How Picaflor House supports rural children in Peru

BOONE, NC — Extreme poverty is a widespread problem in rural areas around the world. Social protections, infrastructure and public services are generally much less developed than in urban areas, contributing to disparate socioeconomic and health outcomes. This phenomenon is certainly playing out in Peru as, in 2020, almost five times as many people were living in extreme poverty in rural areas than in urban areas despite the significant gains made in reducing overall poverty. In the field, support organizations such as Maison Picaflor play an important role in serving these poor rural communities. This initiative, by UK-based non-profit organization Globalteer, aims to support underserved local children in Oropesa, Peru, through after-school programs. The project, which is mostly staffed by locals, has been providing continuous development support for 11 years.

Rural poverty in Peru

According to the World Bank, 20.2% of Peru’s population lived below the national poverty line in 2019. This is a 13% reduction from the previous decade, a healthy sign of economic and economic improvement. material. Despite overall progress, rural areas continue to lag behind. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics of Peru, almost 46% of the rural population lived in poverty in 2020. This certainly contributes to higher rates of malnutrition. About 24% of children aged 5 and under in rural areas suffered from chronic malnutrition in 2020, a rate more than three times higher than in urban areas.

To ensure continued gains in the fight against poverty in rural Peru, there is still a strong need for support, especially among the youngest. Located 21 km from Cusco in Oropesa, Picaflor House provides the children of this community with after-school education and recreation as well as nutritious meals.

The brightening moment for the project came to Globalteer General Manager Jim Elliot when he witnessed many children, after finishing school for the day, wandering the small mountain community unsupervised while their parents were at home. work. The need for after-school programs was evident. Using his experience in starting a similar education program in rural Cambodia, Elliot opened the doors of Picaflor House in 2010, then a one-room schoolhouse.

Programs at Maison Picaflor

With the overriding goal of providing a safe space for local children, Picaflor House hosts an assortment of developmental programs. Its English language program focuses on introducing very young students to the language and familiarizing older students with more advanced vocabulary skills. The literacy program aims to improve writing and reading comprehension skills in Spanish. This is a particularly useful activity as understanding of Spanish is often limited among many people in the countryside as Quechua is a common first language.

The organization’s programs extend beyond a purely academic focus. “Our goal is to provide a comprehensive education. This means that we not only focus on tradition[al]but also life topics such as safety, health and hygiene. This includes the Child Protection Development Activity, which teaches children public safety skills to identify dangerous situations and empower them to seek help.

Picaflor’s response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges to the Picaflor team. In March 2020, as part of the government-mandated quarantine, the program temporarily closed, as did all Peruvian schools and many businesses.

The decline in international trade and containment measures have considerably affected household incomes. In the second quarter of 2020, employment for Peruvians fell by almost 40%. Informal jobs are common in Peru but without job stability, especially in rural areas. These informal jobs have fueled a significant portion of the pandemic-induced unemployment figures.

A survey conducted during the 2020 pandemic-induced shutdown in Peru found that the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity was more likely among low-income Peruvian families during this period. Despite the constraints in the pursuit of its mission, Picaflor has adapted to meet the needs generated by these new challenges. The team provided struggling local households with “family food baskets” filled with essential staple foods. In 2020, the association delivered more than 89 food baskets helping families with 80 children who regularly attended Picaflor programs. Picaflor House has continued this program through 2021, delivering an additional 89 food baskets in the first quarter alone.

In July 2021, the shutdown mandates eased and the organization reopened. Between July and December 2021, 97 students enrolled in the program, with women representing 46% of these students. This is a promising relaunch of the organization’s operations and illustrates the need for Picaflor’s services in the community.

Expansions planned to help children in Peru

As activity picks up in Peru, Picaflor House plans to roll out new opportunities for its beneficiaries. Among them is a mobile library, a vehicle filled with reading and learning materials capable of reaching remote villages up to twice a week. The team identified the need for this project after learning that a majority of children in these areas did not have access to the internet or online-enabled devices, tools needed in the age of learning to COVID-19 distancing. As a result, the students “had not been able to receive or return their homework for over a year”.

Picaflor also plans to deploy COVID-19 safe portable classrooms, buildings with high roofs and ample ventilation for children in Peru. These classrooms are a cost-effective, health-conscious solution to the organization’s need for newer mobile infrastructure as it begins to occupy new ground. Above all, the team is looking to return to 100% of operations. Elliot notes that “our main goals are to return to a normal schedule as soon as possible and to help the children catch up in school because, despite online lessons, most of the children have fallen far behind, after two years of absence from school.

Picaflor House has proven to be a vital resource for the people of Oropesa. The development programs and support that the children of this community in Peru receive will prepare them to pursue a wider range of professional and educational opportunities in the future.

Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

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