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

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