Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thanks to Our Readers

We would like to thank everyone reading our blog posts. We have had around 1,200 visits. They aren't all from the United State and Peru. Our second largest views were people from Russia and then the Netherlands. Thanks to all who took an interest in our trip.

If you are a doctor or a nurse, who has an interest in going to Peru to help this community, or if you have a general interest and would like more information, I can be reached at I would love to correspond with you or give you more information so that you can help St. Clare School.

We will continue posting to this blog as information comes to us. So please check back periodically.


Some Final Thoughts

Paita is the 5th largest port in Peru, with a population of approximately 100,000 located on a rainless  coast which extents from the northern Ecuadorian border on the north to Chilean border on the south. With a much larger inland city, Piura, being 30 miles away, educated and professional individuals and families choose to live there. Even some teachers at Santa Clara endure the hard commute from Piura every day.  NO professional families send their children to Santa Clara--they don't live in Paita! There are 4 sisters in the whole community so all of the other teachers are hired.  This leaves Paita to be a city inhabited by lower middle and lower class families. Slums which go on for block after block seem to more prominent than any other form of housing.  The major industry is fishing. We gathered that the secondary industry is service, such as the infamous Mototaxi, and finally retail, such as grocery, local craft items, and prepared foods.
Homes with Electricity but without plumbing or water
Homes without Electricity, Plumbing or water

We saw two fish processing factories on the shore line where the Pacific Ocean meets Paita. On one hand, the sisters tell us that fish is expensive in Paita because the local fish is frozen on the shore and shipped in freighters (visible to us in port). Many people can't afford to buy the fish sold in the area. Yet on the other hand, the men and women who are hired to work in the processing plants or the larger boats have a job. Any hours they get helps feed their families. Unfortunately, much of the work is considered part-time. If they don't work "fulltime", the people don't get "social security", nor do they receive healthcare benefits.  Sr. Monica was talking with us about returning next year with a medical team. We are going to try to form a medical team and return to the area.

Two Fishing Factories in Paita, Peru
The School Sisters of St Francis built this school because the Peruvian government has not built enough schools to educate the whole population of children. The community asked the School Sisters to build the school so that their children could be given a good Catholic education. The sisters built the school, grade by grade and each year added on to the school, to what it is today. They received no government funding and have to rely on tuition from the families in Paita. 

The sisters are working with the government on a educational program called PRONOEI. It is located in the low-income and poverty stricken areas of Paita, where the homes have no electricity nor is there any water or plumbing. This program was formed in 1967 where the infant mortality rate was high and malnutrition was widespread. It has now emerged into a preschool program, to help prepare young children for school, run by the School Sisters of St. Francis.

It was sad for all of us to have Lisa meet some of the PRONOEI children and give them a brief physical. In most cases, she was not able to help them. There were sicknesses from diarrhea with fever, to dog bites (which could have been rabid),  and many skin diseases. Lisa refereed some to the doctor and treated a few with a dressing and ointment. Many of them can't afford a doctor or are waiting for the male, head of household, to bring home a paycheck after they find work. I'm sure many of those children will not be seeing a doctor.  
90% of the people of Peru are Catholic. Do you know the influence Catholicism has on each community? Even the public schools are named after a saint. For example, one of the schools is called Juan Pablo II or John Paul II. There is no separation of church and state. We passed one school that had a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the outside of the public school. 
The Nuevo Sol is the Peruvian currency. 1 US dollar equals 2.7 Sole's (say Sol A). Families earn approximately 800 Soles monthly, equaling $296 US dollars. Tuition is around 120 Soles equaling $45 US. In addition to this monthly tuition, the children have one uniform and the parents are required to pay for it, lunch, and books for their children, and they do it because they value education, knowing it is the way out of poverty for their children.  It breaks the sister's hearts when their pragmatically limited scholarship fund cannot support a student whose parents cannot pay tuition due to lack of work. They know this student will not receive an education once they leave the school.

We shopped at one of the quite obviously few grocery stores in Paita. Although our grocery bill was lower than what we would have paid in the US, only the local produce and meats were of lower cost. The packaged items were comparable to our prices. It gave us a taste of the challenge that the Santa Clara families face.

Despite the economic pall, the School Sisters live their vow of poverty with joy and confidence, and keep the school thriving and alive with the Love of God via an active prayer life and very hard work. The children respond in kind to the love of the teachers, which was astonishingly extended to us in the most magnificent demonstrations.  I know I speak for all of us when I say that our hearts were overflowing with respect for the perfection of the work being done here, and with the spontaneous love generated by the community to receive us. I know I can also state that we were sorry to say goodbye to the children who gave us their hearts readily.  We brought back many heart gifts which will be displayed at Mass. We also look forward to speaking at all of the Masses. 
Lisa, Deb, and Sarah

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Miércoles - El último día (Wednesday, Our Last Day)

Just a reminder for everyone, if you click on a picture, you'll be able to see a larger version of all pictures.

