Part 1 - Working WITH the local community and why this is important
As many of you know, The Pucusana Project collected clothing donations during the summer of 2019. We were blow away by the amount of donations we received. These donations covered boys and girls ages from infant to teen and adult men and women. We were given 52 formal dresses and almost 100 items of jewelry. Over 800 pieces of clothing were donated in total!
It was not an easy task transporting all of the clothing from Colorado USA to Pucusana Peru. Luckily a group of seven people took a trip with The Pucusana Project to visit Peru and learn more about our ministry during the first week of September. So, with these peoples help, and their two free checked bag spots on the plane; we placed all the clothing in 10 suitcases and checked them as baggage on our group flight to Peru. Once we were out of Lima Airport, we packed our rental van to the brim and were off to Pucusana.
The clothing event was on September 22nd, 2019. But since our school has been closed for the last year, there was a lot of work to be done on the property before the event. For two weeks our local team worked around the clock to clean the grounds and do maintenance on the property. We stained all the wood benches, cleaned up the garden, put up a few more tents, built a playground for children and repainted the volleyball and basketball courts. We even had a concrete platform with steps built for our new Cross – courtesy of our groups visit. We worked nonstop up until the day of the event.
One of the philosophies at The Pucusana Project is to work with the community. Which means, if the community doesn’t show up, then the events don’t happen. We believe that the community has to be personally involved and passionate about the local projects for them to have long lasting positive impact. So, while we did have a group of seven Americans come visit for the first week, all of the physical labor and repairs of the property went to our local team. We even employed three different contractors for a few days labor to help us get ready. Sure, this work could have been done for free by our American team, but that’s not the point. For real change, poverty relief efforts MUST work WITH the community and spur on the local economy. Because of this, short-term missions must look different than it has in the past. All poverty alleviation efforts should be solely providing the leadership, opportunity and tools (funds), never the manpower, to accomplish change. To truly help alleviate poverty long term, the community in which you are working to relieve, must be personally invested and want that relief themselves.It is through these guidelines that the locals can grow and eventually lead the positive change themselves. Permanent, long lasting change comes from WITHIN the community, not from the outside.
And we are so happy to report that because of the many people in this community who did show up, our event was a total success. One of our past students made all of the advertisements on social media and because of her, about 50 people attended the event. Another sponsor student came with her entire family on the morning of the event, to help set up as their way to give back. One student’s mother even gave us 6 clothing racks to hang all the clothing on, for free, as her way to help the people in the barrios. But most importantly, we had a group of ten local volunteers give up their entire weekend to do all that was needed to prepare and host the event. Because of this, when the families from the barrios came to receive their clothing and have a fun day, they saw people from their own town helping them. This gives a kind of hope that cannot be taken away once a faceless group boards their plane back to the United States. Because the faces are those of the local community helping their own. When the community steps up to help its own, powerful change takes place and hope is put into the hearts of everyone involved.
In Pucusana, hardly anyone has the money to accomplish the projects we are trying to do and that is why The Pucusana Project exists – to raise the funds and provide the materials. But everyone in Pucusana has time and energy to give, to help. It doesn’t matter how poor they might be. Everyone can help themselves and others. Cultivating this kind of mindset takes a long time and a lot of prayer, but it is the only way for poverty alleviation to truly happen. Neighbors helping neighbors. Every impoverished community CAN help itself take steps for positive change. Sometimes, outsiders have to show the community where to take their first steps. But then we must be wise enough to step back and watch that same community start running. With this attitude and a lot of time, poverty alleviation can actually happen.
So, while this clothing event was small in the grand scheme of things, it was a huge win for us. It was a huge win for the community because it showed us the first fruits of our hard labor to see the community start changing itself from within.
Please read “Part Two” for details about the event day.