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Manchay, Peru 2002

August 9 – 26, 2003 Manchay, Peru Domestic Violence Project

We worked our tails off.....painting, sanding, painting, hefting furniture, painting, sanding, assembling beds, painting. There were 6 others in addition to Paul and me. Each contributed significantly to the success of the project. Paul picked up a paintbrush at 8 am and put it down when it became too dark to see. James and Joyce Dumesnil were married July 28 in California. Kat Walker is on the domestic violence task force in Summit County. The three of them kept up a light hearted banter which kept us all in good spirits. Barbara and Glenn Johnson are associate members of LOTM. In their 70’s, their determined and steady work kept us inspired. We all decided that when we grow up we want to be like Glenn and Barbara. Last but not least, Elizabeth Gall, just graduated from high school was our premier Spanish translator.

We lived in community. (Dumesnils living in community on their honeymoon?!?!?!) The communal bathroom was out the door and down several hallways. It had a cold water shower. In the morning we would jump out of our beds to cold cement floors and bracing air. The dusty walk to the kitchen and work site took about 20 minutes. There are no paved roads in Manchay and it is a desert so imagine the constant swirl of dust with every vehicle. Breakfast was hot cereal thinned to the consistency of a drinkable gruel, plus bread, rice and eggs. Always rice. Every meal had rice. When it got dark we had dinner, generally bread, cheese and leftovers from lunch. At the end of each day, while overwhelmed by the work which stretched in front of us, we were energized by what had been accomplished.

Everyone´s arms and shoulders were sore and our hands were cramped from perpetually gripping a paintbrush, putty knife scraper, hammer or screwdriver. The job was so big, daunting, that we ended up hiring 8 men to work with us. With their help we were able to finish on Saturday morning as scheduled. We paid them 20 soles a day for 10 hours of work. That equals about $6 a day. By the end of the week we were all exhausted ....yet our working conditions and food situation were better then any of the other laborers in Manchay...and we only had to do it for one week! By Saturday noon the painting was done, the beds were assembled, the stoves had arrived, the tables and chairs were installed, linens were in the rooms and the units were in the process of being cleaned. At that point the party began. There were 25 usable homes when before there were empty shells!

To celebrate the parish put on a Pachamanca for us...short for "pig-out". A pit was dug and lined with bricks. A large grill was set over the top and rocks were piled on top. A fire was set in the pit, below the rocks and was kept burning for several hours. When the rocks were hot they and the grill were removed and into the pit went a layer of potatoes. The hot rocks were interspersed and then huge marinated chunks, joints of pork and mutton were thrown into the pit, again interspersed with rocks. Whole guinea pigs and halved chickens were added. Corn husks filled with mashed corn and raisins were added. Wet corn husks were thrown on and a huge column of steam rose up. On top of the corn husks large fava bean pods were thrown. This was all covered with alfalfa. Wet paper bags were layered next. On top of that a large piece of canvas was placed. Dirt was mounded over it all. Into the middle of the mound I was asked to place a cross wound with herbs and flowers. As I drove the stake into the middle the front gate burst open and a band marched in playing trumpets, violins and another instrument reminiscent of a harp. Everyone burst into applause, toasts were shared and we began to dance and dance and dance. The band stopped playing and we waited.

After an hour they began to peel back the layers and the courtyard filled with the most amazing smells. Reaching the pea pods the head cook declared the pachamanca done and the band again burst into loud music while the layers of food were removed. We squatted next to the pit and pulled out the hot food with burning fingers, large shovels and tines. After all the food was removed it was arranged on a long row of tables. The potatoes were just placed directly onto the wood and the peas and corn tamales were mounded around them. Everyone got a bowl of mixed meats and began to dig in with their hands, eating the meat and adding chunks of potatoes and peas as they wanted. It was an amazing feast!!!

Small speeches of appreciation and gifts were shared, everyone either crying or near tears at the thought of leaving such a special experience and community we had all grown to love. After making our tearful exit the drive into Lima was quiet. Fortunately we had been invited to the home of friends and supporters of ours in Lima, Cecilia and Clif LaPlant. They prepared another party to congratulate us for the completed work and to introduce us to some of their friends who are also supportive of service work in Peru. In addition to the wonderful dinner and company we watched a pair of Peruvian dancers who were delightful entertainment.

A late night, an early morning and a flight to Cuzco. Through the next week we toured Cuzco, the fabled Machu Pichu, and the jungle. We were all both relieved the work was done, yet missing the energy which was generated by our participation in something so much bigger then ourselves, bigger then we imagined. We, of course, are changed forever by being here, living here, eating here, working next to the poorest of the poor. Walking the dirt streets, eating dust all day long, sweating when it is hot and freezing when it is cold, no hot water for showers....has all given us a new appreciation of what a small enclave of Shangri-la the United States is.

Next year’s project will be devoted to developing a self sufficient home site for abused children and abandoned infants. We have already obtained the land which will include shelters for goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits; a garden area; a central building for washing, showers and composting toilets; a home for 8 – 10 abused children; and a home for abandoned infants. We estimate approximately $25,000 will be needed. Twice the amount donated this year.

2003 there will be two trips. The first will be for high school and college aged students. The tentative dates for that trip are April 3 – 13, 2003. The second trip, for all ages, will be the first two weeks of September. Five people have already signed up for that trip. Those interested in learning more about how to contribute or participate in the 2003 efforts can email Deborah Hage, Director of MAPS Colorado, at

Those who went in 2002 agreed that we wouldn't’t miss this for the world!

Thank you all for your support and prayers. We could not have done this without you. Thank you for letting us be your servants.

Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only way." The only way to stop the terrorism of hatred and intolerance is to knit the world together with acts of kindness and community/ghetto/slum/child at a time.



Deborah Hage, MSW

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