Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My return to Peru

I am Juany Murphy the International Liaison Manager of Otra Cosa Network. I wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit about the work I have been doing over the past 2 and a bit months. Since I started work with OCN in 2005 we are now a well-established Peruvian NGO and English charity where I have had the privilege to be able to work in both England and Huanchaco- Trujillo, my place of origin. I am now based in England with my family and wanted to share with you the time I spent back in Huanchaco and Peru where I welcomed and inducted our new management team in Peru.

Going back to Peru every year is a fantastic opportunity to see the projects and the work in action. Part of my role is to disseminate the work of OCN and create awareness of the political, social and economic issues facing Peru through our projects. This year I took my 7 year old boy Joseph with me.  It was very hard to leave my husband Peter and my other two boys behind as we have never been separated for longer than a week.

I arrived in mid-June with both the new Manager from North America and Assistant Manager Laura from England. We were so excited to start our new phase at OCN. The first week went so quickly just introducing them to their new life and taking them to as many projects as we could fit in.

The second week of training included a trip to Yanasara, a small village in the middle of a valley 6 hours up in the Highlands of La Libertad department. We were welcomed by the school as dignitaries. The Head teacher organised the Official Welcoming Ceremony with one of our volunteers working there. This special welcoming ceremony included the National Anthem and greeting our national flag with singing and dancing. They also took this opportunity to express their gratitude towards the help that OCN has provided them with. It was such a special and emotional ceremony.

We had a beautiful day with all the students who wanted to talk to us and get to know us. In Peru we demonstrate affection through food. And no matter how poor the ‘campesinos’ are they prepared a nice ‘cuyada’ - Guinea pig roast dinner. Many families have learnt to grow guinea pigs so this is the most exquisite dish here.

We were appointed ‘Padrinos’ (godparents) for the ‘promocion’ (high school graduation). This means that the 14 students of fifth year will receive some kind of economic support providing them many opportunities in the future.

We left on a lorry on a Sunday because there were no “micros” (minibuses) to go back and we could have missed our bus from Huamachuco to Trujillo. So there we were travelling in a lorry. The panoramic view is just amazing and after 4 hours we took our bus to Trujillo. The bus broke down twice but finally we took another bus. After a long journey we finally arrived home at 4:30 in the morning. Expedition achieved!

The third week we started with the Skate Ramp, an OCN project where we work with more than 25 children in a tiny shanty town, Cerrito de la Virgen. They go there to learn skating and also once a week we take them to the beach to learn to swim, surf and enjoy the beach. We also use this as a space to help the children with their homework as most of their parents only have primary school education.

We work in this community with more than 250 families. The children have absolutely nothing. With the initiative of one volunteer we decided to create a space where the children could be supervised and play freely and protected as many of them were just been left alone in the streets all day long while their parents go to work. This has proved to be an incredible success. For instance the Surf school has made surfing a sport accessible to the children of Cerrito.

Week 4: We went back to Cerrito de la Virgin a community of more or less 250 families where we have had a presence here for 2 years now. We are trying to create a women’s space with a group of mothers there where they can feel free to talk about women’s issues. One of the sisters from the Catholic Church told me that their local Priest had been given a sewing machine. We had one of our volunteers willing to fund the women’s project. I felt so excited and spoke with the other women in order to assess their needs and what they would like to do. We had the centre, the sewing machine, the willingness to learn something that can help not only to make their uniforms for schooling next year but maybe create a little income. Therefore, we decided - yes let’s go ahead.

Week 5: We commenced the preparations such as purchasing the materials and finding the sewing teacher. Nanna, a Danish student volunteering with us, was appointed to look after and help organise the micro-project which has now continued to grow into a project much more than just sewing classes. It is a place where we can help empower women.

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