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Our Projects/Partners

2012 Grant Recipient Living Heart

Living Heart’s aim is for every nursery and primary school child (plus any abandoned elderly) to receive a hot breakfast and lunch every day of the school year. Through a process of careful evaluation, Living Heart identifies communities where a large percentage of the children are suffering from chronic malnutrition, growth problems and health issues related to a lack of dietary diversity. They provide the community primary schools with a wide variety of fresh foods rich in essential nutrients, and design special recipes to ensure that the children are receiving a nutritionally-varied diet.

To expand the benefits of the Nutrition program to the whole community and ensure all children have access to nutritious food within the home, Living Heart has sponsored Educational Greenhouse Projects allowing communities to organically cultivate their own fresh vegetables, salad and herbs.

Our collaboration with Living Heart is to repair and upgrade a school greenhouse in a highland community above Pisaq, 4000 m above sea level. Project goals included the following: To repair the greenhouse, replace heavy-grade plastic, amend the soil organically, and to provide a water tank, hoses, water connections for the greenhouse, as well as needed tools and seeds. An extremely dedicated school director named Emilio has been trained in organic cultivation, greenhouse maintenance and compost making. This program complements their already existing and successful nutrition program. (Photos to follow.)

2012 Grant Recipient Abre Puertas

The Abre Puertas Project is based in the community of Coya, approximately one hour from Cuzco. Their program, one year old, is housed in a building donated by the municipality and functions as a community education center serving all generations. Like many Andean communities, little exists in the way of after school opportunities or academic support, with high drop-out rates, teen pregnancy and adults struggling with the problems of alcoholism, illiteracy, and limited economic opportunities. This particular project has taken place over the last six months and focuses on developing leadership opportunities for adolescents. A youth advisory board was formed of 20 members, ages 12-16 that has met monthly and created projects benefiting the larger community of 50 children and adolescents,. Monthly workshops and/or roundtable discussions suggested by the advisory board are also held with topics that range from sex education, traditional dance and music, to alcoholism and domestic violence. An English study group will support those studying English in school. And most intriguing, a three month long series on sexual health and prevention will be held weekly.

Here is a recent email, dated 11/5/12 from Ellyn Jameson, founder of AbrePuertas of about the her program, with pictures to follow:

-We did two rounds of leadership workshops. the first was monthly and attracted a more pre-teen population. We focused on team-building and social skills as well as basic concepts of leadership.
-The second series of workshops, which we are currently undertaking weekly in the local high school with all members of the 5th grade, is focusing specifically on social skills and effective communication.
-Our weekly English class, ongoing all year, has been a great success, with a group of about 10 teens who continue to study.
-Monthly we held workshops with the teens on a topic of choice, which they chose and voted on. In one we learned about plant life, went on a nature walk, and planted some flowers!
-I thought you might also appreciate this story- one of the girls who is in the sexuality class is currently pregnant, and is also seeing my colleague Jenny for counseling, and shared with her that the classes have been so important and useful, and she is really glad that we are doing them, but only wishes we did it earlier on. For next year we are thinking of teaching the fourth or third year students rather than the fifth to catch them sooner… But hopefully for this group it can help a lot of girls who could have been in the same situation.

2010 Paskay

Paskay, (formerly Casa Hogar del Sol founded in 2008) is a Peruvian registered civil association (not for profit organization with registration number 11079268). Paskay is a Quechua word which means to free yourself physically and spiritually. The organisation Paskay aims to help people to help themselves through providing education, training and work opportunities as well as health and nutrition initiatives.

IN 2010 LVM partnered with them to help both support their work, which is in line with ours, and to enlist them in support of our stove project in Mandorani. Over the years both personally and organizationally we have collaborated with Paskay and founder, Carlos Gibaja in many efforts involving flood relief, provision of blankets, dental clinics, and family support. We’re proud to know and work with them. Please visit their website to learn more of their projects.

Pencils for Peru, Our work prior to 2010

Here is an excerpt from late 2009, bringing us up to what is now Las Vidas Mejoradas.

