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Percy's House (Project Write-Up)print story
July 09, 2011
(This write-up can also be found on the PSF website, along with other past project write-ups.)
Percy's House...(to be continued)
It was May 8, 2011. It was also Mother's Day in the U.S., as well as Peru. It was also the day the original plans for “Percy’s House” were finally completed.
A general summary of Percy's House is that PSF decided to help build a brick house from the ground up for a deserving family of three, which includes a disabled child, after the local municipality approached PSF and said that they would donate all of the materials, provide transportation, lunch and a construction professional (maestro), and all PSF had to contribute was tools and labor. We broke ground on the project on September 30, 2010 with me and my fellow volunteer/project leader, Cecilia at the helm of the project. We dug trenches, poured the foundations, laid countless amounts of bricks, and bent numerous amounts of rebar. We were preparing to form up the support beams, and eventually lay the roof and attach some doors and windows, but after the local elections for mayor were done, the project was put on hold at the end of October, because the new municipality decided that they no longer had enough money to finish the project. The project was eventually restarted in April 2011 as a fully funded PSF project, thanks to donations raised in the “Miracles From Melbourne” fundraiser held in Australia by fellow volunteer, Will Smith. This time around the municipality only provided transportation and lunch.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Percy and his family, here's a little background on the family written on the initial application form:
Percy is a 13 y/o kid with one leg.
What the form doesn't mention is the fact that Percy's leg was amputated due to a blood disease he was born with. These conditions also mean that he has to be very careful of what he eats/drinks and generally does, because he is in a very fragile state still. The form also leaves out the tragic story of how the doctors amputated Percy's leg without letting him know what was going on and then left it to his mom, Gumercinda, to explain why he only has one leg. The main thing that is left out of the form is the part that says this project was mainly picked up by local politicians as a political sob story for the mayor during an election year. Whether it was a campaign ploy or not, it's hard to deny the fact that this family did, and still does, deserve better living conditions.
Here's what I've come to realize about this little family in the few months that I've been around them. Percy is a young boy, left home alone most days, when his mom is working and his sister is at school. He goes to school twice a week for a few hours in the afternoon. He spends some of his weekends away from home, due medical check-ups or other reasons. He kind of lacks the sensitivity gained from consistent social interaction, yet when he gets to know people he becomes filled with endless amounts of curiosity and energy. He tends to gravitate more towards the male volunteers, especially those that stick around long enough. He'll hop around to them and show them his toys or ask them millions of questions about what they're doing. At moments it can be annoying, but at the same time it's intriguing to see a young boy with so much enthusiasm despite facing so much adversity. The fact that he does show more interest in the male volunteers may or may not have to do with the fact that he doesn't know his own dad and he's never had a constant male figurehead in his life, but that's just my guess.
Percy's younger sister, Anghy, is also full of vast amounts of enthusiasm and curiosity. She's only 6-years-old, but it is already very apparent how aware and smart she is. She would come home from school every day and watch us work on the house. She loves asking questions and helping in any way she can, whether it be moving a piece of wood or sweeping the floor at the end of the day. We grew quite attached to each other, to the point where she didn't want us to leave at the end of the work day, and I didn't want to say good-bye to her either.
The house was donated and built, because of Percy, but the “unsung hero,” and the glue that holds this family together is Gumercinda, the single mother of Percy and Anghy. She had a rough past, and I don't think I can even begin to comprehend, nor do I think I will ever be strong enough to go through it myself. Her story is not my story to tell, but what I can say is that somehow she and her two young children ended up in a little shanty town near in Pisco with next to nothing. They have no electricity; they cook dinner in the dark on a small gas stove. They only have water at certain times of day; therefore they fill up big buckets at this time of day and use these buckets of water as their means of cleaning and washing water. They also have no proper bathroom, mainly because the community does not currently have any sewage, but they may in the future; their toilet consists of a hole in the ground. There are endless sand flies around, especially during the hot summers, and living in a chosita (a shack made out of woven bamboo, tarp and cardboard) can be cruel during the cold winter nights. I don't know how any person would be able to live in these conditions every day, especially with two young children, one of which has a disability, but Gumercinda does it. She sometimes struggles to find reliable work to make money, but she still finds a way to get by and feed her family, and still makes time to joke around with Anghy and be there for Percy. Due to language barriers I regret not being able to converse with her more, but one of the days that stuck out most to me had to do with something she said. It was the last week we had working there and she said that she wanted to cook a lunch for us to thank us for building her house, but it would have to take some time, because she didn't have enough money. This got to me, because I know that they struggle to get by as it is and a few weeks prior they couldn't even go to Lima for one of Percy's medical check-ups due to a lack of money, yet she was worried about feeding us some celebratory meal. It put some perspective on things for me.
I left PSF in mid-November of 2010, and the project was “on hold” at that time, and over the four months I was away, it became seemingly abandoned by the municipality. Before and then upon my return to PSF in mid-March of 2011, it was one of my missions to make sure this house was finished. I felt morally obligated to not let this family down, because I had a sense that they, especially Gumercinda, had been let down one too many times in the past. How can we expect to break the cycle of hurt, pain, and disappointment if we keep feeding into it, whether we mean to or not? As we came to the end of the project, I still feel like there is more to be done. For instance, making sure that Percy receives proper psychological, as well as medical, attention in the future. Handicap bathroom and shower anyone?
May 8, 2011 – Percy's House completed for now. Another family can now move out of their sparse chosita abode and move into a more secure, warm and spacious brick house; an amazing Mother's Day gift for one of the most resilient women/single mothers I have come across. (Also, we got that celebratory lunch thanks to Percy and one of his chickens)
A big thanks to every single person that was a part of this project, because without you guys none of this would be possible.