Thursday, 18 December 2008

Trip to Huancayo

Last Saturday I travelled up to Huancayo, one of Peru's Andean regions, to visit a project being run by NGO, El Shaddai, in conjunction with The Peru Children's Trust. I was able to take part in the charity's Christmas celebrations and meet many of the children and young people who are benefitting from their projects. We also visited a few of the children's homes and saw the conditions they were living in (see photos).

Both The Peru Children's Trust and its Peruvian branch, El Shaddai, appear to have a great deal in common with The Colour of Hope. Their work aims to raise the standards of living for poor children and young people in the Huancayo area, improving their housing, funding healthcare, enabling their education and providing family guidance and teaching. The team has recently built an extensive set of workshops, helping the young people to learn vocational skills such as hairdressing, welding, carpentry, dressmaking, cooking and grain milling. This support will hopefully enable the young people to find employment or set up their own small businesses in the near future.

The Colour of Hope trustees offered to share our training courses with El Shaddai so that they can extend the support they are already providing their young people, helping them to find work, and perhaps setting up a microcredit scheme. We will maintain good links with the El Shaddai team and hope that there will be further opportunities to work together in the future.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Colour of Hope Birthday Fun

On Thursday, 4th December The Colour of Hope celebrated 5 different birthdays - Christian (2 years old - Katherine's son), Luis (4 years old, Natali's son), Abraham, Natali and my own.

We united young people from all four groups, together with their children, and it was an excellent opportunity for everyone to share experiences and mix with their peers. Great fun was had during pass the parcel and of course the birthday cake always goes down well!

Afterwards we went out to the cinema and saw Madagascar 2 which was enjoyed by the children and adults alike.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Charity Jazz evening goes with a Swing!

Friday 14th of November saw the roof raised at Ottery St Mary Football Club when the City Steam Jazz Band played to an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd to raise money for The Colour of Hope. Here's a report of the evening from the Charity Chair, Margaret Stevens:

"We were packed to capacity, but still found room to dance. The audience gave terrific feedback to the band in response to a mixture of hot numbers, blues and super vocals from David Martin and Ron Hurst. We had hearty audience participation during a rendering of "You are my Sunshine", dedicated to the people of Ottery who have suffered hardship as a result of the recent flooding. It was particularly pleasing to see such a wide age range from young to young at heart!

Thanks to all the local people and businesses who donated raffle prizes, we raised a wonderful £93. We raised a further £172.50 on the craft stall, by selling a range of beautifully hand-crafted items from Peru. In total, we made £691!

Thank you also to our hosts for the evening - Ottery St Mary Football Club - who were so helpful and supportive throughout, providing us with a lovely venue for our family evening. Thank you to all those who helped with promotion by selling tickets and advertising the event.

Our biggest debt of gratitude is to The City Steam Jazz Band without whom this wonderful evening would not have been possible. We are sure that Jazz lovers in the Ottery area will be eagerly awaiting their next local performance."

Read more about the evening's success in this Sidmouth Herald article: "Jazz concert trumpets £700 Peru charity bonanza".

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Local Peruvian volunteer runs drama classes for our young people

Last training session, (Tuesday) our fourth group of young people were able to enjoy their first drama session with local volunteer, Katherina. Although shy at first, they all opened up eventually and were able to put themselves into the mindsets of the roles they were given to play.

The Colour of Hope is very grateful to Katherina for the time she is dedicating to the young people. It is very important that they work through past and present conflicts in order that they continue to grow and prosper as healthy and successful young adults. Drama is an excellent way of expressing hidden emotions, thoughts and feelings and really helps the young people to give voice to their fears within a protective environment.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

News from The Colour of Hope’s Star Fundraisers

The Colour of Hope's star fundraisers, Jess and Rosa Batten Stevens, have now completed all this year's East Devon Carnivals. Their proud mum, Mary, has written in with news of the last two carnivals and their final fundraising total -

Honiton Carnival's "no wheels" policy proved a challenge, but after a few adaptations, Beaky the Totem Pole was transformed into a walking entry! It was unfortunately too heavy for Jess to carry, so I made my debut appearance as a stand in and Jess became a very encouraging cheer leader for the night. I made it (somewhat red in the face!) to the finish line, but the undisputed star of the show was Rosa, who danced the entire carnival. The judging was done on route and points were awarded for crowd interaction. Please check out her stunning performance here (best viewed with Internet Explorer). A very well deserved First Prize.

Despite the terrible consequences of last Wednesday's bad weather in Ottery St Mary, our home town carnival went ahead and we were proud to part of an amazing show of community good will. The residents of some of the worst affected houses were seen out enjoying the parade and participants put on a great show despite the freezing cold and rain. Many thanks to our wonderful cheer leader, Matty, who did a marvellous job of boosting spirits. Another well deserved First Prize.

