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October, 2014

Newsletter #26

Pedro at the beach.

Pedro at the beach

To achieve anything… we must reach out to one another. We must have a contagious enthusiasm about what we are doing. (Quote from Anita Goulden.)

Message from Roger Brown, Chairman

These days, whenever I'm asked to write something for the next Newsletter, my first reaction is always to wonder what on earth I'm going to say, because the truth is - and I fervently hope that I'm not tempting fate here! - that over the last year or two the troubled days of the home have largely passed away, and it is running well and happily - the children and young people are well and well looked after, and the staff are doing a wonderful job. And then what happens? First of all, I realise that this IS a story in itself. As the past has shown, running a home for children with disabilities or without family or anyone else to care for them is itself a major and difficult task, fraught with daily problems. It's a marvel when all goes well. And secondly, when I look more closely, I see that in fact there always is a story to tell. And that's what happened this time too. Here's the story. In Piura, just like the UK, it is exam results time, and our great friend and helper in Piura, Anita Mollet, who oversees this part of our involvement with the home, sends news.

You, our donors, have been supporting the studies of several residents and former residents of the home for some time now, and here now are the results. Katy has graduated in accounting and finance, Miguel in business administration, Vania in petroleum engineering, Cindy in hotel, catering and tourism, and Maria del Socorro has qualified as a nurse technician. Hugo Chanta, who lost his legs in a road accident, is a hugely talented artist, earning his living practising and teaching painting and sculpture, and his letter of thanks to the Trust and its supporters for giving him this opportunity by funding his art lessons is an elegant and heart- warming gesture. My fellow Trustees must be thoroughly tired of me exclaiming about how extraordinary I find it that though we are a tiny charity helping in a tiny corner of the world, we have somehow managed to attract the most wonderful support. Michelle Turton volunteered for a spell at the home, and you can read her report here - a vivid and delightful picture of daily life there. John and Bridget Collins visited the home and were utterly charmed - as almost everyone who goes there is. Read John's report of a trip to the beach with the children - something they all adore. Bridget is now a Trustee, and she and John are doing great things for the home and the Trust. A charity must look after its funds or it can do nothing, and these funds (yours!) are in the safe hands of our Treasurer David Thomas, a distinguished international banker. Good to know. But his financial report rightly warns us that the home currently costs more to run than we have managed to collect. Wonderful people are doing wonderful things to try to ensure that the home can carry on - see Pat Jones' report below. We spend almost nothing on administration - our funds go to continue the work of a true heroine - Anita Goulden, the angel of Piura in local parlance - who dedicated her life to helping children and young people with disabilities in Peru. If you can, please help us to go on helping them.

Volunteering in Hogar
Anita Goulden by Michelle Turton

Michelle and Glen.

Michelle and Glen

I had been to the Hogar Anita Goulden before in 2000 when I was 18. Having seen the BBC documentary about Anita Goulden and her work still didn't prepare me for the journey. My first visit to Perú was a prodigious culture shock; visiting family, friends and the Hogar taught me some life lessons I will never forget. Charmed by Anita, her work, the children, and their stories moved me, and their memory has stayed with me forever. Thirteen years later I, with partner Glen, decided to take a year out of work to travel Perú, this being my fourth time and his first. This time we organised to spend some time volunteering at the Hogar. Leaving Lima we spent 17.5 hours travelling through the Sechura desert to finally arrive in Piura. Only a few hours later we were due to meet with Anita Mollet and Fabiola at the Hogar for lunch so quickly retreated to the shade of the hotel to catch up on some sleep. With Glen suffering with a bad stomach I travelled a few minutes by taxi from our hotel and arrived at the Hogar about 1pm, the hottest part of the day. The façade displayed a large bright wall mural of children reading a book. I had heard about an ex-resident and artist Hugo Chanta Guevara and thought this must be his work. The large iron gates were opened by a man named Rolo, who welcomed me with a big smile, strong hand shake and kiss on the cheek. While being ushered inside into the shade I recognised a few of the characters from my first visit in 2000 namely Chavela, Vicky and Ronald, and I'm sure they remembered me too. Anita and Fabiola joined us and continued to show me around the Hogar introducing me to all the staff, children and finally their new bathroom designed for water therapy sessions. I ate lunch with the staff around a large communal table as they quizzed me about the Peruvian side of my family whose roots reside in Canchaque; a small, verdant province near Piura. Starting work the next day the home was a hive of activity with a new guest toilet being built, children going off to school and lunches being prepared.

Michell at work.

Michelle at work

I kept some of the children entertained with games. Another carer Donna helpfully explained the individual nuances of each child and their unique personalities. Milagros' nods and winks, Espenza's favourite toys and Pedro's love of football. I also worked with Esther who conducts the therapy sessions. I learned how to exercise the children's muscles to strengthen their core weaknesses. It's not an easy job and by the end of the day I was mentally and physically exhausted. It's incredible how the staff maintain the energy, enthusiasm and patience in order to support and develop the children's abilities and strengths every single day. At the weekend Fabiola had organised a surprise thank you party for a long time supporter of the Home who had tirelessly badgered the local council for two years to pave the walkways outside the home. This gave the staff and children the opportunity to escape the confines of the Hogar and the ability to push the wheel chairs outside and over to the park.

