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October, 2008

Newsletter #19

Kevin and his switches with Jovani and Esther.

Kevin and his switches
with Jovani and Esther

Message from Roger Brown, Chairman

Together with another Trustee, Emma Raffo, and Victor Riega, husband of Trustee Leonora Borg, I have just returned from a visit to the Home in Piura. Emma is from Lima, and Victor from Piura itself - the Trust is exceptionally fortunate to have such a wealth of local knowledge available. We had two main objectives: to see the children, the home, staff and local committee; and to work with the local committee and others in Piura to develop and improve the home so that the children and young people can be even better looked after than they are at present, and have even greater opportunities to fulfil their potential. The home continues to be an inspiration, as well as a justification for all the support which you, our readers, provide. Ronni is now using his new 'neurological' wheelchair, provided through the great generosity of one of the Trust's donors, and is happier, more communicative, and more attentive. Rosmery, who cannot walk, will graduate in law next July, after six years of study. Part of her final thesis is about how changes in Peruvian law could help people with disabilities. Kevin is delighted with the computer specially adapted to allow him to use it, also the result of the generosity of a supporter, Ed Brumby. The small children remain as enchanting as ever. We came away feeling that, on the one hand, there is still much work to be done before the Home is running as well as it possibly can, but on the other, uplifted by what is being achieved there in the face of great obstacles, and deeply grateful to all those whose support makes this possible. Please continue to help us if you can.

Ed Brumby Visited The Home In May

My visit to the Anita Goulden Hogar was a big challenge, but well worth it. I speak fairly fluent Spanish but whilst I could converse with the staff, I had no chance with most of the disabled children. The staff could understand them though. There is always a way of communicating and within a few days, I had made some wonderful friends. I had prepared myself for playing many games, some simple, some not so simple. I had to revise my strategy. Of the children who did not go to school only two could play the simplest of games, the most popular being me catching the pieces of Lego, and me throwing them back into their tin. We had great fun, and it was amazing to see their improvement in co-ordination. Eventually, Vicki could throw the bricks into a box. You don't need fancy toys to have fun. A yo-yo and a cone with a clicker that threw balls in the air were very popular and with assistance, they could work them. Again, they were great for exercise, and cheap! When I arrived, they were making papier mâché vases. I took some poster paints and we had an afternoon producing work Picasso would admire. I coaxed one of the staff, Deysy, to paint with a paintbrush in a cork in her mouth. She did a great job; a great example.

A few days later they had painted the vases, and used my wall chart stickers to decorate them. We had some great fun with those stickers, doing face "painting", colouring nails, adorning shoes etc. They came up with some great ideas and this produced a lot of laughs. The children are well looked after,very clean, and washed and changed a few times a day. All the staff deserve a medal, especially the backroom ones who wash some of the clothes by hand in a big tub, do all the ironing, and cook. I was very impressed by the older youngsters who are going to college or university. These youngsters who are studying business systems etc would benefit immensely from work in a local business. I spent a good deal of time with Miguel, but unfortunately, I did not get a chance to have a long conversation with Rosmery or the other girls as they were usually only there in the evenings. I was usually tired by then. Also, some of the physically disabled children, who were so alert, so anxious to learn, and of a wonderful personality, loved having someone to talk to when they returned from school. I visited the school that Kevin, Karina, Jefferson and Ana Alicia go mto. I was impressed. Kevin had a buddy who wrote things down for him. Kevin's maths looked very good and they all got a good report.

The school had mixed age classes but seemed very good. I spoke to the head teachers and the physics teacher. The school had quite a few computers. The home desperately needs transport for the children. Senor Rolando has to lift some very heavy youngsters into a bus or taxi, daily. He is such a key player in the organization and it would be difficult to function without his strength. The home is also too small, and is based in a house rather than a building designed for their needs. Nevertheless, this is a happy, well run home. I was fortunate to be there during Mothers' day. A large number of the children attended the graveside service for Anita, which was very moving, and in the evening we had a function with a group of traditional dancing and singers. Some of the children's mothers attended, which was encouraging. A few of the children would benefit from technology to help them in school, or to move around etc. We have to bear in mind though, that these would have to be simple enough to be maintained, and to survive in an environment where these may be damaged. I am already working on some ideas and Miguel has been a great help. It is perhaps wrong to single out one child, but I have started to try out some ideas with Kevin to see if I can use simple technology to get him to write using the on screen keyboard in Word, with specially adapted switches or mouse. I am an electronics engineer so it may be possible, given time. I have stressed to Kevin that it may not be possible. If anyone is going to Peru, I would like to hear from them.

