To improve our understanding of people’s lives and where they came from, the director of OCN took us on a visit to OCN’s projects in several different areas in and around Huanchaco.
Why I volunteer with Otracosa Network
I went to Huanchaco to volunteer with OCN as part of my Master’s degree project. I was there to conduct research into the HELP English teaching programme, to look at the best ways of teaching, the motivation for Peruvians learning English, and to find out how the programme could be sustained. In order for me to do this it was very important to understand the context in which my research was taking place. I was one of eight students who went out to Peru to OCN to do research, each with a different research project.
Kindergarten and Bakery
Ten of us piled into a micro-bus at 8am on Thursday to go and visit the projects. I had never realised that there were so many and that they were so spread out across Huanchaco and its surrounding areas. Our first visit was to a kindergarten and bakery projects. Here we learnt about the home for children and how it was set up for children without families in and around Huanchaco. The children live there until they are seventeen. Then they are given training to help them find a job. The children are involved with the bakery and can have baking lessons or even earn pocket money by helping to package the bread. This is really great as it means the kids are trained for later in life and could have this as a job.
Next stop was a kindergarten for children aged between two and five. Located right next to a protected site for excavation. You have all probably heard of Chan Chan and the Chimu culture. This area is rich in history and visiting this site reminded us of the culture of Huanchaco and its decendents. We learnt that the discovery of Señora de Cao changed the way Huanchacans thought about their culture as for the first time this showed the importance of a female. Prior to this discovery, the Chimu culture was thought of as being male-dominated, however the preservation of this woman showed something different. It is said that she was preserved even better than the Egyptian mummies.
The kindergarten was in an area where there were problems with land rights. The habitants had moved there after the conflicts of the 80s and 90s. The problem was that in order for them to receive help from the state to build good houses they had to be in that area for ten years.After ten years they could apply, but then it took them five years to get their application approved. Because of this many of the habitants lived in adobe brick houses. Some also did not have access to water, as one water reservoir cost 11,000 soles per house!! This is an astronomical cost.
Plaza de Armas and Che Guevara
We then travelled to another area close by to see their municipilidad. Its location was in the local Plaza de Armas – which is typical for Peru. This municipilidad was home to several services for the community: the Mayor’s office, a health clinic and also a place to have English lessons. This was an example of how the local government had begun meeting the needs of locals by slowly incorporating more functions into its role.
Next was a drive on the Pan American Highway, where Che Guevara rode on his motorbike. It was recommended to us the reading of the “The Motorcycle Diaries”.
We arrived at another bakery, this time for a Women’s Social Enterprise Bakery Project. This project had given full time employment to two local women. The bakery sells bread in Huanchaco everyday and is very popular with the volunteers. Around the corner from the bakery was a prison. During the conflict of the 80s and 90s many people stood up against the government, therefore they had to go to prison. This was another reminder of how young Peru’s democracy is.
Beyond the bakery was the recycling area. This was a vast area with a great amount of rubbish. The people who worked there also lived there. Houses were in the midst of the rubbish and there was no access to water. Any rubbish that wasn’t useful was burnt, anything that was useful was collected into huge industrial sacks. We spoke to two men who were filling a sack and they explained that it took nearly a week to fill the sack and they only received thirty centimos for it. In this area when a child is born, sadly they then work on the rubbish heap. These people were the poorest of the poor in the areas surrounding Huanchaco. It was explained to us that OCN would be applying for a grant to start projects here.
For me this was the most eye-opening experience of the day, and also of my seven weeks in Huanchaco. This is because Huanchaco is a beautiful place and sometimes it is easy to forget the importance of the projects we have. Visiting these places really made me realise that our help is needed.
This blog was written by Emma Baines