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

One Year

It’s hard to believe that we returned to Peru one year ago today – especially during this space time continuum of COVID-19 and endless months of quarantining at home.

Even though we returned to the same city and same apartment, this year has been very different from our first 8 years here. We returned to a new ministry partner with new roles and this time, with a 3 year old. Our monthly bus trips and flights from before have been replaced with weekly park explorations (pre-COVID of course).

Here are just a few photos from the past year.

Billy presenting on the effects of trauma to public school teachers with Will listening in the back

Driving through the Andes, stopping at 13,200 feet above sea level

Will’s first wedding

Visiting with our friend Carmen

Will accompanying us to a school assembly

Spending time (pre-COVID) with Jimmy & Anna

First swim in the Pacific Ocean 🐟

Visiting the girls at Hope House

Will’s first public bus ride

Spending time with Alex

Seeing friends from Nashville in Lima

Visiting the Girasoles home in Ica

Making new friends

Riding in a taxi, watching the streets of Ica through Will’s eyes

First day of school before it all went virtual

Virtual preschool includes lesson videos from Will’s teachers

Like everybody, this past year has been very different than we expected – ministry programs have been delayed or completely restructured for Zoom, Will’s first year of preschool changing from in-person to completely online and we’ve spent more time in Lima (and at home!) than we ever have before. Despite all of the uncertainty and change that has been 2020, we’re happy to be back in Lima and closer to friends that we still just see on FaceTime and Zoom for right now 🤦🏻‍♀️ 😕

Celebrating a friend’s birthday over Zoom

Billy leading a training over Zoom about mentoring

Both Billy and I are so thankful for the opportunity that you have given us to be part of this ministry here in Peru. Thank you for your generous support through prayer and donations. We would not be able to continue working here without your help.

We can’t wait to see what the next few years bring to the lives of the young adults we work with.

The best is yet to come.

– Kate & Billy

Day 170

And just like that another month has passed and we’ve completed another 31 days of quarantine.

Today we are starting our third month of “focused quarantine” and some regions of Peru are going back into “full quarantine” until September 30th. Since children 14 and under are still required to remain at home and are only allowed a 30-minute daily walk within 500 meters of their home for mental health, we’re pretty much under quarantine still since there is always somebody at home with Will.

Will is still enjoying logging into his daily Zoom preschool classes and excitedly asks what the day’s topic will be. He happily collects each day’s activities out of the printer each morning.

One day there were 7 activity sheets!

Sorting noodles by shape

On his morning Zoom call

Mini chef Will prepared homemade pizzas for lunch, just like his teacher showed him

Playing with a balloon during ‘gym’ (psychomotor education) class

Will and his 3 teachers, Miss Dani, Miss Nelly and Miss Mati

Sometime in April (when we didn’t realize we’d still be in quarantine some 20 weeks later!), we decided to start something with Will that we’re calling “Sábado Movie Picnic.” Every Saturday we watch a movie over a picnic lunch on the floor of our living room. Since the theme of 3-year old preschool this year seems to be the days of the week in English and Spanish, we frequently discuss what day it is during breakfast and how many more days it is until Saturday again. Since it has been so many weeks and we always watch a new movie, Will has seen quite a bit of the Disney and Pixar classics.

At the end of a Sábado Movie Picnic – we have to watch all the credits, per Will’s request.

Will popping in to say hello during a Zoom meeting.

Washing hands in the dark while the power was out.

Our friend, Carmen, met us in our neighborhood park to go on a socially distanced walk.

Will has been talking about Toy Story 4 non-stop and created his own Spoony (Forky’s friend) since we didn’t have a disposable spork.

New favorite activity is playing “having a meeting” at the desk with Billy’s headphones.

Billy has recently started leading weekly workshops on Monday evenings over Zoom for a local church in the district of Manchay. The workshops are designed to help prepare lay leaders in the church to come alongside and mentor families who are in vulnerable situations or who are currently in crisis.

Paths of Hope has also partnered with Health Bridges International in the development and implementation of a peer mentorship program for young adults who have graduated from a children’s home. One of the things we have noticed is that as young adults leave a children’s home, many times there still is a need for continued guidance. Billy has started working with one young man as the program is being put together, and training him to be the first peer mentor. Likewise with Health Bridges, we are still working on developing and implementing a staff training curriculum that is evidence based and rooted in best practices for the two children’s homes in their care. COVID-19 has both given us time to work on the development of these two projects, but has also slowed things down at the same time.

Billy spends a lot of his days looking at a screen like this. If the meeting coincides with afternoon quiet time, I get to join in.

Unfortunately COVID-19 numbers are still not looking good here in Peru. Despite a quick lockdown nationwide in mid-March, the country has not been able to get ahead of the spread of Coronavirus. We had multiple days in a row this month of our “highest daily positive number since mid-March.” As a country of approximately 30 million people (10% of the population of the United States), there were days where we were adding 8500 new cases. Peru now has the highest death rate to population in the world.