I thought that the soft play room was probably the most important place in the home. The children were given simple tests like putting coloured pegs in games, stacking cones higher and higher, writing, etc. They were also given massage and physiotherapy. It was probably their only chance of a one to one time, a challenge, and a bit of peace. It was far from the soft play areas we find at bowling alleys etc, and they would like to expand it. I bought a ball that lit up when you dropped it. It was amazing to see Ronni's co-ordination and attention improve when he was fascinated and was focusing on that simple ball. He was grasping and dropping the ball fairly well. There is no lift, which makes it difficult for the likes of Kevin to get upstairs for quiet homework or perhaps being shown something on the computer. I believe he has to be lifted up to there. All these points show why they need to move soon. An upstairs area does however make a quiet retreat. Some of the children go home at weekend or out for physiotherapy, which is very good. Time away must be precious. I took Jefferson and Kevin to the park as they call it, a square with trees and seats, close to the home, which is in a nice area. One has a shop, which of course was popular with them. On my last day, they presented me with a cardboard house, depicting the hogar, the door opening and leading to a group photo, with me in it. The message was very moving. At the back there was a beautiful watercolour from Rosmery. My office wall is now decorated with many photos and their paintings to remind me daily of the wonderful time I had there. The smiles on their faces when I spent some time with them will be in my memory for ever.

Expedition Kirsty

Tony Spall and Kirsty at the top of Skiddaw.

Tony Spall and Kirsty
at the top of Skiddaw

At the beginning of the year one of our loyal supporters offered to do a sponsored climb, probably in July 2008, taking in the three highest mountains in England - Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Scafell Pike - in one day. We accepted this amazing offer and this is Tony Spall's story of the climb. Who's Kirsty? A four-month-old West Highland Terrier puppy that climbed Helvellyn and Skiddaw on a wet and very windy day in early July. Other members of this sponsored expedition were me, Tony Spall, and Roger Brown, Chairman of the Anita Goulden Trust. We began our ascent of Helvellyn at 9.30 in heavy drizzle but with little wind. By the time we reached the summit the wind was gusting up to 80 mph and we were now, quite literally, in the cloud that was responsible for the drizzle that we were now above. There was not much to see because of the cloud, the wind was so strong that it was almost impossible to stay in an upright position without hanging onto something, and there is not much to hang onto at the top of Helvellyn, apart from a very lonely looking trig point. Commonsense dictated an immediate retreat and we must have descended one thousand feet before we found sufficient shelter in which to take a well-earned coffee break.

We reached base camp and our cars 2 - hours after setting off. Not bad for senior citizens and a puppy. Now we headed North for Keswick and Skiddaw refreshing our flasks en route. By this time it had stopped raining, but it was still quite windy. We began our ascent of Skiddaw at 1.30 pm, and shortly after 3.30 we reached the summit. The wind was still very strong but not as difficult to negotiate as on the top of Helvellyn. The weather had improved and the cloud cleared to such an extent that we were fortunate enough to enjoy some wonderful panoramic views of the Lake District to the South and West, and the Solway Firth to the North. The wind had subsided sufficiently to allow us to take a short refreshment break using the protection of a small and battered stone shelter. After taking a couple of photographs for posterity we began our descent only to discover I had damaged my left knee. This injury only showed itself on descending and slowed me down to such an extent that as time passed it became clear that three mountains were to become two. I was able to reduce the pain by walking backwards, much to the amusement of fellow walkers and climbers. However, it still took 3 hours to hobble down. Fortunately, Roger provided an excellent mix of patience, conversation and emotional support (in spite of suffering an injury to his ankle) and we were able to finish in a positive frame of mind.

The good news is that we have raised almost £2000 to help with our work in Piura, so many heart-felt thanks to all those people who sponsored me. Roger adds: It had been my original intention to wait at the bottom of each mountain offering tea, sympathy and general encouragement, but on the day that did not seem a very appreciative way of going on, so we set off together up Helvellyn. In spite of the weather we seem to have done the climb in record time - 5 hours is the norm according to the Guide Book. By the time we had negotiated Skiddaw, Kirsty was the only one of the party still full of beans, still rounding up the sheep and still investigating every rabbit hole! But the brave and injured Tony had had to walk BACKWARDS down Skiddaw, surely a feat in Lakeland walking which even the great Wainwright never attempted! By the time we got down it was not far short of 7 pm with more rain coming on, and the top of Scafell Pike (the highest of the three) covered in menacing-looking cloud, so we reluctantly decided we had better call it a day. It was a pity we failed in our attempt to climb all three mountains in a day, but we could of course regard this attempt as a dry run. I am now equipped with two walking poles - claimed by the wonderful outdoor gear shop in Keswick to take two stones in weight off your step, especially coming down! And I intend to try again!

