Christmas means Chocolatada

December 27th, 2010

It’s the season of giving, and that’s what Tom Filipowicz and company have been doing in impoverished communities in Lambayeque.

Article brought to you by Mochica Hostess Tours

By Tom Filipowicz

When we first decided to ask for donations to help us sponsor various activities in the Lambayeque Region, we had no idea what to expect. We know the world economies are not doing great and there aren’t a lot of people standing in line to give away their money, but we needed help so thought we’d ask. The short story is that you answered the call. Thanks to the generosity of Chris, Maria, Jim, The North Hills Country Club of Menomonee Falls, Karen, Rose, The Wednesday Women’s Golf League of Germantown, Pauline, Ray and David, we’re able to sponsor two chocolatadas and contribute to a third. What follows happened and will happen because of you.

The Promesa Peru team arrived at the Jose Carlos Mariategui school in the village of Collique Alto on the 15th after a grueling 1½ hour combi ride. Nearly all of the non-perishable food along with balls, jump ropes and other gifts had been transported to the school some days in advance. Fifty pounds of chicken had been purchased the previous day. All we brought with us were bags of candy and 200 empanadas.

This is something I wish those of you who contributed could experience. To have 50 or so little kids rush up to you smiling and yelling and wanting to hug and kiss you to thank you for giving them a party…well…it just feels good. And that wasn’t all. Inside the classrooms were more kids waiting their turn to march out to greet us; each carrying either a Peruvian or American flag. Several of our team wiped away tears and I admit to a lump in my throat.

The kids, teachers and parents had obviously put some work into this party. There were signs expressing friendship, and each class from kinder through secondary put on dance/song performances that were very entertaining and made their parents proud. The Promesa Peru people on site for the party are Betzy, Maribel, me, Joyce and Yesenia.

We were told that the kids had never seen a clown so we brought one with us. When the clown first appeared many of the younger kids were frightened, and some of the parents looked uneasy, but Jorge aka “Kokoroko the Clown” did an excellent job of entertaining and involving the kids, parents and teachers.

It’s customary to prepare food and beverages for a chocolatada in the school’s kitchen or at the town’s community center but Collique Alto has neither, so the food was prepared at parents homes and brought to the school where the students ate in their classrooms. Each kid had a plate heaping with chicken, potatoes, paneton and empanadas plus all the chocolate milk they could drink. Looking at some of their faces I had the feeling that they had never seen so much food on their plate at one time.

And with the money we have left over we will sponsor another chocolatada this coming Monday; this one in a very poor district right here in Chiclayo. These kids live in an area where the schools, churches and communities simply don’t have the money for parties. With the help of some friends in the area we’ve identified a number of needy families and are presently working on a location for the party.

The Last Chocolatada…

The last chocolatada for this Christmas season was a bit unusual. It was held in a private home in the district of La Victoria; one of Chiclayo’s poorer areas. This was the only Christmas party these kids will have and honestly, if you judged it with a ‘fun meter,’ it wasn’t much of a party. We were told the kids were not accustomed to gringos, which probably accounted for the look of apprehension on most of their faces. They weren’t a whole lot warmer even with Maribel. These poorer communities tend to be close-knit and don’t easily warm up to strangers. The house dog shared their uncertainty…growling at us continuously from under a table all the while we were there. Still…when we passed out the toys, paneton and chocolate milk there was a ‘thank-you’ from each child and a momentary look of excitement in their eyes.

They didn’t loosen up until they got outside, and even then many of them ran to their homes, apparently to show mom what they had received. I’ve been wondering about this situation since we returned to our apartment. I’m sure these kids play normally among themselves, but have they ever been to a party? They didn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. This location is only a 10 minute taxi ride from our apartment. I’m already thinking that next year we’ll return, and this time do it right. We’ll do it outside, and have a clown and games and loud music and we’ll do it for the whole neighborhood! And we won’t let the party end until every living soul has a semi-permanent smile on their face!…well, maybe not that damn dog.

We’re going to take off our Promesa Peru vests for a few days and relax. Joyce returns to the States in two days, and there are still things we want to show her. And I’d like to get back to Patapo to do some mountain climbing, and Maribel swears she can hear the pier at Puerto Eten promising lots of fish for our baited hooks.

Find out more about Promesa Peru here. The site will be updated periodically with more opportunities for you to help

If you’d like to experience places like this and get a taste of real daily life in northern provincial Peru, speak to Tom & Maribel via Mochica Hostess Tours

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