This marks the end of the East Devon Carnival circuit, but just when you thought it was all over...
Sat 22nd Nov (time to be confirmed) Jess and Rosa will be taking part in the Exeter Santa Parade in brand new Christmas outfits! And on Sat 5th Dec they will be participating in Honiton Christmas Carnival. Please come and support them if you can. The girls have raised a final total of £1350 for The Colour of Hope. Many thanks to all those who've supported them so generously this year, and as the curtain falls on carnival 2008, work has already begun on next year's entries....

Best Wishes,

Mary, Jess and Rosa

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Welcome Gathering for our Fourth Group of Young People

Yesterday afternoon, six of the young people who have already completed their training got together with our two psychologists, Juan Pineda and Eduardo Cabos, and me (Project Director) to welcome four new project participants to The Colour of Hope.

José Trinidad, José Luís, Katherine and Tany, from San Francisco de Asís and Reina de la Paz care homes, will be starting their training phase on Thursday. Despite initial shyness, they seemed to enjoy themselves very much yesterday, and listened carefully to what their peers had to say.

Hugo, Natali, Abraham, Bilela, Edinson and Gaby gave an insight into the problems they came across when they left care and the ways in which they went about solving them. Their comments served as very pertinent advice to the new group, as well as testimonies that there is "light at the end of the tunnel" and that difficulties can often be overcome, even they seem impossible at first.

More news about the new group's progress coming soon.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Colour of Hope Chair's Report

3rd October 2008

LIMA - It has proved a wonderful experience for me to travel out to Lima this month to see The Colour of Hope's work first hand. I have been able to monitor what is happening at grassroots level and to assess what might be needed in the future.

I am very pleased to report that the charity's youth reintegration project, "Action for Independence" is being extremely well run. It is obvious that a great deal of careful thought and planning have gone into it and it is now paying off. Over the weeks that I have been here I have been able to meet most of the young people we are supporting. It has been a pleasure to be able to put a face to a name at last and to see just how much they are benefitting from our help.

Our Project Director, Amy New, has been particularly stretched this month, dealing with teething problems with Hugo and Angelica's grocery shops, as well as helping Gabriela to set up her market stall - not to mention accompanying Edinson and Bilela to obtain the necessary paperwork before any formal job applications can be made. Getting papers here is not a simple affair and it calls to mind most vividly Dickens' Circumlocution Office. Having accompanied Amy in this, I have realised just how much time she spends travelling miles across Lima and waiting for people to turn up. The work can, at times, be very rewarding, but a lot of the time it is stressful and frustrating by its very nature.

After being here a month, it is very clear to me that Amy needs more help with the daily running of the charity as she is stretched at the moment and intends starting with another group of young people very shortly. I am also strongly recommending that the charity takes active steps to affiliate itself with another organisation doing similar work. In light of this, we have been networking with contacts here in Lima and I am happy to report that Amy is now receiving support from two psychologists. They will be helping her with some of the training sessions for the new group, as well as providing much needed psychiatric help to the young people. Three volunteers have also come forward from our contact with the Diamond Way Buddhist Centre. Thank you friends! We are also hoping that local funding will be forthcoming to pay project staff and to help our single mothers with childcare.

I am leaving Peru with some appalling memories - of sprawling squalor in the shanty towns, of being escorted up and down a mountain to avoid being robbed when visiting Natali, Hugo and Angelica, of street violence and choking traffic fumes. Yet because Peru is a country of contradictions and extremes, I also leave with wonderful memories of people who, in spite of having nothing, are happy and smiling, of people who dance when there is nothing to dance about, and of kindness and love shown by strangers who welcomed me as family.

Margaret Stevens

U.S.-born global financial crisis metastasized: Peru’s year-end inflation expected to top 7.6 percent

Peru's average national inflation rate is expected to rise well beyond the Central Bank's set goal of 2 percent to a decade-high of 7.6 percent by the end of 2008, according to Lima's Chamber of Commerce, or CCL.

Imported inflation, which occurs when imported raw or partly-finished goods become more expensive, often as a result of currency depreciation, no longer drives inflation in Peru. According to the CCL, 75 percent of inflation is due to internal factors, such as a greater internal demand for goods.

“Before, external factors were the most important component of inflation,” CCL Economic Institute’s Director, César Peñaranda, told daily La Republica. “But now, they have reduced the prices of food and oil. The Central Bank’s measures are good and couldn’t be any more forceful because that would complicate the economy.”

Peru’s average national inflation rate for the first eight months of this year registered at 4.7 percent, beyond the Central Bank’s set goal of 2 percent, and rose slightly from 0.56 percent in July to 0.59 percent in August. Consumer prices rose 0.57 percent in September, and transportation costs have surged.

But, Peru’s Central Bank, who in August lifted deposit requirements for borrowers in an attempt to control inflationary pressures, has yet to budge on its benchmark interest rate fixed at 6.5 percent.

“This decision is based on the high level of uncertainty concerning the world economy’s evolution and the impact it will have on global economic activity, our exports and imports’ international prices as well as the international financial flows,” said a representative of the Central Bank Thursday after a monthly monetary policy meeting.

