End of Summer & A New School Year

March in Lima means the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.

At the beginning of the month we were released out of the February quarantine but still retained a few minor restrictions – curfew remains from 9pm until 4am and on Sundays (at least in Lima) we are allowed to go out but not use our private car.

Less restrictions means we can go to the malecon to scoot

Will carrying his ALDI bag while grocery shopping

The 2021 school year started at the beginning of the month and Will is participating in his *second* year of virtual preschool. Unlike last year’s format of two or three daily videos prepared by the teachers and two 30-minute Zoom calls, this year he has four or five different classes (depending on the day) between 8am and 1pm. If you ask him about school he’d happily tell you that he’s “now in the Dragonfly class with Miss Angie since he’s a big boy” (…again with all the big boy talk!).

At the beginning of the year we found out that Billy was accepted into the May 2021 online TBRI practitioner training. He has recently started the 10-week independent study prior to the week-long intensive training over Zoom. He also received a scholarship that covers 80% of the training cost!

Will accompanying Billy for a few minutes during the asynchronous study for the TBRI training

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that trains caregivers to provide effective support and treatment for at-risk children. Developed at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, it uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. It has been used effectively with children and youth of all ages, all risk levels, and in many different environments including children’s homes, churches, foster and adoptive homes and schools.

Becoming a TBRI Practitioner will be instrumental in Paths of Hope’s ministries working with children’s homes and churches here in Peru. Using the principles of TBRI, we will be able to help the staff and mentors navigate working with children who have experienced trauma.

We are putting the finishing touches on the first couple modules of the training curriculum for children’s home staff we are developing with Health Bridges International. The curriculum for staff is rooted in best practices for working with children at the two children’s homes in Health Bridges’ care. The plan is to begin the virtual trainings during April and continue weekly as we progress through the material.

In March, Paths of Hope and Health Bridges brought on a staff person to work with us on the programs we are doing together in partnership. Jocabeth is somebody we know from our time at Scripture Union. While at SU, Jocabeth worked in the schools ministry. She then transitioned to working at a children’s home and has also worked within the government university scholarship program. She has had many years of experience in working with at-risk teens and young adults and we couldn’t be happier that she has joined our team.

At the beginning of the month we joined a small group for couples at our church, Camino de Vida. While everything is virtual right now, small groups are meeting over Zoom and since the internet has no borders anybody is able to join a small group – regardless if they live in Lima, South America or simply are Spanish speakers around the world. Hoping we could meet other couples/families in Lima in addition to participating in a small group, we signed up for a group called Matrimonio Sobre la Roca. At our first meeting we discovered that in our group of five couples there were only two that lived in Lima! All are here in Peru but in various parts of the country. Nevertheless, we have enjoyed getting to know the other couples in the group and learn from the curriculum.

When restrictions eased again at the beginning of the month, and right before Will started the new school year, we escaped Lima and headed south to Paracas for a few days of fresh air, sun, water and family time. And as a bonus, we added 44 hours to our #1000hoursoutside goal! After almost a full year of being at home in quarantine and having the beaches closed all summer, it was great to be able to spend so much time outside, in the pool and together.

A couple weeks ago it was announced that the entire country of Peru would go back into a mandatory quarantine from April 1-4 over Semana Santa. Semana Santa (specifically Thursday through Sunday of Holy Week) here is an immensely popular long weekend for traveling, visiting the beach or at minimum spending time with the extended family and friends since almost everybody has the holidays off. It’s the last hurrah as the summer winds down and the new school year begins. So for these 4 days we’re not allowed to leave our homes unless it is to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, and then it is just 1 person per family that is allowed to go.

Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to go outside we tried to fit in some extra ‘out of the house time’ around meetings and preschool. Last weekend we drove out to Cieneguilla to go for a hike along the Río Lurín and another evening we had a very impromptu picnic in the trunk of our car at the beach while we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. While these 4 days are different than how we would have liked to spend the weekend, we are deeply grateful for a safe home, for our health and for the ability to spend time as a family.

