, we are not aware of details as of yet but we do know that the mother did not tell anyone, or go to the doctor, when her child got sick. 

We want to help these women realise that there is help available to them, they are citizens of this country and have rights. Another major part of our project is teaching these women to read and write, this is not just their right as a citizen of Peru but their universal human right, without this right they have very little employability and also cannot help or take any interest in their child’s school work. Over the last week our MSH help representative has been buying all the uniforms, books and equipment needed for each of the children and in the following two weeks they will all be starting school… exceptions.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sacred Valley Project

The Sacred Valley project is an NGO based in Ollantaytambo whose aim is to provide schooling and accommodation to girls aged between 11 and 17 whose access to education has been limited through location or lack of funds. Following a highly successful first year in Ollantaytambo providing schooling opportunities to 6 girls, Alex Ball expanded the reach of his work and acquired a new house for the same 6 girls, and 6 more, to live in!

Our first day of working in partnership with The Sacred Valley Project began in typical Peruvian fashion - 2 hours late - but once we got started we were given a brief tour of the house, 4 dormitories, a dining room, kitchen and a study room all situated around a central courtyard, it was off to work!! Our first task was to tidy up the general areas there was a lot of debris and rubbish lying around due to fact it had been a carpenters yard and we collected many sacks full of rubbish. Although the girls' parents had already visited the site and completed a lot of the work (part of their obligation to support the project their daughters have been chosen for), they had been unable to secure the roofing due to rain. So up the ladder went Team Sweden (Karl, Jonathan and Christian) and myself (not from Sweden) and managed to fix plastic to the ventilation shafts to ensure the girls did not get soaked when sleeping!! This involved 2 people holding ladders for the other 2 who were precariously balanced on the rungs and rafters, one holding the nail with the other banging it in with their other hands hanging on for dear life!!! However by the end of the day the roofing was secure and we rewarded ourselves with a well earned glass of chicha (fermented maize drink) with the locals.

The second day we were finalising everything that the girls would need in order to live happily in the house. Hard manual labour was done in an attempt to level out the courtyard using pickaxes and shovels especially in front of the shower and toilet block, not helped by the puppy, Macho (so named because he'll be the only boy in the house), who insisted on playing with us every 2 seconds!! Following this we spent time shoring up the last remaining hole in the roof and putting together the last of the beds as well as sweeping and washing the floors. It was starting to look like a proper boarding house.

Day 3 started incredibly early with a trip to Urubamba at 6.30 to pick up the remaining mattresses, bedside cabinets and tables. First we picked up the truck following a combi ride and Karl, Johnathan and Christian hopped in the back as there was no room up front. Following a brief stop to pick up pigs, who shared the back of the truck with Team Sweden, we ended up in Urubamba where we breakfasted on lomo saltado (sauteed beef) and moved on to pick up the furniture. This time Karl, Jonathan and Christian shared the ride back with all of the furniture as we travelled along the road, half of which had collapsed into the river the day before, and we unloaded and stored all of the material away in the house in Ollantaytambo. Afterwards we further attempted to clear the courtyard, which was surprisingly big and called an end to it after a long day! The girls moved in on Sunday and are very happy with their accommodation thanks in part to MySmallHelp.

Matteo Lewent (MSH Volunteer)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My first week of volunteering with MySmallHelp Peru in Ollantaytambo  

I arrived in Ollanta the weekend of a baptism. A very important baptism - it was not only a double baptism for two sisters but two MySmallHelp workers were the godmothers for each of the girls. Not only that but the elder of the sisters, 18 year old Lurdes Juno Mamani, is also the primary reason that MSH are in this little town. She’s an extraordinary disabled young lady who’s given me much pleasure this week with my various visits to her house and with her out in nearby towns.

One of the most traditional Peruvian customs at the baptism is for the child who is being baptised to have their hair cut by guests, godparents, parents etc. and in cutting the hair you donate some money to their education. The child is sat in front of a dish with petals on it and by the end of the ceremony the dish is full of hair and money too. The child, in this case Yolanda, was given sweets to keep her entertained whilst we were all pulling and chopping at her hair. Don't worry, she gets taken to the hairdresser afterwards!

There’s lots to do here. I have to admit that my image of volunteering was all hands-on, getting muddy, clearing things up, doing jobs that perhaps others weren’t keen on doing etc. I hadn’t even considered the fact that there’s an awful lot of admin to do behind the scenes - especially at the early stages of starting up an NGO, and especially somewhere like Peru. Thankfully since I’ve been here MSH have got their registered charity status here in Peru - after lots of bureaucracy. Great news.

So this last week I’ve been practicing my Spanish with Lurdes, writing quite a few emails on behalf of MSH, compiling spreadsheets, going to meetings with partnership NGOs in the area (mainly Awamaki), visiting guinea pig projects, putting up posters and generally rather enjoying myself. 

This morning me and the other four volunteers made toys for physical therapy use by disabled children in the area. Jonathan made a wooden boat, Christian a little car and Karl, Matt and I made ‘putting the square shape in the square hole etc.’ toys. There’s more to do - blowing bubble mixes to make, play dough too, rattles and no doubt we’ll have more ideas this afternoon.
We are all living in the volunteer house in Ollanta together. Similar to a hostel but it’s lovely to call somewhere home for a while and be able to buy ingredients with a more long term dinner plan than pasta and sauce - I’ve been travelling already for over 5 months in South America.

It’s been an important past week too because the schools all went back on Monday 7th - so we had to organise some of the children we support getting places at the school, purchasing new stationary for them and organising transport for them to the school. It’s about a 20 minute walk, so not far by Peruvian standards, but the Headmaster’s requested the children don’t walk so that they are more punctual, cleaner when they arrive etc. In rainy season the dirt road isn’t ideal!

This coming weekend we have some international dentists coming to a nearby health centre for three days - hence we’ve been promoting that with posters and word-of-mouth. The better Spanish speakers amongst us will also be translating for the dentists too - very important when you’ve got a terrified child in the dentist’s chair.
So there’s always something to keep me entertained and it’s a lovely spot to be for a month. Ollanta’s got ruins either side of the river, a charming central plaza and bustling market. When it’s not raining, it’s beautiful!
Right, I’m off to supervise two girls we support with their homework….