FOR A FUTURE with a future
“What the world of tomorrow looks like, will largely depend on the power of imagination of those who are learning to read today” – Astrid Lindgren
Barbara Casanova has taken these words to heart and made them into her personal mission in life. Nearly 40 years ago, she left Obersaxen in Grisons, Switzerland to work as a volunteer at an orphanage in Cusco, Peru. During her nine years there she witnessed, time and again, desperate mothers turning their children over to the orphanage for adoption. And she realized how much more help, welfare, and institutional support was needed, especially for single mothers.
Thus an idea was born, and Urpi Wasi was founded in 1989, situated in one of Cusco’s poorest neighbourhoods, Zarzuela Alta. The kindergarten gained official recognition in 1993. In 2003 a second building was added, housing a primary school: it was funded entirely by donations.
Urpi Wasi is Quechua for “Pigeon Loft”. About 350 children, from infancy up to age twelve, are cared for in the daycare centre, pre-school, and primary school. Only children from the neediest families are admitted to Urpi Wasi. As the foundation has long received more applications than it can accept, it sends a team to visit applicant families and assess their socio-economic situation. The parents are incorporated in the Urpi Wasi care program too, receiving instruction in parenting, education, life skills, nutrition, health and hygiene. Mothers are required to participate in the literacy program, and Barbara Casanova visits the parents at home. As she puts it: “We are wasting our time if everything we teach the children is simply thrown overboard at home.”
Gabriela, a Swiss volunteer says:
“Urpi Wasi is an island of radiant, happy children surrounded by a sea of poverty and violence.”
The aim of the foundation is to enable the children to grow into confident, educated and responsible young adults who will learn a trade or profession and so escape the vicious circle of poverty. Experience has shown that 90% of the children who have been through Urpi Wasi have a bright future.
We at flowdays are touched by the commitment and stamina shown by Barbara Casanova and her team at Urpi Wasi. In 2015, Silvia Hagen (co-founder of flowdays) personally visited the school in Peru. Only as she was standing on the Plaza Mayor del Cusco trying to hire a taxi did it become clear to her exactly what kind of neighborhood Urpi Wasi was located in. She was blankly refused by no fewer than four taxi drivers – “We don't go there” – until finally a member of the tourist police ordered a driver to take her to the school.
“How important education is for a healthy self-confidence that sustains the individual's future development was clearly shown to me when I visited this school,” Silvia says.
The children are affectionately cared for and educated. This equips them to later take their lives into their own hands and work step by step towards a better future.
We at flowdays are convinced: education is crucial, and is the means by which people develop self-reliance and a sense of responsibility.
This is why we have decided this year to support Barbara and her children with a Christmas donation. The core values of Urpi Wasi are also ours. Their success is the success of all of us. For that reason we are glad to make a contribution to their success that while small will hopefully be of value.
Urpi Wasi derives 90% of its funding from donations. The remaining 10% comes from parents. Support for one child costs $60 per month. So for $700 you can send a child to school for an entire year, as well as providing him or her with a safe, loving “second home”, including good nutrition and medical care.
The last large, expensive project was the renovation of the roof in 2017. Since then all donations have been used to cover running costs.
For those who would like to experience life in Peru at close quarters, Urpi Wasi has open positions for teachers, kindergarten teachers, and volunteers. A good command of Spanish is a must.
Links to further information about Urpi Wasi:
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