Quarantine, Round 2

Just last week we shared about COVID restrictions being eased over the last few months (in Will’s words, “stores being open for little boys”), and today is day 1 of our new government-mandated quarantine.

Just a couple days after our last post (where we also shared about our 1000 Hours Outside challenge), Peruvian President, Francisco Sagasti, addressed the nation announcing that the government has established a 5-level scale and has divided the 24 regions into the various levels of risk/infection (extreme, very high, high, moderate, low). No region is in the low or moderate level; the remainder are split between the 3 highest levels, and the restrictions are more strict the higher the level. Lima is currently in the extreme level.

So starting at 12:01am this morning Lima and the other regions in the extreme risk level are under a full quarantine/lockdown for the next two weeks. All non-essential shops are closed and the only places open to the public will be pharmacies, grocery stores/bodegas/markets and banks. Department stores and those that have an online presence are allowed to sell through their website and make deliveries. Restaurants are closed for in-person dining but are open for takeaway and delivery. Only 1 person from each household is allowed to go grocery shopping at a time, and we are no longer allowed to use our personal cars. We are also only allowed outside for 1 hour per day for exercise/mental health and should remain home the remainder of the time.

Will riding his bike through our neighborhood park

Shortly after Christmas the government banned flights from Europe due to the new variant, and that restriction has been extended–now including South Africa and Brazil. Unlike the first time, the international border has remained open to other destinations as of right now.

We are experiencing a second wave of infections, and with the variants, it sounds like there will be more positive cases this time than we had a year ago during our first quarantine. Experts are predicting that we will not hit our peak until April. According to Johns Hopkins University, Peru has reported more than one million cases and about 40,000 deaths related to COVID-19.

Billy and I spent the last couple days getting ready to go back into quarantine by stocking up on some non-perishables and making coordinations with some of the young men we are working with. And, we made sure to take extra time outside with Will going to parks that will be too far to walk to and watching the sunset along the coast.

Watching the sunset from the cliffs in Miraflores

Walking along the terraces of Loma Amarilla

During one of our walks I was commenting to Billy how these last few days have felt very similar to the last few days of a trip to the US. We know our time is wrapping up before returning to Lima (or in this case, going into quarantine). Our everyday activities–especially the time we spend with friends and family–turn into sentimental events since we don’t know when we will be able to do it again. This quarantine is currently only mandated for two weeks, but we suspect that it will be much longer. We spent almost 5 months in quarantine the first time in 2020, extended each time in two week increments.

Feeding fish and ducks at the Parque de la Amistad

Thankfully we are going into this quarantine better prepared than the first time; when department stores were able to start delivering items in July 2020, we were able to purchase a desk to give Billy a dedicated work space in our bedroom and a small chest freezer for our pantry so we had to make less frequent trips to Makro, our Costco-like grocery store.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for most families here. The majority of Peruvians live off of each day’s earnings and if they are not working, they cannot provide for their family. Many small businesses took a hit during the first quarantine closure and were finally able to reopen. They will now have to close again.

It’s difficult knowing we have to go back into a lockdown and are losing some of the freedoms we recently got back, but we are thankful for our health and that we have a safe place to quarantine at home. Join us in praying for the country of Peru and that these measures taken will make a positive impact on the pandemic here.

– Kate, Billy and Will

Summer in Lima

It’s summer in Lima and the sun is shining!

December was a busy month between Will’s last 3 weeks of school for the year, Christmas events and different ministry events before the holidays. Some COVID restrictions (like children under 14 not being allowed in grocery stores or malls) were relaxed so Will was able to accompany us on errands and he was able to help us pass out some Christmas gifts to the young men we have been working with this past year.

Helping check things off the list – first time in a grocery store since March 2020!

Little reindeer helping distribute Christmas gifts

Excited to give Linda & Moises a little Christmas tree he made

Due to COVID and in an effort to reduce family gatherings, the government banned the use of private vehicles and instituted an earlier curfew for December 24-25. Instead of having friends over on the evening of the 24th like in previous years, we ended up having a quiet couple days at home making lots of food, watching Christmas movies, video calling family and enjoying time together. The first gift Will opened on Christmas morning was a Woody costume (from Toy Story) which he proceeded to wear the rest of the day and following days.

Since the beginning of the year, many of our days have included spending some time outside following Will on his bike or scooter around various parks in Lima. Sometimes we are accompanied by friends and occasionally Billy and I follow along on our own bike. On Sundays a handful of Lima streets are closed to vehicles allowing people to bike, scoot or run in the street. It has been fun to take advantage of those afternoons to not worry about car traffic and crossing streets. At the beginning of the year I read about the 1000 Hours Outside challenge – spend 1000 hours outside during 2021. Without having a backyard and playgrounds remaining closed I’m not certain we will make it to the full 1000 hours but we are doing our best to enjoy these summer days after spending so much time inside in quarantine over the past year.

