Construction of Volunteer Facilities “Cruz Blanca Huaraz”, After School Center for Children

Project location: PERU, Huaraz, Department of Ancash
Project start date: October 2013 - Project end date: October 2014
Project number: 2013-046
Beneficiary: Marian Community of Reconciliation


For over seven years, the Marian Community of Reconciliation (MCR) has been helping the needy populations of the rural and shantytown areas of Huaraz through human and catechetical formation programs. During this time, the MCR has overseen and organized numerous university mission trips as well as various medical and hygiene campaign days in this region. Additionally, the MCR often runs cultural activities and entertainment for school children and their mothers. Libraries and service areas for several local communities have also been constructed and set up under the MCR's supervision.
Throughout 2011 and 2012 the MCR ran a series of pilot activities (a variety of workshops, 47 in total), and a variety of solidarity campaign days reaching out to a total of over 1,000 local children. Activities included music, art, cooking and hygiene workshops, catechesis, tutoring in mathematics and reading comprehension, and games. The children's progress was evaluated at the end of the series of workshops, and rewards were given for those with greatest improvement in elements of literacy.
During 2012 a pilot skills workshop was run for women, reaching out to 20 local women who attended 6 sessions covering basic Christian and family values. The MCR has recruited and trained 20 local and 8 foreign volunteers who have been helping throughout the past year with the different activities provided.
Cruz Blanca is a Catholic charitable organization which began over 50 years ago at Ancón, (Lima, Peru), to give children from the poorest neighbourhoods of Lima the chance to enjoy being children. With its motto "Always do a good deed", Cruz Blanca runs seaside camps where children receive formation in faith and human values and have periods of fun and games. For the past 10 years, it has been run by the Marian Community of Reconciliation (MCR), a Society of Apostolic Life within the Catholic Church. To date over 46,000 needy children have benefited from the Cruz Blanca camps in Ancón.
In 2012, Cruz Blanca was established by the MCR in the city of Huaraz, in the Peruvian Highlands. Applying the methodology used in Lima, Cruz Blanca Huaraz offers workshops throughout the year to needy children from the area. At the same time, the MCR discovered that this formation was needed not just by the children, but by their mothers and fathers too. Additionally, the MCR has discovered that Cruz Blanca provides a great opportunity for young people wishing to volunteer their time and skills for the benefit of the needy. They gain worthy experience while contributing to the development of the project.
Since 2012, Cruz Blanca Huaraz has operated in temporary facilities; however, in order to give stability to the project, it was evident that permanent premises were required. With the help of donors the MCR has acquired the property where these facilities will be built, which will include a private area to house up to 8 overseas volunteers during their period of service to the project.
In order to be able to continue serving generously these needy children and adults, the MCR recognizes that it is important for the volunteers to have a suitable location for them to feel at home and to share with one another at the end of each day of work with the children.
This area will comprise two double rooms with bathroom, as well as a lounge area and kitchenette.

Through direct contact with the local population, the MCR has identified poor educational levels, as well as the lack of human formation and values as being among the greatest needs in Huaraz. Children grow up in an environment in which they receive little stimulation and where they have almost no opportunity to develop their creativity and social skills. According to the Ministry of Education, 92% of children in this region do not reach a satisfactory educational level at the end of the school year. In addition, they often have no role models to help give them more worthy horizons and no one to firmly establish moral values in their lives.
The MCR plans to address this problem by setting up Cruz Blanca Huaraz, an after school centre for children where they will be able to learn essential elements of literacy and mathematics as well as acquire important skills for them to advance in life. This centre will benefit from the support of local and overseas volunteers. For this reason, the MCR plans to include a volunteer centre as part of the overall construction. Next to the facilities for Cruz Blanca Huaraz, the MCR will build a separate area for volunteers which will include two dormitories, bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room area. This request is for funding to cover the construction of the volunteer centre.

This project received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation.
Cruz Blanca Huaraz will run on a daily basis, opening its doors for children and their parents as an after-school centre. The following activities will take place:
Educational reinforcement:
Through the use of interactive didactic materials and audio-visual aids, teachers will give support in the areas of mathematics, Spanish language and communication, and reading comprehension.
Art and creativity workshops:
The children will develop their creativity, artistic skills, oral and physical expression, manual and computer skills.
Formation in human values:
Through activities, games, stories, drama and dialogue, the children and their mothers will be taught Christian values and how to live them, such as respect, friendship, solidarity and honesty.
Religious formation:
Through catechesis, prayer and other activities, Cruz Blanca Huaraz will help the children and their parents discover the importance of living with hope, fortitude and trust in God.
Many children have family situations such that in their daily lives they have to take on the responsibilities of adults, and thus are not able to simply enjoy being children. In addition, they miss out on activities that help them to develop at the appropriate rate. At Cruz Blanca Huaraz they will participate in sports and recreational games to stimulate their creativity and motor skills.
Health and Hygiene:
Through health campaigns, oral healthcare formation and education in hygiene norms, the children's health will be diagnosed and monitored. The MCR will also teach the mothers these basic norms and encourage them to have healthy habits in the home.
Skills workshops for women:
The MCR has identified the need of the local women to receive all-round education. Cruz Blanca Huaraz will give talks that will help them in their personal growth and in the work in the home as mothers. In the medium term they will offer skills workshops that will give the women the opportunity to learn a trade.
Formation for parents
In consultation with the parents of the children who already participate in the activities, the MCR has identified their need to receive additional formation, especially in human and Christian values. Cruz Blanca Huaraz will give talks and training sessions on matters of concern for them.
Ongoing formation of volunteers. Volunteers meet on a weekly basis to receive instruction related to the workshops being given. In addition they can share their experiences and settle any queries or doubts.

Once the project is established in its new location, Cruz Blanca Huaraz aims to benefit 500 children between 6 and 11 years old and 30 women on a weekly basis. Due to the nature of the problems being addressed, the MCR is aware that overall improvement will be slow and may take several years. The results will be measured on a child-by-child basis, monitoring improvement in literacy and mathematics as well as human skills and behaviour. It is expected that every child who participates regularly in the Cruz Blanca Huaraz activities will make personal improvement in these areas.
Cruz Blanca Huaraz will work with a team of approximately 50 volunteers trained by the MCR to serve the needs of this project. The local volunteers make a commitment of a minimum of 6 months to ensure stability. Overseas volunteers come for a minimum of one month, but often stay for longer.
Volunteers provide feedback on their experiences. Cruz Blanca Huaraz has already seen that this form of service is very enriching for them and gives them the opportunity to be able to give of themselves by helping people in need. For the time being, overseas volunteers are received through personal advertising and recommendations.

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