A Travellerspoint blog

A child is for life, not just for Christmas


View Tour of southern Peru & London - before the off! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

Much of my volunteering in the last month was centred around Christmas, be it Christmas crafts, party bags or throwing a party for the kids. As I walked around Huanchaco this week I kept bumping into kids from school and NAFE who were queuing to receive a present from some organisation or other, or go to a Chocolatada (hot chocolate and panettone party).

I realised that many of these kids had received 3 or 4 presents and been to at least the same number of Chocolatadas in the run up to Christmas.

It's lovely, it really is. Everyone loves a party and who says no to a present?! But I am struck by just how many companies come out of the woodwork to do something nice for the kids at Christmas, when all year round, many of these kids don't have food every day, enough money to go to school, and hardly any have running water.

I know it's not as fun, but what about giving school supplies? Food for the family? Collecting the money to pay for clean water?

I would hate to deny these kids the joy of celebrating Christmas, it's not my place to and I also gave the kids a party and presents. Just imagine though, what if they got one present and party but could also afford to go to school? Imagine how many Christmas presents they might have one day if they have an education.

I don't how to redress the balance but it does seem necessary to me that organisations don't just think of the kids at Christmas. They need help and support all year. After all, a child is for life, not just for Christmas.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 08:23 Archived in Peru Tagged children parties presents charity huanchaco Comments (0)

Bye for now Huanchaco

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View London - before the off! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

My two months in Huanchaco flew by so fast, it's hard to believe I'm back in Lima for the next part of my adventure.

I ended up working on many different projects, which meant I got to see even more of Huanchaco life than otherwise. As I mentioned I spent a month teaching at two schools in towns just outside of Huanchaco. It wasn't always easy, the mixed age classes and lack of help from the teachers made it challenging but for the most part, the kids made up for it (and when we had things like the rain simulation!). For the end of term we took 4 of the oldest kids from one school who had done their homework, to the cinema - it was one girl's first trip to he cinema! At the other school, we brought the cinema to the kids, plus so much food we were giving it away at the end.

I then took on the role of interim coordinator at NAFE Peru for a few weeks. This is an NGO who provides after school activities for local kids and on Sundays, a big lunch. I was responsible for organising volunteers and activities for Monday to Friday, and since it was the holidays, we opened mornings and afternoons. We had 40-50 kids nearly every morning and afternoon, which was slightly crazy but in our minds, a big success.

This role involved visiting many of the houses to talk to the parents and certainly gave me an insight into their lives that I wouldn't have otherwise.

Many of the kids at NAFE have very little in life, but are so full of love that it's difficult not to like even the harder to manage kids. Our Christmas party was chaotic with 90 kids, but it was a joy to see them enjoy themselves and I was sad to say goodbye (whilst also slightly relieved when it was quiet again!).

The other project I ended up helping with was getting Otra Cosa started with a database. They already knew they wanted to go for Salesforce, so I put on my former professional hat and helped them prepare and apply for the non profit grant, and then with the initial set up. I may not have cracked the system before I left, but hopefully they're in a good place to continue to build the database and make it truly useful for them.

I met some great people here. I know I'll see some of them again (I have some new places on my travel hit list now!) and the others I'll remember fondly. I'd like to go back and visit Huanchaco again some day, I don't know when, but it would be good to revisit when I can.

For now though, I'm in Lima and about to join my tour of the south for the next 3 weeks.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 08:01 Archived in Peru Tagged children parties school teaching huanchaco otra cosa nafe Comments (0)

A state of ruin

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View London - before the off! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

Machu Picchu may be the most famous ruin site in Peru, but it is certainly not the only site in this large country.

Around Trujillo, there are two ruin sites, far less well known than Machu Picchu but in fact of great historical importance.

I'll start with the Chan Chan complex as of the two I will cover it was the first I visited, as per advice from fellow volunteers. The site is home to the now ruined capital city of the Chimú Empire and sits nearly the whole way from Huanchaco to Trujillo. It is in fact the the largest pre-Columbian ruins in the whole of South America.

So why haven't you heard of it?

Much of the site now sadly consists of melted mud walls due to years of neglect, and probably the battering the ancient buildings receive every time L Niño has been strong.

There are areas that have been preserved and/or reconstructed and it is possible to get an idea of what the city may have been like. You can also hire a guide to add to your experience. This is apparently a bit hit or miss; I'd heard about great guides...ours unfortunately spent a lot of time talking about herself and not really enough about the history of the amazing site we were paying to hear about.

I would recommend a visit though, it's accessible on public buses between Trujillo and Huanchaco and inexpensive. I would also suggest, that you see Chan Chan before the Huacas del Moche (Huaca de la Luna and Huaca del Sol). The site here may not be as vast as Chan Chan but the museum is informative and parts of Huaca de la Luna are amazingly well preserved, in part due to the history of the temple that stands there.