It's 1am on Wednesday morning and Sarah, Lisa, and I (Deb) prepared the food for lunch on Wednesday at 2pm. With the help of Sister Maribel, we cut up the vegetables consisting of carrots, onions, and celery, which went into our casserole. The chicken was still frozen because we bought them on Monday and had to freeze them rather than place them in the refrigerator because the refrigerator is old and does not maintain a safe refrigerator temperature.

The city water is contaminated with bacteria and other things we don't want to know about. It is only given to each house for about an hour a day and stored in a large reservoir. Because of the poor water, we had to put four drops of iodine in about 6 cups of water to rinse our vegetables.

We cut up caigua (pronounced kai-wa) for our cold salad. Caigue belongs to the cucumber family and it becomes hollow as it matures and can be eaten cooked or eaten raw. We cut it up into small pieces to dress with Peruvian limes which look like key limes. By the way, the Peruvians call the limes...lemons. We squeezed enough juice to make Peruvian Lime Pie. Lisa made the delicious buttery crust and we assisted with everything else. It was after 1am and Lisa was waiting for the crust to finish baking and cool slightly before pouring the lime contents into the pie dish. It was a very long night for all of us because we knew we had to get up by 6:15am because at that time, we had to finish making the meringue and cut up the chicken and seasoned it with Penzy's spices Lisa brought from home and the casserole was ready to go. During our break at 10:30 we placed our casserole into the oven and prayed for a miracle.

We had much to do today because we had six classroom visits.

Our dinner was served at 2pm. Father Jaime, the assistant pastor from St. Francis Church, joined us for a fun time. The main pastor had gallbladder surgery and was still recovering. We served our caigua salad with broccoli, chicken casserole and wine. For dessert, the lime pie with a chocolate as a backup, just in case the pie was not eatable.  La comida era deliciosa!
Peruvian Lime Pie
Chicken Casserole

Left to right
 Lisa, Sr. Matilde, Fr. Jaime, Sr. Paula, Deb, Sr. Monica, Sarah

The pastor is a very hard worker. Because the head pastor was recovering from surgery, Father Jaime had to officiate at nine Masses on the weekend as well as doing daily Mass at one or two locations. There is never a dull moment for him, staying busy with his parish membership from early morning to late evening each day.
More to come...Deb

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Visiting Pre School and Elementary Students on Tuesday and Wednesday

We feel that we at least have a basic system for what to do with 40 minutes with a class, depending on their age-related English abilities.  If we have a strong English interpreter, we are much more confident when we walk in and say "Hola!."  Occasionally, Sr. Monica or Sr. Matilde are not able to be with us, and we then have to stretch ourselves, and so do the children. We have taken great comfort in the knowledge that all students relish the opportunity to "practice their English."

On Tuesday we visited 7 classrooms from 8am until 1pm. Lisa had a handy dandy map of the world for which she would use English to briefly explain our travel distance in hours on the airplanes and naming the cities we traveled through. We also found a Spanish translation of "Row Row Row your boat" which we pulled out to use with the kindergarten and younger children. The fun of it was that we added some gestures. This was interesting with some of the very young ones who just looked at us.  Sara was a "star " with her guitar once we got above 3rd grade. Before that, we couldn´t count on the students ability to read along on a lyric sheet  of either Spanish or English. 

Lots of "Nice to meet yous" and "high fives" and "big hugs" and gifts both ways helped to make a connection between us which will make it hard to say goodbye tomorrow. Deb always had her mind on the proceedings, making sure we had our gifts of rosaries or tattoos or bookmarks ready, and was always mindful to pull out one or both of her cameras during each room visit.

1982 Bronco Driven By Sr. Monica

We were also scheduled to just visit and observe the late afternoon enrichment workshops, which are part of the curriculum, but a bit more relaxed.  Between school and the workshops, Sr. Monica brought us to the village of Yasila using her 1982 Bronco manual transmission vehicle, about a 30 minute trip. She wanted us to see the beautiful beach and the small seaport there.  We teased Sr. Monica about her affinity for the extreme sport of "driving in Peru." We walked around and viewed the beautiful rock formations and also the small rafts used by local residents for fishing.  Several hundred small rafts, made of wood, slightly larger than a beach raft that we use were piled on the beach. According to Sr. Monica, this port had no large commercial processing factory, and this meant that the fish caught there was sold locally.

