From the archives of Latin America for Less we bring you a story about a charity event organized by the Cusco.
The Christmas season was a busy yet special time for the Latin America for Less team in Cusco. Between the usual business of arranging tours, booking hotels, and greeting clients on their way to Machu Picchu, the team was in full swing to organize a project to support a children’s program at the city’s Regional Hospital.
Dunker, a staff member at the Cusco office of LAFL, explains how this project came to be: “When I was out purchasing tour tickets, I bumped into a friend who told me about a special program for under 5 year olds in the hospital called PRITE.”
A few days later he went along to see the program. “I was overwhelmed by the warmth and friendliness of the staff there,” says Dunker. “The project consisted of 5 rooms, giving the best possible care to over 90 children with various disabilities.”
From that initial meeting with the children, he knew this was a special venture that Latin America for Less could support. After contacting the main office in Lima, he received the go-ahead, and preparations began for a special Christmas.
Making a difference in the lives of children
Outside of the big urban centers in Peru, health care is minimal and medication requires payment, which many families are unable to afford. The Regional Hospital in Cusco provides care for people without insurance. This means that while some of the patients are from Cusco, many others also come from smaller communities, often travelling long distances to receive medical attention.
“The PRITE program within the hospital specifically provides physical therapy to young children with a range of disabilities, including paralysis, Down’s syndrome, vision impairment, microcephaly, and others, that require a high level of attention and care,” Dunker explains. “Some of children come from as far away as Puno to receive medical care from the project.”
Giving to PRITE
Headed by Dunker, the Cusco team devised a gift drive for the PRITE children. The plan was to collect toys, clothing, and donations from staff at Latin America for Less. Management would also provide an additional monetary contribution. Then, a few days before Christmas, the Cusco team would host a party at PRITE and each child would receive an individual gift. The project was put into action, and “thanks to the enthusiasm of all the co-workers in Lima, we quickly achieved the goal of 100 toys!” says Dunker.
The next step was to arrange the delivery of gifts from Lima to Cusco. If you are at all familiar with Peru’s postal system, you can imagine this was no easy feat, especially around the congested Christmas period. Eventually, after many phone calls, a lot of persuasion, and tons of prayer, the toys finally arrived. Dunker describes the moment he opened the box of toys from Lima: “It was very exciting…the variety of toys was remarkable!”
A day to remember
On the morning of December 21st, Dunker, Corey and Brynna from the Cusco team, headed to the hospital to help with the preparations. The hospital staff had been busy festively decorating the party room and arranging soft drinks, biscuits and snacks on clothed tables.
Shortly after 10am, the children started to filter in to the room, many accompanied by brothers, sisters, and cousins. “The head of the program then proceeded with a small ceremony,” Dunker describes, and the gift distribution began.
“The gift giving was a smash hit and such a success, that not only the special-needs children received gifts, but also any siblings who accompanied them to the event,” Corey says. Even a few children who happened to be outside in the hospital courtyard received gifts.
Gift-giving was followed by music and dancing. Corey says, “The party all got a good laugh when they pulled me, the gringa, out to the center of the dance floor and watched me attempt to dance to Huayno music… needless to say I’m pretty sure I was the comic relief of the whole event!”
The children, along with the mums, thoroughly enjoyed the festivities. “It was exciting to see the faces of the children,” says Dunker, “and the joy that the mothers experienced.”
As the children and staff exhausted themselves with dancing, joking and laughing, the party came to an end.
A week or so later, Dunker received a certificate of thanks from the hospital. It reads: ‘This Christmas, we wish that kindness, love, tolerance and respect fill our hearts and our lives, and that the new year will be a year of renewal, so we can work together and in the near future make our children’s wishes come true.” This message reached the hearts of the team at Latin America for Less, who were grateful to be part of such a magical project.
Special gratitude goes to Dunker who, as Corey describes “really acted the role of the real-life Santa Claus, or Papá Noel, as they say here in Peru.” It truly was a day to remember, bringing a day of happiness to the lives of these children.