Perù: a school in the Andes

Upon my departure from Lima, I had in hand only a piece of paper where a friend had written down the principal stages of the journey: Trujillo, Cajamarca, Celendin and finally Bolívar. A total of 31 hours of travel, the last 12 along an excavated road. The bus, filled with people crowded together amidst sacks of rice and other things, reached its destination at 10:30 in the evening. While we disembarked, a group of people started to sing; it seemed like a welcoming committee and with great surprise I realized that it was for me! The final hours of the trip was made in total darkness, I couldn’t make out where I was. The next day, when I woke up, I found myself in front of a marvelous panorama. I told myself: I am in Paradise!”

It is Walter Cerchiaro, an Italian, who has been in Perù for 6 years who related this. After this first trip, he went to Bolivar  several times to meet the community of the Focolare Movement. Now that some of the roads have been fixed the trip only takes 25 hours!

In this little city at 3,200 meters above sea level, a new project of the AMU (Action for a United World Onlus) is being launched. The inhabitants of Bolívar are around 2,500 , who are spread out in 30 communities throughout a very vast territory. The parish priest of Bolívar, Fr. Emeterio, a priest “of the frontier”  and the originator of the project, goes to visit  them 1-2 times a year. Sometimes it takes him 2 days of travel by donkey, which is their equivalent of a car (in Bolívar you can count the cars with the fingers of one hand).

“Some people live by agriculture, Walter relates. They grow potatoes, hay for the animals; there are also some dairy cows. Some of them also find jobs in public places (school, town hall) but the majority of the adults look for work along the coast: the men as farmers and the women as domestic helpers in some families. The consequences of this situation is immediately apparent: in Bolivar there are only children and the elderly”.

«Fr. Emeterio knows everyone and he realized that many of the children did not attend the public school. The reason is evident: their parents live in chacras (small pieces of land) and they need strong hands to work the land, even the arms of the children are needed. Two years ago the parish priest began a school in the area of the  parish. He started the detailed task of going from family to family, assuring them that he would also provide one meal for each child. Then he rented a house because the space that he had was not big enough; and in a short time there were 80 children who came! Some of them have to walk for hours and hours everyday just to reach the school.

In Perù the government assures the payment of the salaries of the teachers even in the private schools, if they can give sufficient guaranties; the school already receives this subsidy. But there is the need to stabilize and secure the carrying-out of the scholastic activities, and the fact that the premises being used is rented does not help matters. After the first 3 months of activities, for example, they had to move out because the owner needed the premises. The AMU project aims at guaranteeing the continuity of the scholastic activities; for this reason a new school will be built, made up of 11 classrooms and a room for the secretary.    It will be able to accomodate around 250 children and teens and will include the elementary and highschool levels. There is already the land that belongs to the parish, for the building. It is quite vast and is very suitable”.

“There is no competition with the public school because they are aware of not being able to reach everyone. They do not have the staff available to go from family to family to raise public awareness the way Fr. Emeterio did”.

«Then –  Walter concluded – we can already foresee another objective. There is a strip of territory that is bigger and further away, wherein the children are not able to reach the school even after walking for long hours. What is needed for them is a protected environment, a home-family that can house them, with qualified personnel to take care of them. A dream? Maybe, or, simply the second phase of the project, We’ll see!”.

Source: AMU News n. 4/2013



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