How I help. The slums of Lima, Peru.

17 03 2009

This will be the first blog entry in the category “how I help“, which serves one purpose (which is not to brag or anything like that) – the goal is to give you readers some ideas on how to help and information about what’s out there, what can be done etc…

In August last year I spent a few weeks in Peru. I visited a lot of different cities, and saw a lot of cool places, but one of the most amazing places I’ve been to is the slums in the outskirts of Lima. Here I also met some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my entire life – all the children we were giving food to!

The outskirts of Lima is like an ocean of houses built up in the mountains

The outskirts of Lima form an ocean of houses. The slum. It doesn't get more real than this.

Early in the morning we (a group of young adults from various countries, all in Lima for one or another reason) met up with some people from the Asociación Cultural Johannes Gutenberg, which is a Swiss-German NGO (non-governmental organisation) that does volunteer work in Peru. They have founded several schools in Lima (three if I remember correctly) and they distribute breakfast to more than 11 000 kids (every day, if they can). 11 000 may sound like a large number, but considering the fact that out of 8 million inhabitants (the number of inhabitans varies depending on the source) over 5 million are poor there’s still more that needs to be done! Luckily there are more NGOs working in that area.

This organization “lives” on donations made from people in Switzerland and Germany. Usually people have a “sponsor child” and therefore they give a monthly donation – or they give random donations whenever they have the money, and so, they help the organization keep up their good work! The organization also receives a lot of product donations from other countries, mainly Canada and the US. A lot of the food (milk powder, oatmeal etc) is donated by sponsoring countries.

In the kitchen of the organization.

In the kitchen of the organization.

Some of the oatmeal and milk powder they had in stock. Takes a lot of food to feed 11 512 hungry kids!

Some of the oatmeal and milk powder they had in stock. Takes a lot of food to feed 11 512 hungry kids!

So, this morning we went out with the organization to observe and help them distribute breakfast to children. It was unbelievable. These kids, having nothing, were still happier than many kids I’ve met in different developed countries. And they loved being photographed. They were fooling around, having fun, laughing. The joy of life was certainly present in these kids, even though they didn’t have new clothes on and a lot of toys – or even a real house! The experience was also shocking, and a bit heart breaking. For breakfast we gave them one banana, one small bag of raisins, one piece of bread and one cup of warm milk with oatmeal and spices in it. Since it wasn’t every day that western people came to visit the kids they went all crazy and wanted us to give them several bananas etc. Of course it hurt me not to be able to give them all that we had, or help them in some other way, but the people from the organization let us give them some extra bag of raisins, some extra bananas etc. For some of these kids this is their only meal for the day! And they were all prepared when we came, standing in line, waiting for their food. And apparently some of them wanted extra fruits etc to give to those sisters or brothers who were lucky enough to go to school, and therefore could not be there to take it themselves. Pictures say more than words.

Children waiting for breakfast

Children waiting for breakfast, their homes can be seen behind them

Cute children eating their breakfast, which might be their only meal for the day...

Cute children eating their breakfast, which might be their only meal for the day...

Me and some of the lovely children!

Me and some of the lovely children!

My favorite kid there - just look at those eyes!

My favorite kid there - just look at those eyes!

After having visited a few distribution spots we went to visit two normal homes there in the slum. The first home belonged to a woman whose husband had left her and their children, so she had to support them by herself somehow (I still don’t know how she managed). They were living in this small one room house built of metal plates and cardboard. This family had a dog who had just had puppies, and the children were so proud when they showed us their cute cute puppies. Unfortunately all of these puppies will end up as street dogs, of which there are many many already in Lima.

The first family, a woman and her children.

The first family: a woman and her children.

The second home belonged to two sisters and their children. The younger sister was 15, and had one child. She had been raped, and had then not had the possibility (money) to have an abortion, so she was now living with her older sister and her kids. They had a two bedroom apartment, with some “real” furniture as well. But believe me – bathrooms, running water and electricity are luxuries which many of these people will only dream about.

In one of the bedrooms in the house of the two sisters

In one of the bedrooms in the house of the two sisters

One of the girls in our group had sponsored a house for one family, and it was under construction, so we went to see how that project had advanced. For around 500 euros, if I remember correctly, a real house can be built for a family living in the slum.

The sponsor reluctantly agreed to take a picture with the family (she didn't want them to know who had paid, which is a standpoint I totally understand and agree with) in their new home, which was under construction.

The sponsor reluctantly agreed to take a picture with the family (she didn't want them to know who had paid, which is a standpoint I totally understand and agree with) in their new home, which was under construction.

This is the current home of the family waiting for their new home to be finished!

This is the current home of the family waiting for their new home to be finished!

The last stop for the day was one of the schools the organization had founded. The children there were very well behaved, and they had a lot of activities, and they got food and health care etc – so these kids were definitely lucky.

The children at the school were waiting for us when we arrived, and they happily greeted us :)

The children at the school were waiting for us when we arrived, and they happily greeted us. The whole trip felt a bit "staged" to me, and I guess we didn't get to see what a "normal" day at work would be like for that organization. But at least we got to see what they did for the kids, and that's the most important thing.

The Johannes Gutenberg school we visited, Lima, Peru.

The Johannes Gutenberg school we visited, Lima, Peru.

Unfortunately I didn’t find a website for this organization, no matter how hard I looked for one, but I do have an email address to the executive director Alwin Rahmel – alwinrahmel@hotmail.com

*****************************

So if you’re thinking about doing some volunteer work – there are many organizations like this one, and they will most likely be happy to accept any help you’re willing to offer them. While traveling in Peru I met a girl from New Zealand who had been working at an orphanage for the past 3-4 months, and she didn’t know any Spanish when she arrived! So anything is possible!!! Just look something up, you can find a lot of these opportunities on the internet, take a few weeks or months out of your life and invest some money to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives!

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2 responses

18 03 2009
wonker

Interesting blog, I’ll try and spread the word.

18 03 2009
careandvalue

Thanks, much appreciated! :)

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