Womens' Refuge: Centro de Promocion de Pa Mujer Manos de Pais (Otra Cosa program) - Peru
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We (Jerome and I), made it to Huanchaco. We were tired and without a shower for four of five days, but it was worse for Jerome as he was very ill during the whole 9 hour bus trip here. We entered into the Otra Cosa volunteer agency and sat down with Juany, who as been working here with her husband Peter for the past 3 years, volunteering their way to create access for other volunteers to enter into 20 different projects throughout the north of Peru.
Peter was awarded good sponsors from Holland and also won a grant for the project, which he then made even larger in Holland. There are 8-12 kids at the moment taking pictures and making postcards to sell. They get 50% of the profit, which helps immensely within their families. 1 card costs about 1.50 soles in Peru, and obviously more in Holland.
There are so many different types of programs and other great things going on here including environmental and children projects where you can teach music and English, and there is even a restaurant run to help keep the organisation funded. Otra Cosa is planning a concert with the children to also act as a fundraiser.
We met with a couple named Anna and Meindert, who are from Holland, and only just arrived about 2 weeks ago. Anna, who lived in Uganda, Africa last year for four months, was learning International Development Studies. Meindert at the time was studying about Engineering in sustainable Energy, in Holland.
Anna and Meindert have been in contact with Peter and Juany over the past 8 months, and will now be taking over Otra Cosa for a few weeks, while Peter and Juany visit Peters mother. They will try to help bring further structure and improved administration to the organisation.
Otra Cosa thankfully has alot of strong political influence. Peru Support Group (an NGO that promotes the situation in Peru), knew of Peter and Juany`s work and invited them to England to present a topic, which will create awareness about Peruvian education and health. Juany has chosen child exploitation and the programs that can eradicate this.
The library was even opened with the help of Juany’s good friend who is in politics, Fernando Bazan, who is the Mayor. A volunteer from Otra Cosa had originally began with the idea of getting a library for the town, as there was not even one in the area at the time.
Juany, Anna, Meindert, Jerome and I, went for a walk around the town of Huanchaco. We went past the local hospital, where Juany explained that there is a girl from England who is volunteering there at the moment. We were then taken to one of the local surf schools.
Evair, a local Peruvian surf teacher, took us to his home, which is also a surf school and is owned by Juan Carlos (a Peruvian surf champion). Eviar is a 21 year old volunteer who teaches poor kids how to surf. Apart from teaching, he takes care of all the decorations in the house.
The house is amazing and is mostly made of bamboo. They are currently building and finishing off rooms where tourists and volunteers can come and stay. Money made from board hire and lessons, goes towards the building and maintaining of the volunteer house.
Anna, Meindert, Jerome and I then walked through old Huanchaco, past many houses of foreigners who are settling here. We slowly walked past houses where families who are connected with Otra Cosa take in people for home stays, and then made our way to the Otra Cosa restaurant. I think it is awesome that you can watch DVD`s for free while eating your meal here.
At the restaurant all volunteers receive 15% off all food and drinks. The volunteers also receive 10% off at two other restaurants and 25% off surf lessons. We then walked along the beach and looked at the fishermans boats, which are made from huge plants called Totora, and polystirene inside to help them to float.
We made it to the Mundode Niños house, where a woman named Gladys showed us around. Twelve boys from the ages of 7-16, who were previously on the streets, are living here. There is a maximum of twenty boys who can stay in the house due to lack of space, and when we entered the house, the boys were all eating spaghetti close together in the dining area. There are 3 computers for the teachers to collect their materials to teach the children, and a psychologist who comes nearly every afternoon with open doors for the children if they need to talk.
The boys make candles and yoghurt, which is sold at Otra Cosa restaurant and other grocery stores. The candles smelt great and the mango yoghurt I tried was the best I`ve had in Peru so far. A specialist comes in to supervise each time the children make yoghurt, and another comes in once every so often to see if they are still making the candles correctly. There is always however someone over the age of 18 supervising the children melting wax around the stove.
The children were gorgeous when saying goodbye. One wouldn’t let me go and kept saying in English “I love you too”, not that I said “I love you” in the first place. They hung off all of us and gave us huge hugs and kisses… such sweet little guys.
The next day was intense… there were four of Otra Cosa’s volunteer projects to visit in just one morning. Anna, Meindert, Noemi, Susannah Jerome and I jumped in a taxi, and took off to begin the half day journey.
Noemi had arrived the night before. She is a vibrant 27 year old Spanish woman, who has come to Otra Cosa to volunteer for 5 days in Santo Toribio, a program helping disabled children. In the taxi, I got further acquainted with Susannah, who is a 35 year old female from NY City who has been teaching English in another Otra Cosa program in Chiclayo (a town a few hours north of Trujillo where a pre-Inca museum called Sipan lays).
The project Susannah works in is called Canatura, which is an advocate for wetlands, birds, conservation, and preserving the Bosque Seco (dry forest). It is actually a tropical dry rainforest, as it rains for three months, and is dry for the rest of the year. Susannah helps with translating bird names for local tour guides who take groups into the forest. These tours provide funding for the project, along with any grants they are offered.
There are over 1800 different bird species in Peru, so Susannah has her work cut out for her. Apart from volunteering in Chiclayo she would soon like to visit many more of the Otra Cosa programs around Peru. She loves the dedication of all of the volunteers at her current program, and is amazed that most of them have just only finished university, with most having studied Biology.
The thing that Susannah found most challenging in her volunteer work was getting used to the first couple of weeks of culture shock. The local families perhaps sometimes get a little bit offended when she doesn`t have lunch with them, but Susannah says that because she is such an independent person she needs some quality time to herself. But she adores everyone especially the head of Cantura who she says is extremely dedicated and has taken the time that he doesn`t have to helping her in every way possible.
Susannah initially came to Cantura to become a better teacher. She has learnt alot and says that because the students are so eager to learn and pick up things quickly, it is a real challenge for her to keep her lessons interesting.
The cab drove all of the volunteers to visit the people living in the rubbish tip.
If you would like to volunteer at or donate to Otra Cosa, visit http://www.otracosa.nl/