The last few days have been a wonderful ride- from extreme heat and a blazing sun, to lovely thunderstorms that cooled off our Monday evening. Suddenly, the heat became more gentle and a cool breeze passed by, giving us a momentary pause from the intensity. Construction on site in Pure Art’s Hub of Hope progressed quite nicely on Monday and Tuesday, with all 4 walls beginning to take shape. I can say that the volunteers have been hard at work, although taking moments to have some fun with the neighbours.
I’ve spent the past two days between the construction site and Pure Art’s sewing centre, collecting as many updates, photos and stories as I can carry. It’s never a dull moment and there’s always something to pique your curiosity. On my way to day 1 of this year’s One School for All registration in one of our trusty moto cars, I passed by a young girl on her way home from school. The school uniforms are so colorful here and most of the students walk to school or get home by moto car on their own.
For many of our volunteers, the One School for All Initiative, inaugurated 7 years ago, is one that they really do cherish. Two nights ago at a local restaurant, Suzie Côté (below right), head of the school committee for the past five years, spoke to our group of volunteers about the program. She described education as Pucallpa’s key to breaking the current cycle of poverty. Suzie, like many others, believes in the ripple effect of learning, skills & knowledge and strongly feels that the future of this city and its outskirt communities relies on the education of its youngest generations.
This year’s registration process was a huge success, with many new students coming forward, keen to learn through the support of a sponsor. I know I can speak for Brigitte and Robert when I say that this project would not be possible without the incredible dedication of our school committee. Suzie, Natalie (above middle left) & Linda and Alan Wongkee, who have travelled with us on 2 past trips to Peru, have worked so hard to develop an efficient database and registration process for our students. We must also thank Suzanne (above left), Lucy (above right) as well as many of this week’s volunteers, Leslie, Diana, Michele and Carol who were so helpful in making it all happen.
Sponsoring a student through the Initiative provides the necessary means to attend elementary or high school in Pucallpa. The Peruvian government finances the cost of school books, however, students must also come to school prepared with a uniform and a backpack. 110$- the cost to sponsor one student for a year- provides every child with a blouse, a skirt or pants, leather shoes, gym clothes and running shoes as well as a backpack that so many of them wear so proudly. I’ve seen many of these children out and about in the neighbourhood when they’re in their shorts and t-shirts, and I have to say it is so amazing to see the smiles emanating from their faces when they’re in their uniforms. They feel a true sense of pride and belonging in their tartan skirts or shorts and crisp white blouses.
Another very important role within the School Initiative is that of our 12 school coordinators- all from Pucallpa, either working or retired teachers and principals, are committed to making this program a sustainable and long lasting one. Responsible for a group of students who can go to them expressing their needs, these men and women are what strengthen the bond between Pucallpa’s youth and the Foundation. As I’ve wandered around the court yards outside the sewing centre over the past few days, it is quite a sight to be seen as these coordinator-student brigades stream into the sewing centre. I’ve had a chance to speak with some of these lovely people, like Yobanka, below, and the 8 students she takes care of her, who proudly posed for a team photograph.
Another remarkable woman within the program is Sofia, below left with some of her 22 students, who has been with us since day one. Over the past 7 years she has made it her mission to support the education of Pucallpa’s young people.
The last two days have been incredible- both on the construction site and at the sewing centre with so much energy being contributed by so many people. And it’s so touching that two communities- the Manantay neighbourhood of Pucallpa and our’s back home- can come together for a momentous week to establish new goals and priorities for the next 51 weeks of the year. These 7 days is our chance, every year, to connect face to face with a community that has become so dear to the Foundation and to our sponsors & supporters back home. To all the people who are sponsoring 1,2, 3, 4, 5, or even 6 students- Thank You. If each and everyone of you could be here to see the happiness you bring to these beautiful kids, you would know that your gift is one that paints a very bright future for this community. To close off today’s post, here’s a special photo of one of this year’s volunteers, Carol, who had a chance to meet the young girl she’s sponsoring, Teresa! Tomorrow, the group heads up the Ucayali River to Limongema where a Shipibo tribe creates masterfully embroidered pieces that are available at the Pure Art Boutique. Thanks for stopping by once more! Stay tuned for a post later this week ?