Sr. Monica and Deb Passino
Fishing Rafts


(Some of the homes in the area  with no electricity or water. There are many dead dogs in the streets with vultures eating the carcasses as seen below.)                        

We hurried back to catch the dance workshop that the 5 year olds participated in that afternoon, and realized that dance is part of their curriculum like any subject, and this must be why their dance is so elevated.
So tired making our way back to the convent after leaving the dance workshop at 5:30pm. We know we have to prepare again for 7 classroom visits for Wednesday, assemble gifts, start packing for our trip home, be at Mass at 7pm that evening with the sisters, and finishing unpacking the donation suitcases.

There's a little girl we met today. Her name is Faviana. She's got a severe case of eczema. We were told that she has gone to Lima for treatment but are wondering why her eczema is so bad. Why can't she get the miracle drugs needed to treat this? Maybe there aren't any miracle drugs or maybe she's misdiagnosed. She's got it on her scalp, hands, arms, legs, and feet. Sr. Monica talked about the need of a medical team to visit with them. We pray that we can get a medical team together and possibly, one of the team members will be a dermatologist.

We also were hoping that we could cook a meal for the sisters, and we agreed that our meal would be on Wednesday. Well, the sisters have one communal meal together and that is at 1:30 or 2:00 in the afternoon, when the academic program is over, so this meal has to be ready after our classroom time. The sisters do this every day.

We will need to shop at the one grocery store and stand in aisle-long lines after Mass to pick up more items which we couldn't manage on the motos Monday night, and start our meal once back "home." (This was also a good time to pick up a few packaged food items we wanted to bring home! I loved a cookie called Alfajore.)

The sisters also wanted to treat us to one of their favorite foods for a snack that evening; pollo a la brasa or rotisserie chicken  cooked over a charcoal fire at a restaurant that seemed to specialize only in rotisserie chicken for take out, accompanied by very delicious soft french fries. The place was crowded and not keeping up so we had to wait a few minutes in a park in the charming town square for some to finish cooking, and then we caught our usual 2 motos for 5 of us and chugged up the hill for the last time. 

Ride to the airport:

With Sr Monica behind the wheel, Sr. Matilde and Sr. Paula accompanied us on the drive to Piura to the airport.  Our flight to Lima was scheduled to leave at 7:40 pm so we left at 5:15, pretty much rush hour.  Now that we were awake this time and (mostly) alert we were able to more fully witness the true miracle of Heaven that people actually survive on Peruvian roads. We were fine with the 38 mile trip through the desert, but the airport was across town once we got to Piura. Imagine a large city with poor roads, large buses, motos everywhere, plus cars, and pretty much NO signage, painted lines, or traffic signals.  Some of the more basic rules:  Bigger wins, just like in boating.  A "touch" is not a big deal. More than two "vehicles" can ride abreast if a moto can squeeze in. A horn from your left means "I am coming across!" Other horns simply, "I am HERE!" We made it to the airport, and despite a small parking lot and lots of congestion, Sr. Monica parked, and the sisters all accompanied us to check in. It was hard to say goodbye to them! Their love and kindness had made us all feel like we were part of their family of sisters.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rema su Barco

PRONOEI School in Paita
Ever since our arrival in Peru, we have asked the sisters countless questions about the St. Clare School here in Paita. ¨How many students do you have? Are many of your students on scholarship? What does a typical school day look like?¨ But on Monday morning, we spent the day visiting the classrooms and seeing first-hand the gift of St. Clare School. We were told that over the next three days, we would meet and work with all 21 classes, spending 40 minutes with each one. Now, you may be wondering how we could teach a class of Spanish speaking children for 40 minutes. We had the same concern! But, the children in Paita begin learning English at 3 years old, so we were very impressed with how much they knew. Additionally, we had an English speaking teacher with us the entire day who helped us communicate. First, we visited the PRONOEI school, a public pre-school program for 3, 4, and 5 year olds staffed by St. Clare School. This small 2 classroom campus is located in the poorest area of Paita, where houses are built out of scrap metal and often lack indoor plumbing and electricity. Because the little kids knew very Little English, we taught them the song ¨Rema Rema Rema su Barco,¨ known to us as ¨Row Row Row your boat.¨ We then gave them balloons and reviewed colors and numbers with them in both Spanish and English. And yes, the 4 & 5 year olds know their numbers and colors in English!