“We must emphasize that recently prices have fallen for raw material and oil, that imported food prices tend to fall, and that this favors the gradual reduction of inflation in the country.”

Article courtesy of the Peruvian Times.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Update on The Colour of Hope's Star Fundraisers

The Colour of Hope's star fundraisers for 2008, Jess and Rosa Batten-Stevens from Ottery St Mary, Devon, are still going strong with their fundraising campaign. A very generous donation has just raised their total to an amazing £1350!

The girls have won 5 firsts and one third prize so far, and still have a few carnivals left to go. If you happen to be in the South West, do look out for them at Exmouth carnival tomorrow evening, or log on to The Midweek Herald's Carnival Capers blog for carnival photos, videos and news.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Colour of Hope Microcredit Scheme Success

Back in July, The Colour of Hope microcredit scheme helped two of our project participants, Hugo and Angelica, to set up their own grocery shops. Both shops are now up and running and looking good. They are giving both families a steady source of income which goes a long way towards keeping their children healthy and in school. Many thanks to Hugo and Angelica's sponsors for all their support.

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Colour of Hope's Top Fundraisers 2008

The Colour of Hope's star fundraisers this year are Jess and Rosa Batten-Stevens, aged 10 and 8. The girls are yet again taking part in all of this year’s East Devon carnivals in aid of the charity. Their entry, “Little Chief Big Totem”, has met with great success so far, winning first prize at all four of the first carnivals.

Dedicated Jess and Rosa have worked tirelessly over their summer holiday getting sponsors from local people, businesses and churches, raising a stunning £1150 so far! But with more than half the carnivals still to go, they’re hoping their final total amounts to even more!

All support for these inspiring young girls’ charity efforts will be much appreciated. If you’d like to make a donation on their behalf, please contact The Colour of Hope directly at

Sunday, 24 August 2008

It's Carnival Time!

Carnival season will soon be upon us in the UK and once again Jess and Rosa Batten-Stevens from Ottery St Mary will be taking part in all the East Devon Carnivals as a walking pair.

The girls raised a stunning £450 for The Colour of Hope last year, which has not only enabled one of our young people to set up his own grocery store, but also brought emergency medical care to his 3-year-old son Luis, saving his life after he drank bleach at nursery. (Read the full story here.)

Jess and Rosa are hoping to top last year's record and any donations will be very gratefully received. If you'd like to sponsor the girls, please contact The Colour of Hope directly at

View the girls in their winning 2007 carnival costumes here (2008 costumes yet to be revealed)!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

From Street Kids to Shop Owners

Angelica and Hugo have become the first two young people to benefit from The Colour of Hope’s microcredit scheme. Having grown up on the streets, sniffing glue and stealing to survive, these two young people have truly fought to get where they are today.

Desperate to improve the quality of life for their young families, they have been two of our most determined participants, putting in a great deal of effort to get their grocery shops up and running. They’ve had to work into the small hours of the morning more than once over the last few weeks, shifting copious amounts of sand and cement up the mountainside. But the shops are definitely coming into shape now, with the floors down, shelving up and the first round of goods purchased.

Having their own source of income will not only provide Angelica and Hugo more dignified employment, but will also mean improved access to education and healthcare, better living conditions and a healthier diet for their children. Many thanks to Jess and Rosa Batten-Stevens and Topsham Friends Circle, Hugo and Angelica’s sponsors, for helping make this dream a reality. Photos of the shops coming soon!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Bowling with Colchester Sixth Form College

Earlier this month, members of Colchester Sixth Form College, UK, arrived in Peru to work at a school for special-needs children. During their stay they paid The Colour of Hope a visit too and were able to meet some of the young people we're working with. It made for an interesting cultural and social exchange, given that both groups were around the same age and at the same stage of life, thinking about job opportunities or further education.

After chatting at the training centre, we took everyone bowling, thanks to the generosity of one of our volunteers, Will Gale, and Kevin Murphy, who accompanied the sixth-formers. This was an excellent activity for raising our young people's self-confidence and everyone enjoyed the outing very much.

Monday, 30 June 2008

"Life Plan" Workshop

Last Friday, our third group took part in a special workshop run by Jazmine Chopra, a skilled social worker from the US.

Tracing the outline of one of their feet onto a large piece of paper, each person was asked to produce a collage of drawings, pictures and words that defined them as a person; what they had achieved, suffered, overcome etc.

Then, tracing the other foot onto another piece of paper, they were asked to make a collage of the goals they wished to achieve in the near future and the means needed to accomplish them. Finally, they were asked to present their work to the group, explaining the collages and the significance of each element.

Having grown up with violence, abuse, criticism and rejection as part of their daily lives, most of the young people we work with have very low levels of self-esteem. Activities like these help them to improve their self-image and to believe in themselves and their dreams.

They are also going through a difficult stage of their lives at the moment; a stage of transition, of leaving care and entering the outside world. Thinking about where they’ve come from and where they want to go with their lives helps them to focus on their futures and on what they want to achieve.