SOS child charity supporter Hazel Geatches gives an insight into our work in Peru. She visited some of the SOS Children's Villages projects in Ayacucho, Peru, while she was volunteering in the city. Inspired by the work being done, Hazel donated some money to an SOS Children community project, to help with the building of a roof for a community centre. Here, Hazel tells us about her visits and about the subsequent work at the community centre ...
I support SOS Children in the UK, and in December 2008, whilst volunteering in Ayacucho, I came across the SOS office in Peru. I spoke with a very welcoming Nancy (Director) and Jhonny (Deputy Director) and asked if I could help at all during December. In theory, SOS are very keen to have volunteers, but just before Christmas wasn’t the best time. They were keen to arrange a few visits for me, though, to show me the kind of work they do.
SOS Children Peru has two programmes in Ayacucho, one where they look after orphans, and one where they work with families in poor areas to try to keep the families together to prevent having more orphans.
I visited some of the areas where SOS works with poor families, and I was accompanied by a very helpful co-ordinator called Rosa. Rosa has a background in social work, and she works in very poor communities in the city to identify families that need support. She then works with them and other charities to set up ´casas hogares’ (community centres) for the young children to stay during the day, so that the mothers can go out to work to earn enough money to be able to feed their children. Several of the women I met were single mothers, and without this support they would not be able to go out to work, and without work, they would not be able to support their children. The community centres usually have a nursery, a place for children to play, and a kitchen. SOS funds the food for lunch every day, and works with the parents to organise them to take turns to work in the kitchen and the nursery; also to build the centre in the first place.
The centres were closing down for two weeks over Christmas so it wasn’t good timing for me to be able to help. But I helped in the office from time to time, spending a few hours splitting up huge bags of sugar into kilo bags, and packing chocolate and milk into Christmas parcels to give to all the parents who've been working in the community centres.
After my visits to the community centres, I donated some money to SOS Children to support the 'La Florida' community project, to help the parents complete the building of a roof – they needed money for timber and tiles, and then would do the work themselves. Several months later, after the rains and floods had ceased, they finished building the roof for the kitchen and dining room which means that the children now have somewhere to eat when it's too wet or too sunny.
First they had to make adobe bricks - this took longer than planned as the rainy season was particularly rainy! And then they completed the building of the rest of the walls, and finally added the beams and the roof. SOS Children have sent their thanks for our support and they say that the community is extremely grateful for our help. I hope to return to Ayacucho one day, and I’ve been promised a visit to La Florida when I do!
SOS Children currently supports more than 13,000 children and their families in communities across Peru, in addition to around 1,000 children who have a family for life at Children's Villages based at Zarate, Esperanza, Rio Hondo (Chosica), Chiclayo, Arequipa, Cuzco, Huancayo and Callao.
Read more about our work in Peru and consider child sponsorship today.