No Place Like Home
Life before NPH
March 10, 2015 - New Zealand
|Angel anxiously waits for his father to come home|
There is no doubt that this is a special place but today I saw in stark reality the alternative life that the children in Peru would be living if not with the NPH Family.
Surrounded by a sandy and dusty market town, the green oasis of NPH's grounds are protected by a large gate and a guard providing security for the children. Through the help of international volunteers and the vision of NPH Peru Director Alfredo, two large paddocks mainly growing sweet potato and beans will have their first yield soon. What is left over after feeding the children will be sold to bring much needed income into the home, meaning that NPH-Peru is well on the road to sustainability.
The local community does not have much money, but also help when they can with donations of local staples like rice, oil and lentils. Produce from this thirsty land is possible because of water that flows from the mountains, though tributaries that have their source in the mighty Rio Canete, a grade 4 river with challenging rapids. The river attracts wealthy adventure tourists and up in the mountains, almost two hours away from NPH, the small town of Lunahuana has grown to service white water rafters and those who come to visit the nearby Inca ruins.
This is where 10-year-old Angel* is from. Today is his birthday and, accompanied by NPH's dedicated and indefatigable social worker Julia* we travel to his hometown - the first time he has returned to Lunahuana for four years. Unusually for Peru, Angel has no other known siblings and lived with his young father before coming to NPH. Lunahuana's people are mainly of indigenous Quechuan descent, and part of the noble ancestory of the Incas. They have lived in this area for many generations and most have stayed to help build the new roads and infrastructure needed to attract and support the local tourist economy.
Angel is a quiet and reserved as he joins us in the van for the journey. No one is quite sure where his mother now is, but due to squalid living conditions he was taken from her very young and placed with his father until he was six. It is likely his mother knows where Angel now lives but it is unlikely she has been in contact or applied to visit him. Angel's father is no longer able to care for him as he suffers badly from a heart condition and cannot afford the operation to fix it. He tires to visit Angel once a month but his health coupled with the cost of travel down from the mountain town, can also prevent him from seeing his son.
Through winding dirt roads and desert, peppered with green irrigated villages growing corn and potatoes, we follow the course of the Rio Canete into the grey and foreboding mountains. We climb higher and come to Lunahuana with its ancient main road crowded with earth moving equipment. Men and women dressed in the ubiquitous construction worker orange overalls and yellow hardhats direct traffic and dig with both machinery and shovel. In addition to bigger 'resorts' clinging to the surrounding hills, family casas have been converted to guest houses for tourists and share the same property as the shepherd children as the continue to tend to the traditional mixed herds of donkeys, cows, goats and sheep, assisted by the odd passing stray dog.
After asking for directions, we find a small mud brick house the same colour of the dusty road, not much bigger than a one car garage. A small 'lean to' courtyard has been built with bamboo stakes and a type of netted rattan that has been weaved out of a strong vegetable fibre similar to flax. Angel suddenly jumps up and points at the humble casa "there it is, there it is". Angel runs to the door but there is no reply. He runs around its perimeter, looking through drafty gaps and keeps pulling on the door. A neighbour walks by and says his father will be back soon as he got a ride to the fields with others earlier that day. Angel sits and waits outside the house, looking expectantly into every vehicle that passes.
After an hour our driver Juan is getting just as anxious as Angel. He walks onto properties until he finds a relative who tells us more about Angel's father. She says that he is very ill and thin but a very proud man. She tells us that Angel's dad will be thrilled with the groceries we have bought for him as its been a long time since he's had food in the house. Still Angel waits but its getting dark. Julia has to make the hard decision to go as we have a long journey ahead and she also has a further hour to get back to her own family.
It's heartbreaking to watch but it is Angel who is the stoic one. Along with Juan they scale the bamboo fence of the courtyard after fashioning a leverage device from a branch. We pass up the bags of groceries, mainly dry goods and UHT milk as there is no refrigeration, and Juan and Angel carefully manoeuvre them safely over and onto an old bench.
We leave Lunahuhana, past the rushing river and small bodegas hoping to attract the tourist with their small discoteks and karaoke. Angel sits up front silently on watch as we nap through the darkness. We arrive at NPH Peru's large gates and towards the new commodore where the children assemble for meals. Again Angel is excited and runs towards the brightly lit building - he runs towards his friends, he is home.
Can you be a Godparent to an NPH child like Angel and consider visiting them on a volunteer trip? Find out how at www.NPH-newzealand.co.nz
NPH New Zealand Board Member