In the beginning of 2019 we launched our first Cooking Workshop for the women living in the barrios of Pucusana. Through word of month and some encouragement from our partners on the ground, we started our classes with a group of a dozen women. Shy and nervous for what was about to take place, these women listened and learned about the Culinary Arts.
Our cooking classes specifically teaches how to clean water, why you need to do it, and how to best prepare safe food for consumption. We also explain why plastic pollution only contributes to unclean water issues, how to reduce plastic waste and give other basic food nutritional facts. Most importantly, the last half of each class is designated to discussing cost and how to sell the recipe we just made. While our workshops are free, they are given with the understanding that they are for learning how to better your impoverished circumstances yourself. The cooking classes offer a way to start your own “food cart” business or sell food in restaurants. And with Pucusana being know for it’s gorgeous beaches, tourism during the summer time offers a great opportunity for the people in the barrios to sell food as a way to make money.
When successful, this brings economic stability because, to put it plainly, “when you like the food, you go back”. Tourist will return for a yummy meal during the off-season for weekend get-a-ways and more tourist will come during the peek months. When more people come, more goods are sold from all venders (grocers, restaurants, barber shops, clothing stores, ice-cream carts, etc.) and the economy of the entire town raises. This is basic economics. And this is our main logic behind offering a wide range of workshops.
So three months and 12 yummy recipes later, the dessert portion of our cooking workshop came to a close. I was personally there in Pucusana to participate in the last class and observe its “worthiness” as one of our projects. I watched as this group of twenty women laughed and joked with each other about cooking and how their children react to the desserts they practice making at home. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that those living in poverty are exactly like everyone else. While their financial struggles and living situations dominate what we see of them, they are people just like the rest of us. Watching these women interact and laugh about how their kids try to sneak cookies warmed by heart and reminded me to always look at those living in the barrios with dignity and respect.
I took photos of the women taking notes and asked questions. And we of course shared in tasting the lesson of that day – Apple Pie. When the class came to a close and we started folding up chairs, one of the women asked to speak to me and our Teacher on behalf of the whole group. With the rest of the women standing behind her, she spoke with confidence.
First she thanked us for providing these classes and for the hard work of our teachers. She then thanked us for giving them the opportunity to come together and make genuine friendships. That meeting with this group each week gave these women a sense of purpose and community because they were all going through the same things and they all faced the same struggles. After a deep breath, she teared up a little and I could tell she was nervous, but then she said something I will never forget. She wanted me to know that they were serious about this class. That it is more than just something fun to attend Thursday afternoons. She said they understood their personal responsibility to use these classes to start their own companies and she so desperately wanted me to know that they would. That they were serious about doing what they can to better their own circumstances. She asked me to continue supporting the funds for this workshop because these classes were making a difference in the lives of those living in the barrios and they wouldn’t let me (my company and it’s donors) down for the kindness we have shown them.
Education is a powerful thing when accompanied by action. It’s easy to educate the underprivileged, especially when they want to learn; but just because they now “know” doesn’t mean they will change. This is always the gamble when trying to effect change through education. It’s so difficult to change culture norms even when those norms are living in poverty. It’s not easy for the poor to change their circumstances even when education is freely placed in front of them. But we chose to educate because that gives those living in the barrios the best opportunity to permanently grow and change themselves. And these women wanted me to know that it’s working.
In order to continue our Cooking Workshop we need $200 a month for the next 6 months. Our program will end with a final exam of selling their goods on the boardwalk in Pucusana town center. The Mayor will be invited and hopefully this event will successfully launch a few new businesses.
PLEASE donate to our cause. We’re not asking for much money at all. It’s $1,200 in total for this specific workshop. If you think you don’t need to donate because someone else will, you are mistaken. Fundraising for our workshops is not an easy thing, no matter how inexpensive they are. So please donate to our nonprofit and help us make a real difference in the lives of those living in Pucusana Peru.
Founder and President of The Pucusana Project