Finding hope in the slums of Peru

Without sanitation, running water, and choked with garbage, sprawling squatter settlements cling to the foothills of the volcanoes surrounding Arequipa, Peru. Mostly filled with people from high in the Andes searching for a better life in the city, many suffer racism and discrimination from the middle-class who label them ‘imigrantes’ even in their own land.

Social disadvantage has led to widespread adult illiteracy. Disillusionment is masked with alcohol, compounding the problems of serious domestic abuse and child abandonment. It is here, amidst the forsaken desert hill slums, that lives are being changed through project J728N Hope Through Education Arequipa at the Elohim School, providing education to children who would otherwise go without.

Offering all subjects on the national curriculum, dedicated teachers—some travelling an hour each way to work—encourage academic endeavour and achievement, social responsibility and hygiene in severely marginalized children. Students also enjoy a nutritious, daily snack and lunch.

Assisting 130 families, the school runs classes for from preschool through to year six.  There are currently 130 children in the primary schools and 72 in the kindergarten. Teachers say the children are so happy that they do not want to go home!

Receiving no financial backing from the Peruvian government and needing to continue paying teacher salaries and improve conditions for the rapidly growing student population, the project is constantly working at developing income-generating activities.  Parents are encouraged to take some level of responsibility for the education of their children and asked to partially contribute to enrolment costs. Those who can’t pay are encouraged to take part in working bees.

A new building was also completed in September, providing much needed space for new sewing classroom, computer lab, school store, new administrative offices and additional classrooms.

It also houses a bookshop/stationery kiosk and a kitchen/cafeteria will both be open to the wider public, with easy access from the main road. It is expected that these activities will increasingly generate income.

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