One thing any visitor to Cuzco cannot help but notice is the children all over, living in the streets, selling candies or cigarettes, shining shoes, or begging. Like most tourists, I occasionally give them a little spare change or take them out to lunch. But I've had the good fortune to meet and work with two women who came here as tourists, and then returned to help these children escape the cycle of poverty and hand-to-mouth living.
Pilar and Maria are sisters from Spain who saw a problem and decided to make a difference. Two years ago, after visiting Cuzco, they returned to Spain to raise money from friends, and then came back to Cuzco and started the Hogar Transitorio Amantaní, a home for orphans and abandoned children. They now provide a home to twelve babies, six toddlers and ten school-aged children, plus two young, unwed mothers. Now that's more than a handful!
You know what it's like to baby-sit little brothers and sisters, right? Well imagine six of them! And if that's not enough, remember that Mom and Dad aren't coming home.
We spent the day with the six toddlers, changing diapers, feeding them, playing, and going to the park. I realized right away how lucky these kids are to have this place. It is clean and organized, with lots of volunteers giving much needed attention to these kids. Pilar told me that there are not enough places for these children, and if they weren't here, they would be "cared for" by the police. Could you imagine growing up in JAIL just because there was nowhere else to go!
Hogar (home) Amantaní is supposed to be a temporary home while the staff tries to find the children permanent homes and file all of the paperwork for adoption. Still, they manage to stay at their full capacity, even though they've moved twice to larger places and are planning to rent the building next door for the babies and unwed mothers. Pilar explained to me that many of the kids arrive as newborns, but that the legal process for adoption takes at least a year. Meanwhile, they stay at the Hogar and are cared for Pilar and Maria, many volunteers, and the two young mothers, who help with keeping up the house and taking care of the rest of the kids. The school-age children get tutored in the mornings, and then go to school all afternoon. While the schoolkids are at school and the toddlers are napping, the moms get tutored with their babies in their arms. That way they continue their education and can escape a life of poverty.
If you are interested in donating money or coming to Cuzco to work as a volunteer at the Hogar Amantaní, contact Pilar Echevarría Pérez at Avda Brasil C-7-Urbanización Quispicanchis Cuzco, Peru, telephone: (51 84) 25 14 07, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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