Lima – 24 February 2009 – Today I visited with a friend the orphanage Santa Maria in San Juan de Miraflores, a poor area in the south west part of the city. The orphanage is a private initiative of an American and his Peruvian wife. They started this orphanage 20 years ago and at the moment it has around 130 boys in the age of 6 till 18. The government gave them the land, which was at that time desert. Now it is a quiet oasis in a see of little houses.
The last years 30 till 40 new kids arrive each year, in the past this number was around 15. This shows that at least for this orphanage the growth of the economy does not really results in a better position for the most poor in the country. Although it´s just one example. The children have to be 6 years old to be accepted, because there are no facilities for younger kids. Last year an exception was made for a disabled boy of 4 years old, because no other institution wanted to have him. Two thirds of the children is brought by a relative, either a father or mother or an aunt or grandmother. Their families are too poor to take care of them themselves. The other third of the children has no relatives at all, they don´t even know their names when they arrive.
For the management it´s quite a challenge to teach the children order, discipline and a feeling of being at home. Because this is what matters at Santa Maria. The children get up at half past six. At seven they have breakfast and after that they go to school, which in Peru is from eight till one. Neatly dressed in their uniforms. After that they come home, have lunch and do their chores. Every boy has his own chore; this can be feeding the animals, cleaning the room or folding the laundry. They all fulfill a necessary role. At 4 o´clock it´s time for homework. After that dinner. The youngest boys (6-9 years old) go to bed at seven. For the eldest the light goes out at ten. This is the weekly program. Saturday they have more chores, can watch tv and go to mass. On Sunday the ones who have relatives visit those, the others are free to play, watch tv etc. The management consists of three men in their twenties, early thirties. They aim to create an attentive atmosphere, not too distant.
The donations form the income of the orphanage. Only the school uniforms and school expenses cost each year 15.000 soles (ca. 5.000 dollar). They collect second hand clothes. An NGO or private person finances a school room with computers or a kitchen. The older kids and the boys that leave the orphanage work in so called traperia, where old stuff is being recycled. The income is for the orphanage. This pays the daily expenses on food etc. The dormitories should be rebuilt as they have no fundaments, but for the moment there is no money for that.
It is rather touching, to be showed around the area and visit the dormitories, washing rooms, school rooms, housing of the animals and feel a warm little hand wanting to hold yours. Some children don´t want to leave the orphanage when they´ve turned 18. This is all they know and where they are secure. But they have to lead their own life, to find work, get married and have families of their own. Hopefully their situation is better than that of their parents, so their children don´t have to go to an orphanage.