Study Abroad in Peru

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One of the students who came on our March 2003 trip to Peru wrote this letter about our visit to a dormitory for homeless children:

      In March of 2003, I ventured to South America for the second time in my life. Again, my eyes were opened to a different culture with different ideals and norms than that of the United States. However, I was exposed to a different scene of culture that I had not experienced as greatly. Near the end of my trip, I traveled with a few friends and a very courteous, caring police officer to a piece of property he and few of his friends had acquired. This land supports clean water, fertile land, and even a large colonial home. More importantly, the land now supports approximately fourteen children from the ages of six to fourteen that prior to their residents on this land were living in the streets of Cuzco, Peru. These children tried all means to live from day to day. Most would offer a quick shoeshine to passing tourists or local businessmen and women. However, their service was not always wanted or needed leaving them without money or food. In dire times, the children resorted to sniffing the fumes of the glue they used to repair shoes to produce just enough of a high to quell the pain in their empty stomachs.

      Fortunately, these children no longer need to sniff glue as they have a place to live and eat. At their new home, they farm their own food, raise their own livestock of predominately pigs, rabbits, and chickens, and receive an education. But they still have problems. Their colonial home is falling apart as heavy rains and wind are defeating the quick, economic repairs to the structure. Their chicken coup collapsed and killed all of the habitants except one unhealthy chick that now follows the boys around like a pet dog. The money raised by the police officers is only enough to secure enough grains and fruits for today let alone the future. They no longer have propane to cook with so they scour the area looking for the precious would fuel their stove, which resembles a quickly made camp stove.
     Their supporting police officer friends, who truly are friends and act minimally like authoritarians, believe the future of the children's home is bleak, but my friends and I believe and hope differently. We believe, along with the police officers, that this land holds the potential to house and support many more children and with a small amount of economical support the possibility of being structurally sound. At the time of our visit, two Spanish volunteers were spending time painting the large bedrooms and making small structural advancements making the property even more valuable. The police officers with the help of their department were finishing a greenhouse to facilitate and expedite the production of food. We were able to take some food to the home, but our efforts need to be continued. With a trivial amount of help, many young children will have a much higher quality of life.

Robert Amrine



Updated 2/2/03
Contact: Rita Wirkala
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