The settlement of Alto Cayma is located on the outskirts of Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru. Alto Cayma is populated by thousands of “invaders” who come from a life of deprivation in the mountains and highlands of Peru. They come to the city in search of a better life for themselves and their families, including access to education for their children. Unfortunately, they also come with few employable skills with which to make a living in the city economy. As a result, they are relegated to perform manual labor for very low wages, typically just $3-4 a day. If the family has several children, or elderly parents who can no longer work, this small amount of money is nowhere near enough to go around. Under such severe economic pressure, the elderly are often neglected. Also the education of the children must sometimes be sacrificed.
ROTARIAN WILL BARNHARDT JOURNAL
When Elsie and I signed up for the Rotary trip in 2008 we expected to have the opportunity to get to know some fellow Rotarians better and see the impact of a Rotary program in Peru. We got so much more!
Jim and Gloria Hintz were gracious and enthusiastic hosts, making us feel at home and helping us to understand the culture as well as the magnitude of needs of the community of Alto Cayma. While we came with extra suitcases, stuffed with school supplies and some vitamin supplements, we could only understand the true breadth of the needs by visiting with the families and seeing with our own eyes.
Things that we take for granted, such as running, potable water, are a luxury relegated to the larger cities. Water is carried to houses in Alto Cayma from a community spigot that is only running for a limited number of hours each day. It is then boiled so that it can be used. Electricity is available but in many cases it is a wire running from a neighbor’s home. In spite of difficult living conditions, the people were open and positive. We got to see the card-making shop and the knitting shop that Jim and Gloria started to give the ladies jobs and help them develop marketable skills. We also hear about and see the impact of scholarship programs that they had developed to enable children and youth to get an education so they could improve their financial situation.
It is one thing to hear the stories about a community but it is another to see the faces and see how the work of the Hintz’s and Rotary has made an impact on the people. I would encourage everyone to take at least one trip like this to see the impact of Rotary’s work in the world and I cannot think of a better place to go than Peru.
One of the benifits of the trip is understanding the needs of the people.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Below you see the water system for the village.
Rosa and Ana, two sisters in a family of 8, used to live in a crude block dwelling that was badly damaged in the earthquake of 2001. But their family recently moved into a properly constructed brick home built with money the girls had earned. Young people in Alto Cayma usually don’t have access to education beyond high school. But 12 girls recently received a university certificate for completing a computer training course. What has made such dramatic changes possible? – the “Creaciones Angel” Cardmaking Vocational Center.
The people of Alto Cayma come to Arequipa from the mountains and highlands of Peru as “immigrants”, trying to escape a life of poverty and deprivation. Unfortunately, they come with few employable skills with which to make a living in the city economy. As a result, they have been relegated to performing manual labor for $3-4 a day. Even this work is unsteady, making each day literally a struggle for survival. The only way they can escape the cycle of poverty is through vocational training to learn a skill which can earn them a decent wage.
Beginning in July, 2003, Gloria and Jim Hintz, of the University City Rotary Club, have developed, with the help of many District 7680 Rotary Clubs and individual Rotarians, a Vocational Center to teach young women the handicraft of decorative cardmaking. The cards the women produce are sold in the U.S. under the name “Creaciones Angel” for around $4 each, and all the proceeds go back to Alto Cayma. This enables the 24 women who belong to the group to earn 3 or 4 times as much per day as they could by washing clothes, cleaning houses or working in the fields. Their work gives them pride and self-esteem, and the additional income enables them to not only help their families, but also to pursue their own dreams of “luxuries” such as further education.
Besides learning the art of cardmaking, the women are also learning many other practical business and life skills. In setting themselves up as a business, they’ve had to learn organization, production planning, quality control, financial management, proper care of the tools and materials they’ve been provided, and how to protect their unique products from being copied by others. They’ve also had to learn many personal skills such as leadership, teamwork, getting along with others, valuing their own work, saving for the future, and even personal hygiene. In short, the experience of belonging to “Creaciones Angel” has touched virtually every aspect of these young women’s lives.
Since “Creaciones Angel” is all about “giving people a hand up, not a hand out”, you can help by (1) buying the cards the women produce. You can also help by (2) spreading the word to your friends and co-workers, referring them to our website (www.serving-alto-cayma.info) where a complete catalog of the cards may be seen, along with an order form and instructions. And finally, (3) individual contributions to further refine and expand the project. In this way you can help give these young women the first real opportunity they’ve ever had to become self-sufficient.