Among the needs that are faced on a daily basis, food is the greatest of them all. As I wrote before, they grow some vegetables but nowhere sufficient to meet the needs of 90 children. We take for granted that we can, if we choose, enjoy a meal with a generous helping of meat or poultry. Not so at Westfalia where meat of any kind is at best, and not always, a possibility once a week. To provide some relief for this problem they raise Cuy (guinea pigs) which, when the population reaches 200, are culled to about half of that number to provide a few meals with meat. There is a long wait between culls. Cuy, similar to rabbit, is a common food in the mountains of Peru and even popular among some folks in Lima.
Food donations occasionally arrive and, to give you an idea of how much it takes to feed these growing children, the photo below was a donation of 14 chickens, 300 eggs, 100 bananas and a big box of mandarin oranges. The chicken might provide enough meat, in stew form, for two meals. Maybe! The 300 eggs, might provide at most two breakfasts, which would be an extreme rarity as breakfast is usually nothing more than a glass of milk with the possibility of some cocoa. One hundred bananas, barely one per child. I suspect the box of oranges were happily eaten the same day they arrived.
My friend Scott, who as I mentioned in a previous post, brought Westfalia to my attention and devotes a significant amount of his time to their needs, had an interesting experience when it comes to the unsatisfied hunger of some of these children. He had taken a few of them to his place in Lima for dinner. While he and his girlfriend were cooking the dinner they told the children that if they were hungry to help themselves in the cupboard and to the fruit, a huge mountain of it, that had been set out. By the time they had finished cooking, every bit of fruit had been eaten, every cracker and cookie in the cupboard, every speck of cereal and whatever else they found. They literally cleaned him out of food, and all he can do is smile when he speaks of it. Amazingly, they still had plenty of room left to eat a full dinner. If ever he wanted proof of how much growing kids need to eat, he found it. 🙂
While food is the top priority, clothing is also a serious issue. These children arrive with little or nothing. Occasional donations of decent used clothing help but are often not enough. Kids grow, as we all know. When winter hits, it gets cold at Westfalia, and winter clothing is always in short supply. That brings to mind another shortage.
Every bed has one thin blanket. Not nearly enough to provide sufficient warmth in the winter. There is no central heating here.
The children attend public school, such as that is here in Peru, which is tuition free. But the average cost per child to provide the necessary school supplies runs to over $60 each. Send 90 children to school and you are talking over $5,000 per year. That is a very difficult cost to bear when even adequate food is difficult to provide. Donated supplies, when available, help. They always need more.
These children had never really known the activities that our children take for granted. Through volunteer efforts and donations, an attempt is made to provide some diversion on rare occasion. When possible, which is seldom, some of the children are afforded the experience of a movie theater, something many of them had never known. The beach? Most had never seen one. On one occasion a group was taken to Lima to the National Museum to learn more about the history of Peru. They had never ridden in an elevator before and it is reported to have been equal to listening to kids screaming, complete with stomach holding, on a thrill ride. Occasionally they are taken in small groups of 10 or 12 to a restaurant in Cienegilla that has a pool and provides a reduced price of 3 nuevo sols (about $1.10) per child, to use the pool for swimming lessons. This is done through volunteers.
There are visits by a psychologist to Westfalia to deal with the psychological needs of children suffering the betrayal of abandonment, the grief and shame of sexual abuse and any number of other emotional issues.
As barren as the land at Westfalia is, they have managed to create a few small areas of green. The vast majority of the area remains sandy, lifeless, stone strewn dirt. They try to play soccer amid the dust they kick up, but we have a dream that someday we can give them grass to play on. Actually, we have a dream that someday most of the area can have grass. It is a bit difficult to play like a child should play when the only play area is dry, lifeless and cough inducing dust. I think that dream is far off because the other needs are so glaring and so much more necessary.
Ready to help?
If so, please go here http://westfaliaorphanage.chipin.com/westfalia-orphanage and donate what you can. Every little bit helps and the needs are great.