The Huacas deal Moche is thought to have been the capital city of Moche culture between 400 and 600 AD, and a site of great ceremonial importance. Huaca deal Sol is shut to visitors in anticipation of more archeological work. However, Huaca de la Luna is open, and there are an amazing number of murials still intact (/ reconstructed) with the original colours still vibrant. The museum also contains original artifacts that are both intricate and in super condition.

The temple apparently was 'reinvented' five times whilst the site was still the centre of power. By this I mean the temple was added to, on top of the original structure, and this has helped protect the lower levels of the temple from the elements. Amazingly, archeological work only really started here in the early 1990s. There has clearly been more effort put into protecting this site from natural decay and theft than at Chan Chan, and encouragingly the work continues.

I would like to go back in 10 years time and see what else has been discovered - watch this space!

The big issue for these two sites and the Chavín ruins near Huaraz is a lack of funding and political will to preserve the sites and research the histories further. It is hard to recover or reconstruct what has already been lost, but it would be a crying shame if these former cultural, religious and political centres were simply allowed to decay. They represent unique and different periods in Peru's history and culture but that are tied to the present, for example by the economic importance of sea based industry for the Chimú culture, and for Huanchaco today (fishing, not surfing you understand...).

Posted by Rebecca Heller 16:41 Archived in Peru Tagged ruins ancient huanchaco Comments (0)

The day it rained in Huanchaco


View London - before the off! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

I know this post may seem like just another Brit discussing the weather, but I urge you to stick with it.

One day last week it rained all day and throughout the night. It wasn't hugely heavy, just persistent - you know the kind I'm sure - and it was annoying, but I didn't give it too much thought. I donned my rain jacket and went about my day. A few of us even ventured out to the cinema - a solid rainy day activity.

The next morning whilst I'm eating my breakfast, the young couple who run the sushi restaurant here came downstairs looking all concerned.

D & M: Are you ok? How did you sleep?

Me: Really well thanks, and you?

D & M: We were so scared of the rain all night. It just didn't stop. The dog was scared too. And there's water everywhere.

I didn't really know how to respond, I had relatively recently woken up and this exchange was going on in Spanish. I wanted to mention that the water was because there's no roof in the middle of the house. An open patio is the style here, it's lovely, just not at all rainproof.

Up, dressed and ready for work, I was on my way out when I heard:

Are you ok?

I turn around and its G & J, my hosts, parents of D. They look extremely concerned. Now I feel concerned - do I look ill? Did I have a nose bleed and not notice?

G & J: But how did you sleep?

Me: Like a baby, I was really tired.

G & J: But with the rain...?

Me: Where I'm from it rains all night from October until March and many of the other months too, so if anything, I slept better!

G & J: Wow, I don't understand. For us, it's scary, it felt like the sky was falling down!

And that my friends was the reaction to rain in Huanchaco.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 08:03 Archived in Peru Tagged rain huanchaco Comments (0)

Preparing for El Niño

A rain simulation on a sunny day

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In my mind, when there's an impending natural disaster, that you know about in advance, preparing in any way you can seems reasonable. With this, and the fact that I said I would cover El Niño more thoroughly, in mind, it seems right to write about preparation for El Niño.

Despite all that is known about El Niño, the preparation in Huanchaco has been distinctly minimal (and although I don't know, I suspect it's been minimal in much of Peru).

Just two weeks ago they started clearing and strengthening the dry river, which was a product from the last big El Niño in 1997-8. Many houses remain without a full roof, as per the design rather than lack of funds. There even seem to be new construction projects that are hugely unlikely to be completed by the supposed start of serious rainfall in mid January.

In the shanty towns around Huanchaco, almost nothing has been done physically, although schools have finished a month early and children have been taught about the phenomenon in schools. This leads me to probably the single best bit of preparation I have witnessed.

Imagine the scene, we are teaching a second grade class and the teacher is sat at her desk cutting out arm and head holes in black sacks. 20 minutes before the end of the class, with no warning, the teacher tells everyone to pack up and put their bags on. My natural assumption was that we were moving on to a whole class craft activity.

Incorrect.

It turns out the whole school were packing away their books and donning homemade ponchos and hats from black bin bags, filing into the playground in groups. When they were all ready, the headteacher proceeded to spray them all with water from a hose. This was no craft activity, no this was a rain simulation.

So if nothing else, one primary school near Huanchaco are ready for the El Niño rain. They think it's going to be super fun, will cool them down on a scorching day and that black bin back ponchos will protect them. Perhaps the headteacher just needed to work something out of her system...

Posted by Rebecca Heller 08:04 Archived in Peru Tagged rain school nino Comments (0)

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