Riding with friends, Jimmy and Anna

Riding down Av. Arequipa on a Sunday afternoon

Enjoying picnics in the park

Celebrating Kate’s birthday with friends with a socially distanced picnic

Went on a day trip to the mountains east of Lima to visit the little town of Antioquia

We also have continued developing the training curriculum for staff, rooted in best practices for working with children at the two children’s homes in Health Bridges’ care. Our hope is to begin meeting with the staff over Zoom in the next quarter. COVID-19 has both given us time to work on developing the training, but has also slowed things down and made us modify parts at the same time.

Billy continues to see therapy clients on Wednesday evenings and meets regularly outside with a few young men who are part of the pilot mentor program we are part of with Paths of Hope. Billy also is still working towards becoming an affiliate trainer with Trauma Free World, allowing him to train others using their curriculum and model. He will participate in their Spanish training next month and gain experience with discussing the material in Spanish. This is part of the curriculum that Paths of Hope will use to train mentors here in Peru.

Sometimes Will crashes our meetings and listens in

Like most of the world, Peru is still battling COVID and a couple of the variants have been discovered here. Our hospitals/ICU beds are filling up once again and it appears that people are becoming complacent and not being diligent to safe practices. We are back with modified restrictions (earlier curfew, no private vehicles on Sundays) until the end of January when the Ministry of Health will reevaluate cases and determine if we are in fact in a second wave or experiencing a rise in positive cases after the Christmas/New Year holiday.

As always we very much appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

Stay safe.

– Kate, Billy & Will

Merry Christmas

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Rejoice in the birth of our Lord –
for unto us a child is born
to bring peace and love
to all mankind!

The glorious Christ child was born in a manger on this night. Let us think humbly on him as we rejoice this Christmas.

We are deeply grateful for your prayers and support throughout this past year.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and blessings in 2021.

– Billy, Kate and Will

PS. If you missed it, please read our update letter from 2020 here!

A surprise visit from Miss Dani during the last week of school

Walking into his first day of school! (March 2020)

Last week was Will’s last day of 3 year old preschool!

It was bittersweet way back in March when we took him to his very first day of school. I wondered how it would go for him not knowing Spanish and his first time being away from family, and if he was really ready to start school (or, more like if I was ready!).

Little did I know that Will would only have 1 week of in-person classes before switching to Billy or me assisting with Zoom preschool at our kitchen table. While there were challenges with balancing school and work, I am thankful we were able to be a part of the start of Will’s academic career. It was fun to see him learning Spanish, and as the year went on, interacting with the other students and teachers.

Will also was fortunate to have wonderful teachers, specifically Miss Dani, his Spanish teacher. She truly made this year a joy and encouraged Will in their daily Zoom calls. I don’t think there has been a day since March that Miss Dani has not come up in conversation. She has set the bar high for future teachers.

So now it’s summer break, and next year we will have a pre-kindergartener!

Happy Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we are thankful for the blessings in our lives, for Will, and for our supporters and prayer warriors who have partnered with us over the years. We’re thankful for each one of you and for your prayers and support of our ministry in Peru.

From Peru, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

– Kate, Billy & Will

Day 252

It has been quite the week here in Peru. Frankly, it’s been a busy 10 weeks (!!) since our last update. Whoops.

Here’s a little about what we have been up to since mid-September:

– Will has continued amazing us with the Spanish he is learning during Zoom preschool. In October he was given an assignment to record a 3-5 minute video about what we can do to take care of our planet. After brainstorming some ideas, we spent about a week taking videos showing what we all can do to take care of Earth. Hope you enjoy this mini tour of our apartment and neighborhood!

– Billy has continued leading his Monday evening Zoom classes with a church in Manchay, which is on the outskirts of Lima. The group started by meeting weekly for an hour to discuss mentoring with the goal that some of the couples in the group would become mentors for families and teen mothers at an organization called Kids Alive. This project is a 3-way partnership between Paths of Hope (Billy), the church in Manchay (mentors) and Kids Alive (mentees). The weekly Zoom meetings with the mentors have now switched to every other week, because on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, Billy has started meeting with the Kids Alive mentees to get the program started. The mentors from the church have begun meeting with their mentees. 

