Friday, November 18, 2011

The Bake Sale in Peru

The Bake Sale

In the first week of November, the kids we usually transport to a special needs school in Urubamba had a week of vacation, so we wanted to organize an activity for them. After getting permission from the municipality in Ollantaytambo, we decided to do a little bake sale in the main plaza. We always like activities that let the kids do something practical (baking, selling, etc.) and also that encourage them to be visible members of their community.

On Thursday afternoon we met in our volunteer house with some of the kids and our lovely volunteer Lulu, to bake some cakes and some mini-pizzas. It was a lovely afternoon, and it was great to see the kids apply all that they had learned in their likeskills classes at school. 

On Friday morning we set up a little table in the plaza, and began to sell out cakes and avocado sandwiches for one sole and mini pizzas for two soles. It was a great day. Lourdes, Luis Alberto and Yasmira chatted and many of their family members came out to support them. We sold out almost everything we made, with lots of compliments on our delicious banana bread.
With the hard work of Lourdes, Luis Alberto, Yasmira and Lulu, we made about 50 soles in two hours- not a bad days work!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bus Facility Provided by MSH Peru

The Bus

One of MySmallHelp’s main projects in the Sacred Valley is a bus, which provides school transportation to a group of 11 special needs children. These children, who are from Ollantaytambo and its surrounding areas, attend the amazing Arco Iris School in Urubamba. For these children, Arco Iris is their only educational option. The school not only provides the children with lifeskills training and encourages them to realize how much they are capable of, but also gives them access to a social worker, psychologist, and a warm lunch every day. It has been amazing to see the difference the school has made in each child.

The children live up to a 40-minute drive away from the school, so it is often possible for their parents to take them every day (if they are lucky enough to have parents who value their education). Some are in wheelchairs and our youngest is an adorable 3 year old with downs syndrome, who needs to be held by someone to and from school.  Transportation is therefore a large challenge, but MSH believes that if overcoming this one obstacle can make such a difference in their lives, it’s well worth it. Our bus therefore picks up each child at or near their house, and drops them off at the end of the day.

Of course, the project has evolved to be much more than a simple school bus. MySmallHelp liaises between the school and the families, communicating about schedules and other matters that arise at school. Our hilarious and patient driver Ruben makes every drive an interesting one, and together he and the children deal with road closures, locked houses and whatever else is thrown their way.

This is of course where volunteers come to play a huge role in supporting this important project. We need to take attendance everyday to have a record of which children are actually using the bus, and to make sure we take home everyone we brought in. We coordinate with the parents about school holidays, what clothes the kids need to wear for their frequent parades and when the parents need to accompany their kids for medical campaigns or other events. With 11 special needs children together on a bus, someone is also needed to keep order, making sure that all arms and heads are inside the bus and that everyone is getting along. MSH depends on our volunteers to make sure that the bus runs smoothly- they are an integral part of our success.

We fund the bus partly through private donations. In an effort to work with the local government and to make the bus more sustainable, MSH has partnered with the municipality of Ollantaytambo. They generously offered to take over half of the cost, but the Peruvian bureaucratic machine moves slowly, and they are currently 3 months behind in their payments. This has obviously been a huge challenge for MSH. We have been supplementing the cost with small, in-country fundraising activities but are looking for a more permanent funding source to ensure that this project continues.

 Getting ready to go to school... Lourdes telling a volunteer how things work!

Robert, Javier, Eiden, Tomas and Yuan Marco, ready to head home.
Our volunteer Samantha with Leonel, 5 years old.

Our driver Ruben with the first cheque we got from the municipality of Ollantaytambo!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eye Campaign in Peru

By Debbie Steele
8th November 2011

The Four of us visited Peru for 3 weeks back in August/September. Whilst there we completed the 4 day Inca trail and survived the jungle. But we also spent 2 full very busy days putting our optical skills to use testing eyes and providing glasses.
 These glasses and a significant amount of money were kindly donated from local communities in our home village of Haworth, which is twinned with Machu Picchu. Without these kind donations our campaign would not have been possible.

On the first day of testing we visited the small community of Patacancha, where we tested the weaving women’s community. Nobody in the village owned any glasses or had even had an eye test, although this was certainly not because they didn't need them. The experience was very rewarding and the people we helped were extremely grateful, as well as a little shocked at how much difference a pair of glasses can make.

That same afternoon we travelled back to Ollantaytambo and tested the members of the local knitting group. Again we were met with very grateful responses.

On day two we began in Ollantayatmbo then travelled to the Arco Iris school where we focused the day on testing these children. They were a delightful group of people, who kept us highly entertained throughout our day.

Over 2 days we performed 63 eye examinations and provided 35 pairs of glasses. We have also just posted spectacles over to 3 children that we found to need glasses but didn't have any suitable.
We transported hundreds of pairs of glasses to Peru with us, many of which remain there for future campaigns.

Although our campaign was short we certainly feel it was a huge success, and we hope the people we met feel the same. A huge thank you to Leander and Julia from MySmallHelp for making this all possible.

Ian Barron, Debbie Steel, Gregorio, Jenny Steel, Antonio Capozio