A guest post by Martin Green
As you walk the boulevard and around the plaza do you wonder, “Why are there so many kids on the street selling Chicklets or candy? Where are their parents? Why aren’t they in school? Why do they have the big sign painted on the boulevard that says No Child Sex Tourism?”
Well here are some answers to those questions. There are so many kids on the square selling Chicklets and trinkets because they are the bread winners of their impoverished family. Kids make better beggars than adults and their parents capitalize on that. Most of their parents are at home waiting for their child to bring back food for the night or money for breakfast.
School is free in Iquitos but only if you can pay for the registration, uniform, backpack and books. Most of these families can’t afford the initial cost and even if they could, sending the bread winner to school means a cut in the family income. Lastly, the sign on the boulevard is there because of the huge problem in Iquitos of child, sexual exploitation and pedophilia.
Why doesn’t someone step in and help? Well there are multiple organizations working to improve the situation for these children and their families, one in particular, located in San Juan, is called People of Peru Project. Paul and Sandi Opp founded People of Peru 8 years ago after visiting Iquitos and seeing the dire need of the children here. They were particularly touched by two small girls living on the streets with no parents and eventually adopting them.
Their compassion did not stop there. They worked to build an organization that would help young girls who are abandon or were victims of sexual or physical abuse. In the early stages of development a US corporation donated the money to buy a piece of land in Santa Tomas. Before they even had a chance to build a proper dormitory for the girls they were flooded with young girls and mothers whose situations are beyond discussion. Before long they found themselves caring for 14 children who were mothers of children.
Since then a lot has changed, now they have a full dormitory that houses the girls complete with a kitchen, study area and bathrooms. In 8 short years People of Peru Project has been able to build the crisis center in Santa Tomas, an administrative center with dormitories, for visiting volunteers, a complete free dental/medical clinic in San Juan, a breakfast feeding program for primary school children, numerous homes in Belen for impoverished people and have sponsored dozens of students who are studying at the local schools and universities. They have graduated a lawyer, two dentists, and professor and have a psychologist, obstetrician, doctor, dentist, mechanical engineer, business and tourism majors in process.
Poppy’s House (People of Peru Project Youth Services house) is unique in several aspects, first is that each child who comes for help is completely vetted to make sure that they are in dire need. Once accepted at Poppy’s House they are enrolled in school and are supported as long as they are working toward independent living skills, including a university education.
Paul and Sandi feel strongly that Iquitos needs young women who are ready to cope with the social norms that hold them back. “Change the girls and you change the culture” Paul repeats to the 2,000 plus volunteers he has hosted in the last eight years. Paul recently said, “You can take a bucket of white paint and add one drop of blue and it still looks white, but if you keeping adding drops of blue, eventually you have blue.” The Opp’s goal is to change Iquitos one girl at a time.
“We have had enough money in the organization this last eight years to buy everyone in Iquitos a popsicle, or every family unit a chicken,” Said Opp, “But what have we accomplished?”
“If in my life time I can produce fifty young professional women who otherwise would not have been, they will raise families of little boys and girls who will know their own worth, have a shot at an education and in turn will raise more families of people who have broken the cycle of ignorance and poverty,” Paul said in a recent meeting of concerned volunteers. He added, “Now the laws of multiplication take over and entire societies can change.”
How can you help? People of Peru operates with donations from the United States. Projects are always in process and waiting for the funding to complete. People of Peru Project needs your support. Please, support this organization. Donations can be made on the website www.peopleofperu.org or www.peruvoluntours.com or take the time to stop by the headquarters at 3912 Quinones Ave. just a couple blocks past the San Juan Plaza. Take a tour of the facility and meet the girls at Poppy’s House. Add your drop of color. Change a life today.
How You Can Help The People Of Peru
This is a guest post by Martin Green. To read more by Martin click this link to a new adventure, a new horizon, an adventure we will never forget. He means it!
Hi, this is Bill Grimes. You know me. I’m the guy that publishes this Captain’s Blog. Paul, Sandi, and Martin are friends of mine. I’ve known Paul Opp for several years. I feel so strongly about the good work he does through the People of Peru Project that Dawn on the Amazon donated from the 5% of our profits that we give back to the community where we think it will do the most good. If you want to do something positive to help improve the quality of life for some of the impoverished children of Iquitos, the People of Peru Project is the best place to start…