I want to take this opportunity to write and update all who have followed our efforts in Peru.

Our first few months of 2009 were spent again in the region of Cusco, Peru. As you may recall, we first returned to Sipascancha to see how our previous project had done in our absence and to see how the stoves were working for the villagers. We were very disappointed to discover they had “de-constructed” the stoves, making a larger burn chamber for heat as well as to improve heat received to the second pot that is customary for this culture to use. Thankfully the chimney was recognized to be very important and they remained! We were knocked off our pedestals, so to speak, seeing the work we had done the previous year needed to be reevaluated. We realized that it took more to improve the lives of these folks than to just provide a stove. (A cocina mejorada does not make a vida mejorada.) We needed to remember they also needed the stove for warmth and to listen to the people who would be using the stoves rather than assume we knew more about what they needed than they did.

Our project was in a community called Mandorani, a short distance out of Cusco. We and the wonderful families of this community successfully constructed 20 stoves. Tomas, a friend and former participant helped us to design a stove folks would actually use. The burn chamber was a bit longer allowing a flame beneath each pot. He designed a way to collect the ash so it could be recycled for the garden or pit toilet. Again we used local materials and workers. And he assisted us with each stove, building each model the same, and he is there now to help care for them.

Each participant opened their homes to us and we were able to use the stove together, demonstrating how a lesser amount of wood produced a clean effective fire beneath each pot. We taught families how to use a retention cooker in combination with their stoves in order to save even more wood. Our time spent with each family included a conversation on how to avoid common illnesses. Discussions ranged from how diarrhea can be spread through a family, to ways to use a simple bleach solution to clean plates and vegies, and what was possible to better manage their waste. Our success here was totally due to the lessons we learned in Sipascancha and Soncco, not to mention an incredible group of families to work with. And future successes will hinge on our willingness to learn from the people we help.

Since returning in March of this year we have set our sights on forming a 501c-3 non-profit so to better continue our work. We have hired David Atkin, a lawyer in Eugene who specializes in helping non profits to get set up. Much of the progress in this is both due to my son, who made a donation to this cause, as well as David, for charging us a bit less. We have formed our group and named it Las Vidas Mejoradas (The Better Lives). We have our board which includes Elayne Quirin, myself, Steve Bouton, and his mother Ellen Bouton. We have with David’s assistance written our bylaws and begun!! At our next meeting we have three other folks interested in joining, which is a relief as you can see many of us are related!

Our goals now include maintaining a presence in Mandorani, despite our being here. We do get phone calls in spite of the system I thought would work where a resident was to visit each home and then send on to us a follow-up report. So, what we have heard is that the stoves are working fine. We are always asked when we are returning! A Canadian friend did visit and agreed we had made quite an impact on the community. We’ve made a calendar with photos of various folks involved with the project as well as aspects of the project. Messages on each month reinforce in Spanish principles on using the stove, the retention cooker and hygiene. They are being sent out next week. We are beginning research on where to take our work next, consulting with people we have met along the way doing similar work in Peru. We will return to Mandorani in early 2011 to evaluate the stoves, and their appropriate use and care, and to complete our agreement with the good folks of that community, which includes giving them 35 soles each for working with us. It is at that time we will visit other communities. Finally, we will continue to support local Peruvians involved in this work in Peru. We’ll be attending the January 2010 ETHOS conference to share experiences. We are making a web page! Currently it has a placeholder and will be at www.vidasmejoradas.org

Long term goals are to successfully see this non-profit formation through. What this means is submitting our documents to the IRS in early 2011. All of this will be with David’s help. It will be at that time, should we be approved, that we will have those privileges to give our donors documentation for their taxes. We’re happy to add that anyone donating from the time of our formation (4/2009) until we submit our documents will have retroactive receipts from us.

Always feel free to contact us. Your support through our trials and successes is very important to us, whether you are a donor or not. While we are not physically in Peru doing this very important work, we are here doing our best to establish a foundation to continue this work for a long time to come.

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