While we appreciate that the Peruvian government tried to follow internationally accepted protocols for responding to Coronavirus, it seems that protocol was designed for more developed countries. When we were asked to grocery shop for a week at a time, that was very hard for those without a refrigerator. This meant going to a market every couple days, and talking to and exchanging money with multiple shopkeepers. By staying at home, many people were not able to work or earn an income (not nearly as many telework options as in developed countries), so people were out in the streets doing manual labor, selling wherever and whatever they could, trying to provide for their family. Many households do not have running water and pay for water delivery by cistern trucks. If you have very limited access to water for cooking, drinking and cleaning, how much of that can you spare for hand washing? On top of all of this, the Peruvian health system was not great to begin with – let alone with a pandemic overfilling hospital beds and ICUs.

We are thankful that we are able to safely ‘shelter-in-place’. We have been able to modify our work to fit Zoom as best we can, we have a refrigerator and our apartment is connected to city water. But at the same time, we recognize that it’s a sad phenomenon – to be living only a few miles from where there is such harrowing scarcity and need, and yet, be physically removed from it.

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

Day 135

It’s day 135 of our COVID-19 quarantine and today is Peruvian Independence Day.

199 years ago, José de San Martín and his forces liberated Peru and proclaimed its independence from Spain on July 28, 1821.

During the last week, Will’s preschool class has been learning about the three regions of Peru (the coast, the mountains and the jungle) and how each region is geographically and culturally different from each other. The week culminated in a big Zoom call with all three 3-year-old teachers and the 12 students to celebrate Peru. Each student was asked to prepare a short video or live presentation of either a dance, poem or Peruvian dish/dessert. We chose a poem and found something within reason for our little 3 year old who is still just learning Spanish. Once we had the final recording, Will was so excited to be able to show it to his teacher Miss Dani the following day. He probably watched the video a dozen times and smiled each time.

The poem is an acrostic of PERU and roughly translates to the following:

P – We paint the nation with freedom,
E – As we fight with rifle and sword,
R – The reason for our only truth,
U – United, nothing is impossible!
Long live Peru!

(Miss Dani and the other teachers loved it).

Not much has changed since the end of June when the national quarantine was lifted for everybody between 14-65 years old and the country shifted towards a focused quarantine. Children and seniors were required to remain at home in compulsory social isolation (unless going on walks around their neighborhood). Since Will is just 3, that means he stays at home. This focused quarantine is supposed to end on July 31st but we’re unsure if that will be the case. Government officials have stated that we will not go back into a national quarantine but some regional and county officials have imposed quarantine on their districts. The daily numbers of positive tests aren’t going down yet and hospitals are filling up.

Billy and I continue to work primarily from home but Billy does go out occasionally for mentoring meetings or to take supplies to ministry partners.

Billy also has been participating in a 6-week training called “Advanced Trauma Competent Caregiving”, hosted by Trauma Free World and Back2Back Ministries. In 2015 both Billy and I participated in a 3-day Trauma Competent Caregiving training in Cincinnati, Ohio. It really was the first experience we had with working with children through the lens of trauma informed care. We had so many “aha” moments during the training that explained some of our experiences working with children who have come from hard places. It opened the door for doing more learning and research about the idea of trauma informed care and how we could share this information with the houseparents we were working with at the time. Since that training, Trauma Free World has continued to improve and refine their materials. Due to Coronavirus, the training that was going to be in-person ended up going virtual, making it possible for Billy to participate from Lima. This has been a good refresher of what we learned in 2015, and Billy is also working towards becoming an affiliate trainer of the Trauma Free World curriculum. We look forward to being able to share these materials with our partners and organizations here in Peru.

At the beginning of June we recorded a short video for the Global Mission Highlight during Ward Church service (Billy’s home church in Northville, Michigan). The video was recently shared during a Sunday morning livestream:

Because looking at pictures of Billy or I sitting at a desk working on a computer isn’t particularly interesting, here are some photos of Will having fun this past month.

We try to go for a walk, scooter or bike ride around the neighborhood every couple days, especially if it is a rare sunny day now that it’s winter. Will especially loves it when all three of us can go at the same time.

Playing with eggs, water and salt water for a preschool science experiment.

Will was in desperate need of a haircut since it was constantly falling in his face.

Thankfully we were able to book an in-home haircut for him!

Billy and Will on a Zoom call with Paths of Hope.

We appreciate your prayers as we continue working here in Peru. Pray that we are able to remain healthy and safe. Pray for the country of Peru. In the words of Will, pray that the virus goes away so we can go back to the playgrounds and that he can see his friends and teacher Miss Dani at school again soon.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

– Kate, Billy and Will