Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
In this year’s message for the start of the Peru Project, I wanted to help students to understand both the impact we have had on this school, as well as the fact that in countries like Peru, where we find great burdens, a little help often results in outcomes we could never predict. During my time in Peru, I came across many inspirational life stories which show how a little help can transform lives. I would like to share with you all the story I shared with the students. It involves four of my wife’s cousins: Johnny, Richard, Luis and Carlos.
When the boys were young, their father disappeared from their lives. This left their mother, Rosa, in a difficult situation. She had no education beyond high school and as such had no skills to work in a job which would support four growing boys.
The only solution for Rosa and her four boys was to accept help from family. They moved in to Aunt Yolanda’s house on the street Lloque Yupanqui (I give this name because the house, which was a hub for the entire extended family, is often referred to as Lloque Yupanqui or just la Lloque). The house on Lloque Yupanqui was small. About 1300 sq ft on the floor Aunt Yolanda lived on. When the five moved in, there were already nine people living in this modest space.
Yolanda had one small room at the back where the boys and their mom slept; the boys on one bed, Rosa on another. It was agreed that Rosa would clean, cook and go to the market for the household in in exchange for a roof over their heads and food. Yolanda worked, but did not earn enough to pay Rosa and she was helping others in the family at the same time. When I first met the boys, Johnny was hoping to study business administration and accounting in the national university. While the university is free, books and school supplies weren’t, and this looked to be a rift too wide to cross. No one in the family had money for the books. This was when my father-in-law was able to help. For the first time in his life, he was making enough money to take care of his family and have a little left over. He saw that he could help Rosa and her boys carry their “burden,” and committed to buying books and supplies for Johnny’s studies.
Johnny wanted to own his own business, a dream he shared with his younger brothers. When Richard, the second oldest, graduated from school, he wanted to go to Argentina to work. He’d heard that in Argentina, as compared to Peru, he could make enough money to live and save each month. However, like Johnny, Argentina might as well have been on the moon. He didn’t have the money for the bus ticket and based on a typical wage in Peru, no way to earn it himself. Again, my father-in-law was in a position to help and gave him money for the trip.
To make a long story short, family members pulling together in small ways to help the five “carry” their burdens, had big and far-reaching results. Johnny graduated and started a business with a friend in a small, rented store front in the market area of Trujillo. They sold bulk food like rice, flour, cooking oil and sugar to market owners. Richard in the meantime went to Argentina and found a job washing windows for a company. With time he developed a rapport with clients and started his own company. When he returned from Argentina (leaving Luis, who had joined him, in charge of the company), he had saved enough money to buy a truck. With the truck they were able to go directly to the sugar plant and buy their sacks of sugar without paying someone else to do it. This was only the beginning.
It was tough going for many years, but they worked hard and with Johnny’s business experience, slowly and intelligently expanded their business over the years. The boys now are involved in almost every step of selling sugar (all four, plus mom work in the company). They decided to buy more trucks, so that they could actually bid on harvests of sugar cane and transport that cane to be processed. Once processed, they then transport the final product to the store to sell at a cheaper price. A few years ago, Richard bought land where he grows sugar cane. It is planted, harvested and transported to the factory by people who work for him. Johnny then picks up the sacks of sugar and sells them to other bulk food sellers in Trujillo. They each are raising their own families in houses they built. Aunt Rosa has her own apartment. Perhaps more significant in all of this, they have in turn helped at least three more children from la Lloque to get university educations. Each of these now grown children are on their own with stable jobs and families.
Can we see this kind of outcome from our modest yearly donations to the preschool? The answer to this isn’t clear in the same way Aunt Yolanda and my father-in-law’s help had big results. We are helping preschoolers, not high school graduates. However, there is one thing we can trust: based on the changes that have taken place in the quality of education at the school, we can be sure that we have touched many lives in significant ways. This can be seen in the “before and after” photos below.
When you look at the difference in the classrooms and the other areas of the school you have to keep in mind these facts: In the ten years we have been helping the school, it has gone from being the worst preschool in the area, where people were embarrassed to say their children went there, to the best preschool in the area (this includes Las Delicias and neighboring Moche, and even is better than most public preschools in the big city of Trujillo ). Enrollment has doubled, from 22 to 54, in that time, and they actually have to turn children away. They originally had 2 teachers (Teacher/Principal, and a teacher). They now have 5 including the principal—who has been an answer to all the prayers students, parents and staff have lifted up on behalf of the school over the years. The principal, Lola Kong, is an educator and experienced principal. She knows how to find donations and make the most of our donations.
As you look at the pictures below please keep in mind as well that we are talking about learning spaces and not aesthetics. The truth is the preschool as it is isn’t beautiful. It has been put together piece-by-piece and has suffered devastating rain damage which is not our place to fix. However, if you look at what now takes place in this space, you will see the amazing difference. The children have covered areas where they can have P.E. without time restrictions due to having the sun beat down on them. They have plenty of PE equipment (balls, jump ropes, cones, etc) to do so. They have a play structure where they can let their imaginations run wild and further develop their coordination. They have a garden area where they learn how plants grow and about concepts like photosynthesis and the water cycle (Lola’s idea). They have two classrooms equipped with big screen TVs for educational programs which help them get a jump start on math and reading. They have new shelving to organize the plethora of games, learning tools and school supplies we have donated. They have desks and chairs of age-appropriate sizes. And each student receives a hot meal each day which is cooked on equipment donated by St. John’s, and cooked in a kitchen space St. John’s built. They have a recycling area. The walls are covered with educational posters and the teachers have a sense of pride in their work and where they work because they have desks to work at, supplies and tools to teach with and custom-made uniforms which carry both the logo of their school and that of St. John’s.
God willing, we will be going to Peru this summer. My wife and I are hopeful that we can find the tablet devices we saw advertised on the Peruvian channel we watch. Putting these devices into the hands of preschoolers will give them a huge head start, not only in terms of the learning they receive from the programs on the devices, but as well the knowledge of how to use touch screen devices. This is something which only the most elite preschools in Trujillo offer to their students. And as well we will be working closely with the Principal, Lola Kong, to see what other needs the school has which will help these students break from the cycle of brutal poverty they live in. The donation cycle for this year has again been generously given to include chapel through February 24. Our goal once again is $4,000. If you would like to see more images from over the years, please visit the website: http://perunuevaesperanza.weebly.com/