The surprise party was fun, full of balloons, cake, chicha morada, and good cheer. Joined by the staff, children, volunteers, supporters and family members, we could see how the Hogar and all of its supporters are one big family united in joy and courage in a place so full of adversity. So after a few days getting to know the staff and children, helping out around the home and assisting with therapy sessions we got the go ahead to paint a wall mural in the therapy area. As the children mainly exercise using play mats on the floor the artwork needed to be low lying. We designed the mural so that all the detail remained as close to the floor as possible to ensure the children get the best view point. As many of them don't get the chance to explore outside very often we decided to paint an outdoor scene characterising elements from the Peruvian landscape, adorning the walls with snow-capped mountains, smiling clouds, llamas and happy trees. We drew and masked the outline for the mural then waited in a paint shop in Piura's Mercado Central for hours in the torrid heat trying to buy emulsion paint, which is no easy task when Spanish isn't your first language. Eventually we managed to complete six meters of wall in five days. So finally on our last day we celebrated with the staff and children with a small fiesta, clinking plastic cups of cherryade and eating cake to Latino tunes. We're both super pleased to have had the opportunity to meet the children and staff at the Hogar Anita Goulden and hope that the mural brightens and entertains for many years to come. Find out more about our adventures in Perú at the travel blog.

A Trip to the Beach by John Collins

Pedro at the beach.

Pedro at the beach

We'd seen the photographs of the Hogar Anita Goulden's annual trip to the beach on Home's Facebook page every year for the last two or three summers. Upon seeing them we had often wondered how on earth the staff managed to execute what could only be described as a military operation in getting all the residents to the seaside for their annual outing. This year we had the opportunity to find out first hand. Throughout February, the carrot being dangled in front of each resident every time that they refused to cooperate with the staff in anything was that: "You won't be able to go to the beach if you don't do this." The mere mention of the "B" word was enough to jump-start even the most stubborn of opponent and immediately break their resistance. When the eve of the trip finally arrived, there appeared to be an unending list of tasks that needed to be done.

Foremost among those was having to negotiate with the builders outside the Home, so as to try and ensure that the residents could get out of the door the following morning, (an earlier planned trip to the beach had to be cancelled because of this problem). During the previous month, almost all of the residents had been virtual prisoners in the Home as the local council set about finally building a proper road on the street where the building is located. As the saying goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and the process of building a road is long-winded, dusty and inconvenient for those trying to live their lives around the mayhem. Sadly in Peru, the notion of making provision for those being inconvenienced isn't that high on the list of priorities, and the attitude is very much a case of "Well you're getting your road built, so just put up with it". So while in the UK, the health and safety officials would have been all over the project ensuring that the running of the home was not disrupted in any way, in Peru there appeared to be no Health and Safety officials to speak of. And so it was that the residents of the Home were house-bound for well over a month as construction got under way. Only those small enough to be carried the hundred metres to the main road got to leave the building during this time.

Loading the bus.

Loading the Bus

Discussions were held with the construction crew to try and see if we could get the coach that was taking the kids to the beach down the road to the front of the building so that we could load it. "No" was the stock answer to every suggestion, so come the morning, we had to negotiate a hazardous obstacle course to the coach with the wheelchairs to get everyone on board. Once all the residents had been boarded, we then had the job of taking every last item required for the day down the same path, all the while as the road workers stood and watched us like we were some form of sideshow provided to break up the monotony of their day. Not once did anyone volunteer to help. The cook, Sonia, had worked wonders. She had stayed in the Home overnight to make sure that she was on duty by 4am to get everything prepped for the trip. Such excursions have to be planned very carefully. The feeding still had to take place, the medication still had to be administered, the personal hygiene tended to, the massaging carried out - all fundamental parts of the day-to-day living of the residents. Just because they were no longer in the Home didn't mean that their problems went away. We were joined on the trip by a number of local volunteers as well as some of the external patients who come to the Home for therapy; severely disabled children who live with the parents in low income families, but who get help from the Hogar Anita Goulden on a weekly basis. Despite not being resident in the Home, they are still very much part of the Anita Goulden family.

Our destination was an hour and a half away and the kids loved the coach trip. Despite driving through desert all the way to the beach, the change of scenario was welcomed. Once there, we were allowed to use a beach hut which provided great shelter for all the kids, and saved us the torture of having to erect the two marquees that had been kindly loaned to us by the military. Every child was given the opportunity to enjoy the feel of the ocean, the sensation of the sand, the freshness of the air and the pure joy of being out and about in such a beautiful environment, with the Pacific Ocean acting as a wonderful backdrop to an amazing day. On our return the bus was a lot quieter. Fatigue had won the day and as we arrived back in Piura, we once again unloaded the coach at the end of the road and brought the residents back across the obstacle course to the Home. It was then that the next long list of tasks had to begin, as each child then had to be fed and washed before going to bed. Most of the staff put in an heroic 14-hour shift that day. No one complained, no one grumbled and by 8pm that evening, as we left the building, they were still toiling away, getting the last few residents to bed. Leaving the Home that evening, the question that was on my mind was what carrot were they going to use the next day when a resident refused to eat their dinner or do their physio exercises? The beach card had been played - but what fun it had been.