Working together

First meeting with the Kids Alive participants

– Will and I ventured to the center of Lima to renew his Peruvian passport. His first passport had expired in March but due to the national quarantine, his renewal appointment was cancelled and we needed to reschedule. Going to the center of Lima (a whole 9 miles!) was the furthest Will has been away from home since mid-March and he was silent the whole car ride there and back as he stared out the window at everything that was “new to him”. 

Waiting outside the passport office

1st and 2nd passport

– Billy also started seeing some therapy clients this month. He currently is meeting weekly with a couple and a child-parent and using the skills that he learned at Wheaton and through his internship at Outreach Community Center. Seeing these clients helps him keep his knowledge active and is slowly chipping away at the hours needed for full licensure. 

– Peru is still battling COVID-19 but things are looking better. Daily infection rates are going down as the country is slowly opening up more and more. Restaurant and store capacities are slowly increasing, international travel to surrounding South American countries started in October and people for the most part are respecting social distancing and the mandatory mask wearing. Starting in October, we were no longer allowed to use our personal cars on Sundays. Sundays typically are family days so in an effort to quell multi-household family get-togethers, the government made it harder for people to get around. It did make for a very peaceful Lima without traffic and brought hundreds of people out to the streets on their bikes.

Building towers during quiet time

We’re that far into quarantine that the circus tent has come out

Helping mop the kitchen floor

New favorite hobby is playing DJ and selecting music on Spotify

Decorating for Halloween with some spider webs which according to Will of course had to go on the ceiling!

– At the beginning of November, Will’s dreams were fulfilled when we met his preschool teacher, Miss Dani, at a nearby park for the morning. It was the first time they saw each other face-to-face since his one week of in-person classes in March, and I don’t know who was happier! Will happily spent the morning showing Miss Dani around the park, feeding the animals and riding the train.

– We have previously mentioned that Billy participated in a Zoom training called Trauma Free World in August. Since then, he has been in touch with an organization called SOMOS in Guatemala who also participated in the training, and also runs a mentoring program with churches and children’s homes (similar to what we are doing with Paths of Hope). SOMOS recently participated in an online conference presented in Guatemala but was open to participants from all Central and South America. During the conference, SOMOS announced a mentor training and asked Billy to serve as the Peru point-of-contact for people that participated in the training that work/live in Peru. Since the training, Billy has received messages from a few people and organizations located here in Peru that are interested in mentoring.

Country point of contacts for the SOMOS training

One of the SOMOS trainings with participants from all over Central and South America.

– Between elections in the United States and political drama here in Peru, the first couple weeks of November were filled with political uncertainty. We could write a whole update about the political drama Peru has experienced in the past 5 (more like 20) years, but while this doesn’t interest everybody, here’s a quick crash course in the events of the past week.

If you are interested in a little more explanation, our friends Scott and Julia went into more detail in their recent update.

After an impeachment vote and trail, on the evening of Monday November 9th, Congress voted to remove president Martin Vizcarra from office over allegations of corruption from when he was a regional governor about 10 years ago. Of 128 members of Congress, 105 voted in favor, 19 against and 4 abstained.

Later that evening Vizcarra resigned without contesting the vote, and the following morning at 10am, Manuel Merino (the leader of Congress) was sworn in as the President of the Republic. Typically in the event of removing a president, the line of succession is Vice President 1, Vice President 2 and then leader of Congress. Since Vizcarra was originally VP 1 who took over the presidency when Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned amid corruption allegations and VP 2 resigned at some point and was never replaced, the next person in the line of succession was leader of Congress. Pretty immediately after Merino took power Peruvians took to the streets in protest of what Congress was doing and how they were doing it. Every night thousands of people would march towards the Plaza San Martin in the center of Lima. Unfortunately by Saturday night protests started to escalate and two young men were killed and now the people demanded Merino’s resignation. At noon the following day, Merino resigned the Presidency, just 6 days after he was sworn in. By Monday afternoon, Congress had elected a new leader, Francisco Sagasti – who was one of the 19 people who voted against removing Vizcarra.

– In terms of COVID restrictions, international flights have opened up to North and South American cities but more importantly, kids under 12 are now allowed to go further than 500 meters from their house! Kids still are not allowed inside restaurants, malls, grocery stores etc., but we’re now free to go further with Will and explore new parks and neighborhoods. Will still loves riding his scooter, and he recently traded his first bike to a larger one, thanks to a good deal from a departing expat family!

Flying a kite on the coast

Riding his scooter around Huaca Pucllana

Riding his bike with our friend Jimmy

As always we very much appreciate your prayers for us, our ministry and for the country and people of Peru.

Stay safe.

– Kate, Billy & Will