An Appeal To Sponsor A Full-time Carer For Sergio

by Trustee Leo Borg: Once severely beaten and terrified of people, Sergio (14) came to Hogar Anita Goulden as an isolated child with erratic moods. It took two weeks of sitting quietly near him for him to trust me not to hit him, and once the realisation clicked, we were inseparable. Sergio has been diagnosed as having a mental disability, but doctors seem unable to specify further. He can become very aggressive and lash out, especially when he becomes anxious. His speech is limited and unclear and he struggles to reason. He is a child who needs infinite patience. Being in a home full of children and young people with disabilities as he hit puberty caused many problems. He became more aggressive and incredibly strong so that two nurses struggled to control him when he lost his temper. He threatened staff with knives and hit the disabled children in the face just to get attention. Sadly in 2007 the staff realised that it was no longer safe for him to live in Hogar Anita Goulden and moved him to a home for young people with mental disabilities in Lima. In Lima, Sergio is in a room with boys all aged 18 and over, many of whom are also aggressive. There is little staffing and most of the day they are kept inside a small room. He is on vast amounts of medication, which leave him drugged up and passed out for many hours of the day. From research into possible care for Sergio, there is nowhere in Peru which offers the loving, caring and safe environment he deserves in order to thrive. I believe that most of his behaviour comes from years of chronic physical and mental abuse. Sergio desperately needs a sponsor who can fund a personal 24 hour carer or bring him to the UK to be cared for. He is an incredibly loving child who is likely to end up homeless or in jail when he becomes an adult as there will be nowhere for him to go. If you are willing to help Sergio, please contact Annabel Buchan.

New Home For The Girls

By Roger Brown: Children with disabilities grow up, and one of the great problems of the Home has always been how to ease their passage into a less sheltered adult life. During our visit to Piura in the first week of October, Emma, Victor and I were able to see the results of an experiment which, we hope, will lead to a solution. Six of the older girls, ages ranging from 18 to 22, are now living together independently in 'Casa Anitas', a small rented house, as they prepare to launch themselves into the world. All are studying, some are also working, and from our talks with them there is no doubt that they are determined to make the most of this opportunity, and are very grateful to the Trust and its supporters for providing it. Another Anita in Piura, Anita Mollet, who was always a great help to Anita Goulden, and remains a great friend, helper and highly valued supporter, keeps a close motherly eye on them, and the girls remain in close touch with the home. Four of the older boys have also moved, and are now living close by in the Hogar de Cristo, which is better adapted to their needs as they grow and mature. We visited them and found them well cared for. They too are all studying, and beginning to think about their future in the wider world. The Anita Goulden Home is contributing to their support. None of this effort to provide all these young people with a smooth entry into adult life would have been possible without the generosity of you, our readers. Thank you very much for everything you do.

Carols At Christmas - 19th December 2008

If you have been sent extra copies of this newsletter please let me know at the address below. I can then get the database up to date. I am trying to expand the mailing list so that more people can hear about the Trust and I would therefore be grateful if you could send names and addresses of any of your friends who you feel would like to know more about us. It is essential that we can continue to support Hogar Anita Goulden in the future.

Financial Report by David Thomas

The booming Peruvian economy is putting strain on the costs of running and funding the Home. The regular, detailed financial reports that are sent by the Committee in Piura have allowed us to see how inflationary pressures have increased monthly running costs in the local currency (the Sol). At the same time the Sol has been one of the Latin American currencies least affected by the current financial crisis and the strength of the Sol in the foreign exchange markets means that the dollars we send each month are worth less in local currency than they were in the past. As a result, we agreed during the Summer to increase the dollar value of our monthly transfers to Peru. But the recent falls in the value of the pound against the dollar have made our task more difficult. The impact of the weaker pound has been mitigated because a substantial part of the Trust's reserves have been kept in dollars. Nevertheless, our regular income from donations is now falling short of the amount needed to run the Home and further fund raising will be needed. Your contributions to the Trust are more important than ever.