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

– Kate, Billy and Will

A Month at Home

February was a mildly quiet month in terms of moving around considering we were back in quarantine again for its 28 days. All non-essential shops were closed and the only places open to the public were pharmacies, grocery stores/bodegas/markets and banks – which were limited to 1 person per family at a time. We were unable to use our car and were only allowed outside for 1 hour per day for exercise/mental health.

Despite the restrictions, it was still a busy month with lots of events, meetings and activities.

Billy started the month as a guest on the El Multiplicador podcast-turned-cable TV show. Our friends, Scott and Julia, are working in Trujillo leading a business as missions ministry and invited Billy to be a part of the weekly broadcast and share what Paths of Hope is doing in Peru. The interview which is in Spanish can be seen here starting at minute 25.

Billy continues working towards becoming an affiliate trainer with Trauma Free World which will allow him to train others using their curriculum and model. This is part of the curriculum that Paths of Hope will use to train mentors here in Peru. He is currently in the middle of their 6-week Spanish training and compiling a growing list of technical vocabulary terms. The training is being presented in Mexico, but the participants come from all over Central and South America. Billy is attending along with five other Paths of Hope volunteers and ministry partners from a girls’ home in Lima. Our partners have shared that they are especially encouraged by this training since it has given them new perspectives and practical skills that they can begin to implement right away in their day to day ministry with the kids.

Since the pandemic began last year and the country went into quarantine in March 2020, our church in Lima, Camino de Vida, has been meeting virtually. Every Sunday the church livestreams 7 services across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. When the church went virtual, Willy (our friend who is a pastor at the church and who was Billy’s roommate right before we got married) asked us to join a volunteer team for the service he would be leading. Every week for almost a year now, we have been serving on the Instagram team for the 9am service. Part of the team interacts with viewers in the chat and Billy and I monitor the chat stream to write down any prayer requests and people that wish to be contacted. We also meet weekly as a team for a short message and prayer, and once a month for a social event over Zoom.

9am online service volunteer team

Billy and I have also been working with Perú Por Los Niños these last few months. PPLN is a group of volunteers who have a heart for Peruvian children and a vision for systemically working toward more family-based solutions for vulnerable children living outside of their parents’ care as opposed to larger institutions. I (Kate) have been helping share Spanish resources geared to people working with at-risk children on the PPLN Facebook page. Billy has had the opportunity to join the PPLN leadership committee as they begin to work together to better define roles and objectives as a network organizations with a shared vision.

Another month of Will crashing Zoom meetings

February also means celebrating a special birthday. Will turned 4 and reminded us every day that it was his birthday month. Assuming that we would still be in quarantine by the time his end-of-the-month birthday came around, we hedged our bets at the end of January and guilt-bought a ton of balloons, a large #4 balloon and a personal helium tank to at least make our house festive on his actual birthday since we would not be able to have the birthday picnic with friends as we had originally planned. Nevertheless, we had a great day together as a family playing in balloons that filled our living room, going for a scooter ride to a park where we had our own picnic and lots of virtual conversations with friends and family. Will loved the day and is quick to remind us that he is “no longer a little boy, he’s a big boy now”. I’m not sure if we’re ready to accept this yet, but I’ll compromise and call him my “big, little boy” for a little bit longer.

Helping mix ingredients for his birthday cake the day before

At the end of the month the government announced that starting in March they would be lifting the quarantine restrictions. Thankfully, more than one person from a family can go into a store at a time. As Will will tell you, “stores are open again for little boys!” With the new month, we’re also allowed to use our personal cars again which means a little more freedom in terms of which parks we can explore on our walks/scooter rides. We’re thankful for the park close to our apartment, but after being restricted to it for months now (collectively since March 2020), we welcome the opportunity to explore other areas of Lima!

Snacks at the “zigzag tree” in our park

New favorite activity is digging in the dirt

Making lemon juice for lemonade with real yellow lemons – a rare surprise!

Helping roll dough to make & decorate cookies for Valentine’s Day

Annual check up with Dr. Rivara who has been Will’s doctor since birth (6 months – 2.5 years – almost 4 years)

In March we will continue developing the two programs with Health Bridges International, Billy will begin a practitioner’s training with the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University (more on this next month) and Will starts school again! First day of virtual school is next week and he’ll be in the pre-kinder 4-year-old class at his school.

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

– Kate, Billy and Will

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!