Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Travelers Can Help Peru's Street Children

Travelers' Donations Raise Funds for a New Haven for Children Threatened by Homelessness and Poverty in Cuzco, Peru

Planeterra's "Project Cuzco Kids" Will Provide Volunteer Opportunities For Adventure Tour Participants Exploring Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley

A five-year vision and fundraising initiative to assist children of Cuzco, Peru, came to fruition this fall with the purchase of a large house to serve as a day-time drop-in center with staff.  Planeterra's Richard G. Edwards said that his organization's travelers were instrumental in the fundraising effort.

Edwards called this "a major breakthrough for Planeterra's community development and volunteer programs in Peru. The new house will provide stability, security and a base for long-term efforts to help alleviate and break the cycle of poverty facing these kids."

The sum of $150,000, half from travelers and industry partners and the remainder from Planeterra's founding company, Gap Adventures, allowed the project to move forward, Edwards said. He noted that a local organization, Inti Runakunaq Wasin (IRW), Quechua for "House of the People of the Sun," acts as a haven for over 70 children and adolescents living in extreme poverty. The haven reflects a lifestyle distant from the poverty that the children are accustomed to. See: http://www.planeterra.org/pages/projects/19.php?id=24

Said Danielle Weiss, Project Manager for Planeterra (http://www.planeterra.org/), "Amidst the mountainous surroundings, stunning architecture and rich culture of Cuzco, you will see the bitter reality of children either working or begging on the streets. Many of these children are unable to cope with the stress of both working and going to school, which results in giving up their studies in order to help provide for their families. Other children leave home because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned, turning to alcohol and drugs or sniffing glue to help relieve their hunger pains. In order to support themselves, some children also resort to begging or prostitution. By providing these children with a place where they receive guidance, a warm meal and support, it helps keep them off the streets and gives them the hope, confidence and skills needed to create a future for themselves."

"By purchasing this house we are providing this project with long-term security. IRW will manage daily operations and will work with Planeterra to develop new programs," Edwards said, underscoring that this is not an orphanage with beds and is not equipped for over-night care. Plans call for developing a garden so children can grow their own food and a learning bakery that can provide products for sale.

The home is open during the day and is run by a staff of teachers and social workers assisted by voluntour participants. Children are given the opportunity to voluntarily drop by to receive help with homework, a warm meal and participate in classes and workshops that teach them valuable skills, including jewelry making, leather working, sewing, cooking, music and English.

In 2010 Planeterra will offer a new tour, Project Cuzco Kids, whereby travelers can spend four days of a six-day trip volunteering at the newly purchased facility. See: http://www.planeterra.org/pages/voluntours/18.php?id=35.

Planeterra is a global non-profit dedicated to sustainable community development through travel. Founded in 2003 by Gap Adventures, Planeterra evolved out of a long history of travelers committed to finding ways to give back to the people and places they visit. Planeterra selects the projects and works with them to arrange voluntour travel programs worldwide.

For information on Planeterra's year-round voluntour programs please go to http://www.planeterra.org/pages/voluntours/4.php or call 416-260-0999.

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