Sunday, July 20, 2008

home is where the heart is

Meet Darwin...

Darwin is a happy, eight-year-old kid. He posed proudly for this picture when I asked him which bed was his.

There are only two beds in Darwin’s house and they sleep three boys. Not sure how, but they do. Hernan, pronounced ernarn, is 13 and Yuri is six. The brothers live together, alone, in a one-room house the size of a modest bedroom. In the absence of parents, Hernan looks after his brothers. Need I remind you, he is 13.

What were you doing when you were 13? I was in Year 8 receiving a better than decent education which I, at times, went to waste while I was too busy trying to be cool. I was gossiping with girls and flirting with boys. On the home front, I lived with my mum and two sisters who I constantly fought with. No reason, maybe a bit pissed of at the whole broken family thing but, probably just a brat really. A huge bedroom, with ensuite and walk-in robe, was being built on the back of our already three-bedroom family home which, upon completion, would be mine.

Back to the boys. Their father left the family for another woman many years ago. As a result, their mother (let’s call her Julia) turned to alcohol. With the support of Peru’s Challenge she was sober for about three months earlier this year before she returned to the bottle. To make matters worse, she had an affair with a married man who, like her, lives in Pumamarca. The man’s wife put Julia in hospital and, once released, she was basically banished from the community. Therefore, the boys now live alone.

The boys' living area
Normally grateful for the efforts of Peru's Challenge, the community do not appreciate the organisation's support of Darwin et al purely on the basis they are Julia's sons.
This assistance though, is very simple. A weekly home visit yields a bag of rice and some toilet paper. Although their small, cold, dark home was built as a result of Peru’s Challenge funding.

They are not sent to an orphanage because of a promise made by the boys’ older brother. He is about 30, lives in Cusco (about a 25 minute drive) and claims to visit them once weekly. He doesn’t.

But, just like the rest of the Pumamarca students, Hernan, Darwin and Yuri attend school with smiles on their faces and hope in their eyes. It’s tragically beautiful.

While we spend most of our time at the school, home visits represent the other side of the volunteers’ role with Peru’s Challenge. Rostered once a week, each volunteer will visit probably three or four houses per outing. It’s heart-breaking.

The conditions are as bad as I’ve seen. Housing only the bare necessities, homes are simply worlds apart from anything I’ve ever known.

The outdoor kitchen
I am told of a Pumamarca family of 11 who all sleep in the same double bed frame. And I said frame people. No mattress, no blankets, no pillows – just a wooden frame. Me? Give me a queen sized bed and stay on your side. I’m trying to sleep here goddamit.
If nothing else, Hernan, Darwin and Yuri are an inspiration to each and every volunteer who has been welcomed into their home.

Me included.


Rick M said...

You have a heart of gold...not that I ever doubted it of course :)

KJ said...

really puts my shitty 'problems' in perspective.. they're more like mozzies now.. actually they're probably not even that annoying compared to Herman et al. The fact that my 'problems' consist of when to tell my boss that i'm resigning to travel africa and asia for 3 months and other associated 'issues' makes my problems seem more like butterflies. Pleasent, lovely to have around and infinately more desirable than mozzies. Gimme butterflies anyday

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