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Love finds a way: 15 years of Corazones para Perú  


Since 1998 this Peruvian/German project has accomplished non-profitmaking charitable development cooperation and has promoted intercultural exchange between the two countries.

"Simply devastating!" Dr Dieter Arnold, founder and president of the association "Corazones para Peru", precisely remembers his first impressions during his very first visit to the Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado) in Peru which is now the focus of all efforts.. "I couldn´t bear to see what a degrading life many of the local families were forced to live. The pervasive lack of opportunities hurt me deeply." The engineer (58 at the time) visited the mountain valley of Chiccon for the first time in 1997 as part of his work and was thus confronted by the circumstances under which people in the Andes had to live. That is when his adventure of the heart began – not only for himself but for others - because he decided to quit his job and start fighting the problems of the country.
"Rich? The region isn´t rich, but there is an abundance of problems." Dr. Sandra Rodriguez Gonzales has a realistic approach to the situation in Urubamba, located in the middle of the Sacred Valley not far from Cusco. The project´s director in Peru knows about the disadvantages facing her country. "Firstly there is a lack of a continuous assured supply of food. Children, who take up to 3 hours to walk to school, arrive hungry, study while hungry and walk back hungry. They only get to eat something when they get back home." Part of the problem with nutrition is also access to clean water. Public infrastructure, especially medical infrastructure, is extremely weak. It is hardly possible for people to improve their lives through their own initiative. How then can a school system be improved that is so full of gaps?


Improvement of the education system

Nonetheless the educational path is the most sustainable path out of poverty and this is exactly the philosophy underlying the first project of Arnold and his team in 1998 when they opened a kindergarten in Chiccon. Senora Quispe, the mother of one of the first children there, still remembers this event: "We were all very excited. It was the first time that an organisation co-operated with us as equals for the enhancement of our community. Sure the money and the basic plans came from Germany, but everything else, including the management, was implemented by Germans and Peruvians hand in hand ." All the participants had the feeling, that they weren´t faced with another one hit wonder. That sustainability was behind all of the ideas and actions and that the people were clearly the centre of attention and weren´t in the danger of being dropped after just one year.


Children and education form the core of all efforts right from the beginning

The problem of nutrition was confronted and solved by providing a programme of school lunches which guaranteed that each child would receive one warm meal per school day. However, the parents were asked to join in symbolically with a little input. The project hired teachers, most of them for English, which is usually taught very badly in Peru. The rising importance of computers in the modern working world was recognised early, which is why an IT Centre was added. But the little ones were fostered too: In 2011 the day-care for infants, "WawaWasi", was opened having been sponsored by the Ministry for Family Affairs . Older children are cared for in the kindergarten which is financially assisted by the project.


Extending help to people of all ages

During the following years not only the children, but the whole village community was supported. Infrastructure was established by building bridges, streets, a church and a community center with its own dentist, lab and ultrasound - the first medical center in the village`s history. Through the “Banco Porti” project people who would normally not get a loan from a bank receive finance for their plans.


Love finds a way

But better infrastructure, kindergartens and schools can’t help all the children from difficult backgrounds. Because of this dilemma, the idea was born to start the Children’s Village “Munaychay”(Quechua for Love finds a way) which is now the focus of the project. 70 children (from 1 to 18) found a new home in Munaychay, full of love and care. There is everything in Munaychay: From the center for creativity to a library with its own teachers and numerous project groups, to a sports hall, an adventure playground and a meeting house to the “village’s” self-sufficiency gardens Santa Rosa, including a carpentry workshop and a chicken farm. It has grown steadily every year with new ideas and initiatives being added. That’s why the 8th children’s house will be inaugurated this year and then 75 children will get the benefit of a good education.
The volunteers from Germany are an important part of this home. 18 high-school graduates are currently employed in Peru, half of them live in Munaychay and in the afternoons they help the children with their homework, play with them, go on trips together and are just there for them. The association uses the volunteer system to enhance the intercultural exchange and because it strongly believes in the pedagogical and systemic values that young people can bring to the project based on their own perspectives and open-mindedness.


They succeeded in Germany as well

Meanwhile in Germany everything was done to build a solid, transparent network for fundraising. 40% of the money needed annually (400,000 Euros by now) is generated in this way. The project enables people to be in close contact with their sponsored children. Regular correspondence, pictures and progress reports are a fundamental part of the godparents program. Not only children but teachers can be sponsored in this way. Besides Corazones guarantees the greatest possible transparency with payments that can be tracked. Furthermore there are many other smaller-scale fundraising activities that complete the picture: Magic shows by the president, the one world store in the middle of Königstein (close to Frankfurt)where clothes from the peasants market are sold, and let’s not forget the walls of love that are put up everywhere. That’s how the small percentage of payroll costs (10%) can be explained. In comparison: When receiving the DZI donation seal, payroll costs are allowed to be up to 30%. The critical documentary “Im Spendendschungel” (In the jungle of donations) (Arte, 2012) honored Corazones for its efficiency and transparency when the association was included as an outstanding example of an NGO.


If this project was a child, would it have reached puberty in 2008

In the beginning, all projects were developed and designed for Chicon and Munaychay which is 20 minutes further away. But then the decisive step was taken to go to Ccotohuincho, a suburb of Urubamba, where new classrooms were built. Step by step everything that had been provided in Chicon for years was expanded to many other areas. Nowadays 13 schools are supported with teachers, volunteers and free school lunches and another medical center, a mobile medical clinic and some computer centers have become a reality.


Learning with heart

By now the association is present in a dozen villages, among others with the project “Learning with heart”. Children from difficult backgrounds are supported financially and educationally so they are able to go to school instead of working in the fields. The project takes care of these families and together with psychological assistance they are searching for solutions to a wide range of problems.
The project for people with disabilities completes the projects offered by the association. Twice a week meetings take place, where they can tinker, produce chains and caps which are sold together. Apart from that an adviser accompanies them to medical appointments if they wish or acts as an advocate in case of any medical concerns.
In the long term more projects will be directly funded in Peru and will not depend on donations from Germany. The keyword is social business: Helping people help themselves is what is really important to the association and to this end two restaurants, a fish breeding farm at 3600m and a hydroelectric power station were taken on to help the people in the Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado).


A reason to celebrate

Today “Corazones para Peru” is a respected association with its office in Urubamba. Many people are involved in taking care of the additional businesses which have been added as part of the development cooperation like an own accountant, a secretary, a PR person and drivers. The structure, the assistance given and all the plans are saved for many years, the cooperation between Germans and Peruvians is as good as it could be and all participants are as motivated as they were on the first day 15 years ago.
This is a reason to celebrate. On 19 and 20 October there will be a huge celebration in Urubamba with a German-Peruvian mass and presentations, dances, singing and other performances by friends, promoters and recipients from the projects. There will be culinary highlights too. “A celebration from the heart for our work which comes from the heart” is what Dr. Arnold is expecting, who will be present in person.
And what are Arnold’s wishes for the future of the project? “That we continue with success stories like Jenny`s.” Jenny got an apprenticeship training position through the so called Munaychay 2, where adolescents are supported during the changeover to university and which will be realized next year. Today she is working as the director’s assistant for the association.
The slogan of “Corazones para Peru” proved to be true: What you pass out the door, angels carry back in through the window.



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