PRONOEI Children
When we finished at PRONOEI, we rushed back to the main campus of the school and met with the sophomores and juniors in high school. This is the part I loved! I played ¨Trading My Sorrows¨ on guitar for the students and made them not only sing it in English, but made them stand up and do the actions. I think they loved it as much as I did! The students then asked us questions about life in the US. They asked us if it was true that all Americans loved Hamburgers and Pizza, which of course is absolutely true. They asked us what winter in Wisconsin is like, and they gasped and giggled as we described snow and ice. We ended the upper level classes by handing out a rosary to every student and recited the Hail Mary in English.

Since my arrival in Peru, I´ve been moved and changed by many of the things I´ve experienced. But, spending the day with these kids was the greatest gift to me. All day long on the playground kids ran up to give me a hug and to say ¨hello, how are you?¨which they had been practicing for us. Many of these children live in poverty and some may even go hungry. They do not have an X-Box to go home to or even piano lessons or soccer tryouts. But they cherish the life they´ve been given and they live it in a constant state of wonder and awe. They carry a joy and a love that is so contagious, it must come directly from God. And so, it is the children of Paita who have taught me what it means to truly embrace the life and the world God has given you.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Super Sunday

We had a really busy day on Sunday. Our morning began with Mass. In order to get to the church, we had to take a moto taxi into town to attend Mass. Well, we had a little mishap...another moto-taxi pulled out in front of us and we had a slight collision with it. Not a big deal. Nobody was hurt, nor the vehicles damaged. We were just a little startled.
Mass was to begin at 9am.  There are two priest at this parish. One of the priests had surgery and Father Jaime had to officiate at 8 different Masses throughout the region. He had already said a 7 and 8 am Mass across town, and had to drive a distance to this church. So Mass began at 9:25am once he arrived. The Youth Mass was packed. Not only was each pew filled with lots of children, teenagers and adults, families were standing along the side isles. We thought it was Easter Mass. We were all amazed at how many people attended. I thought to myself, at St. Paul’s, we have this big beautiful new church, with many empty pews.  St. Francis Parish in Paita is a very old church and it was bursting at the seams. Even when we were at Mass on Friday evening at 7pm, there was standing room only. What’s wrong with this picture? Do people go to Mass because they are so poor and they know that God is their only hope? That has to be it! God is our only hope!

The youth music was loud, and well done. After the Mass, Sarah asked if it was a CD because she thought the kids sang perfectly. No, it wasn’t a CD.  It was just darn good music! Bravo to the children who sang on key with enthusiasm.

After Mass, many of the parishioners stayed in the church to pray. We were there for at least 30 minutes after Mass and people were busy walking from statue to statue praying. There’s the Captive Jesus, which is very important in northern Peru, and then there’s the Lord of the Miracles, and  the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There's also St. Francis, St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose of Lima, Our Lady of Fatima,  St. Anthony and most importantly Our Lady of Mercy, she’s also very important among the people of Paita, and many, many, many more statues. People spend hours walking around the church communing with the various saints after Mass.  
St. Martin de Porres     St. Rose of Lima         St Francis Solano

The Captive Jesus
We continued our day touring the harbor on boat. We were able to see all the fish factories in Paita that take advantage of the people by hiring them sporadically and paying $5 a day. We also saw lots of fishing boats arriving in harbor after being out at sea for a week. Can you believe it? They also have sea lions and of course, seagulls (rats of the sea).  






We drove to Catacaos, a very picturesque village just south of Piura. There were vendors selling silver, gold, leather, wood, and clay items. This city is also known for its cuisine. We stopped at one of the local restaurants for lunch. We tried the ceviche which is fish marinated in sour lemon, onion, salt and hot pepper. It was accompanied by sweet potatoes. We also ordered a combination plate consisting of beef and pork, accompanied by mashed plantain banana dish and mashed yuccas. Sarah had the chicken nuggets, which were deep fried, and included a raw carrot and cabbage dish. The food has been excellent. Knock on wood…we haven’t gotten sick yet.

We haven’t told you about their famous drink called “chicha”.  It is fermented drink, made from a special type of corn only found in Peru. We can’t wait to have it again. Here's Sarah drinking chicha.

We bought quite a few souvenirs to show our parishioners and look forward to sharing our stories of Peru. One more thing, we stopped at a cathedral in Catacaos after our souvenir shopping. It was around 7pm and the church was at least half full with people saying the rosary. We found out that the rosary is prayed every day of the year. How awesome!

By the way, if you click on the picture, you'll see a large version of the picture and view all pictures used in the blog post. Try doing that. You'll see more detail.