Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Becky Fund in Sudbury Town Crier

The Sudbury Town Crier and the Lincoln Journal both printed the following story on the most recent trip of The Becky Fund.
Grads Bring Supplies to Peru

By Carole Lamond/Staff Writer
Thursday June 29, 2006

It was something of a culture shock to arrive in Calca, a town high in the hills of the Sacred Valley of Peru, where his small group from Sudbury were the only gringos in town, but for Matt Moore that was part of the adventure.
It was also the beginning of a two-week trip that touched the lives of hundreds of schoolchildren in villages so poor that a pencil and notebook are treasured items.
Moore and fellow 2004 Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School graduates, Marie Smith and Dan Kamen, volunteered to deliver school supplies for The Becky Fund, a small charity named in honor ofBecky Prichard died just north of Cuzco in an automobile accident in 2003 at the age of 27 [30] and her mother, Dinny Bomberg, established the fund in Becky’s memory.

Smith’s mother, Ann, and Bomberg are friends who have worked together on Habitat for Humanity projects, and the Smiths accompanied Bomberg on a trip to Peru to deliver school supplies in 2005. When Smith told Moore and Kamen about her plans to for a second trip to Peru with The Becky Fund, and asked, "Anyone, want to go?" her two friends decided to spend their spring college break on the charity trip.
"I kind of blindly went into it, but it sounded like a good cause, it sounded like an adventure and it sounded like fun," said Moore. "It definitely proved to be all three."
Many of the Indian children in the remote mountain villages attend windowless schools with no heat or electricity where pencils and paper are luxuries. Many of the teachers buy school supplies from their meager salaries of $100 per month.
This year the fund delivered gift bags to 3,250 children in 78 schools and gift boxes to 70 teachers. The volunteer also bought cooking pots, plastic cups and food for several schools and contracted with a local carpenter to build tables and chairs for a preschool. They also supplied yarn and musical instruments which are used to teach the children to knit and play music in their cultural traditions.
The volunteers, who all pay their own expenses, are assisted by the family of Becky’s fiancé, Mendel Wilson Muniz, who provide lodging and a place to store supplies while the volunteers go out each day to different schools which the family has contacted in advance.
"We leave early in the morning and go to the market to buy bread. We give each child a few pieces of bread which they would share with their siblings and parents," said Smith, 19, a student at Massachusetts School of Art in Boston. "We would give them the bread and their school supplies. Some of the kids still had their little plastic bag from the year before. It’s sad, but also really exciting to see how thrilled they are by getting a pencil or a balloon."
The group drove their van as far into the hills as the roads would take them and traveled the rest of the way on foot to a meeting spot. Some of their destinations were 14,000 feet up in the mountains. Once there they would shout for a resident of the village to get the local teacher.

It was amazing that they knew which day we were coming and they were ready for us. We would call out and after a little while the teacher and children would come walking down the mountain," said Moore. "The teacher would usually know Spanish and the kids would know a little, so communication was very basic. I learned some Quecha, the Indian language they speak."

Each child receives a plastic bag with notebooks, pencils, erasers and sharpeners. The teacher receives a box of 30 to 40 items including story books, puzzles, scissors, glue, masking tape, paper, markers and other craft supplies.

"That they got to own their very own pencils was huge for them. They would even save the boxes the pencils came in to play with," said Moore. "Kids literally won’t go to school if their parents can’t afford to buy a pencil and a notebook, so the children don’t get an education."
They also gave the children volley and soccer balls.
"Their eyes lit up when they saw we brought them a ball," said Moore, 20, a student at Northeastern University in Boston. "They were playing with a bunch of rags tied together, that was their ball. We blew up balloons for them to play with and that was a big novelty for them."
The children were dressed beautifully in colorful hats and clothing woven in the Indian patterns. The youngest children were often shy with the American students who looked and dressed so differently, but families were generous with the visitors, sharing gifts of corn or potatoes, or playing music and dancing for them.
"The whole country is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and the culture there is so rich," said Smith. "You see people singing and playing instruments that they made."
The Becky Fund is researching ways to bring better nutrition to the people in the remote mountain villages and is experimenting with a grain/milk combination to supplement the children’s diet. Their diet consists mostly of corn or potatoes.
The Sacred Valley of Peru was the heart of the Inca civilization during the 14th to 15 centuries. Many of the villagers live very much the way they did prior to the Spanish Conquest of the country in 1532.
"You can read about the conditions, but you really have to be there, it’s really an amazing experience," said Smith. "It’s easy to feel you can’t help much, but it’s really important work, and it definitely makes me want to go back and do more things for the project. I hope that other people will want to help too."

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