Don McNeill

Don McNeill was a very staunch supporter of the Trust and often visited the Home during Anita Goulden's lifetime. His last visit was in January this year, but very shortly after this he died of a heart attack. He had already sent us a report of his visit. Here are some edited extracts, in memory of a truly wonderful man. "You may remember that many years ago I tried to arrange for Hugo Chanta to visit me in France, and that, at the last minute, he was refused a visa simply because he didn't have a bank account. In 1998 I had promised to return to Piura to see him walking, and now that it is more difficult for him to leave on account of his family and teaching commitments I decided it was the time to keep my promise. We had a very emotional reunion, and I had the pleasure of spending Christmas Eve with him and his family (wife Maria, son Hugo jnr. aged 8 and daughter Tilsa aged 3: all delightful). An additional pleasure was the presence of Miguel, another ex-resident, with his wife and daughter Annie, also aged 3. Later in the week I took the whole family to the seaside, a particular treat for Marie and the children who had never seen the sea.

Hugo is a very talented artist and, I'm sure, an excellent teacher: We share an interest in ceramics. The other aim of my journey, of course, was to get to know the Hogar as it is now. It is, of course, a very different experience in a very different location and without the omnipresence of Anita Goulden, though the other Anita, Anita Mollet, keeps a benevolent eye on things but is not in situ. All the residents are severely handicapped and all but two are in wheelchairs. Even a basic programme of care (feeding, dressing, changing, putting to bed etc) demands a great deal of time and effort. I worked for all but 2 days from 10.30am to 7pm, often helping to get the heavier children into bed. I devoted much of my time to Pedro and Ivan, developing a particular fondness for the latter, who seemed to come somewhere on the autistic spectrum. (I had worked with autistic children at the Park Hospital in Oxford). He used to fetch a chair for me so that I could sit while feeding Rony. It was great seeing all the positive work being done by the different therapists, sometimes on an outreach basis, and to witness the completion of the new bathroom with its provision for aqua therapy.

I wish you and all the Trustees a very Happy New Year" Don also put forward some suggestions for improvement, not least the installation of ceiling fans for use on those very hot summer days and nights, which has now been done. The Trust and the Home will miss Don and thank him or all his support over many years.

Pat Jones' Coffee Morning, 29th March 2014

Pat writes: "The weather was much improved on last year when it snowed and we were able to enjoy some sunshine in a hastily put together extended yard sale! Coffee and tea indoors ran smoothly in the capable hands of Denise and Val who never fail to give their time so cheerfully. It was good to have one of the Trustees with us again. Sallie Morgan was able to give up to date information about the continuing work in Piura and expressed her thanks on behalf of the children benefiting from the work of the Trust. Hallow Church has a long association with this small charity and our links are meaningful and valued." The Trust is so grateful to Pat who never fails to have this Coffee morning each year. If any of you wish to do the same thing, do ask for leaflets, photographs etc. to enhance the day.

Financial Report by David Thomas

One of our responsibilities as Anita Goulden trustees is to monitor closely, on behalf of our donors, the use of the funds that they have donated. This task has been greatly facilitated in recent times by the very detailed monthly financial reports that have been made available to us by the board and management of the Home in Piura. We hope and expect to enjoy the same degree of open communication with the newly elected board. Through these monthly reports we have been able to see for ourselves the growing contribution of locally raised donations, sometimes of money, but more importantly food, medicines and other supplies sponsored, or given directly, by Peruvian businesses and individuals. These are reducing the cash costs of operating the Home, which is of great importance to its long term sustainability. Nevertheless, the Home continues to rely almost exclusively on the Trust and its donors to cover its cash needs, including most significantly its staffing costs. Even with the local support and the careful financial management practiced by the Home, their monthly cash costs now frequently exceed monthly donations to the Trust. Over time, the Trust has been able to accumulate a modest reserve, sufficient to give reasonable assurance to the Home that its funding can continue for a number of years, but those reserves are slowly being used up. Consequently, we shall be most grateful for any help that readers of this newsletter can give through their own donations and through bringing the Trust and the Home to the attention of other potential supporters.

The Chilalo Bird

This compilation of memories of and tributes to Anita has sold very well indeed and the feedback has been excellent. However, there are still some copies left so do send off for one - it would make a good Christmas present. £11 includes postage.

Gift Aid and Wills

You can download a form from our website very easily. You can also send a donation via the website through our new system called Charity Checkout. Do please use this method of sending donations as it is so easy. We also benefit greatly from legacies so do consider mentioning the Trust when you make or update your Will.