July 19, 2017 by jiejie768
I have touched on our work at Kids at the Crossroads a bit during various posts on this trip, and those who have explored some of our older posts may already have a good idea what the program is about as I wrote about it at length during our previous trip in 2012-2013. However, I wanted to revisit it for anyone who may be wondering. Also, please click here to donate to KATC. Just $5 will buy enough food to feed all the kids for a day.
The HistoryKids at the Crossroads is the brain child of my Aunt GeGe, who began coming to Ayacucho regularly somewhere around the turn of the century. My understanding is she had visited beforehand (as early as the late 1980s), but began taking regular trips to volunteer with CARE International around 2002. The more she saw of the city, which is located at around 9200-feet above sea level in the middle of the Andes mountains, the more time she wanted to spend here. As it was, her trips grew longer and longer, until around 2007, she decided to make a permanent move. So she gave notice at her job working for the state of Oregon, sold her Portland-area house and headed south for the long haul.
Upon arrival, she immediately set about putting together the foundation of what would become the program Meg and I encountered when we arrived 5 years ago. She started by focusing on the Carmen Alto neighborhood, which was home to some of the most impoverished families in the greater Ayacucho area (population is estimated at between 150,000-250,000). Additionally, Carmen Alto was the home of her good friend, Alejandro De La Cruz, in whose house the program (and GeGe) currently resides — The program has space on the bottom two floors, GeGe has a bedroom and kitchen on the second floor (where the two main academic classrooms are), and Alejandro and his family (wife, Hilda, daughter Yamilé, and son, Jasson) live. Each member of the family either currently works for the program, or has in the past. But I’m getting ahead of myself.In its earliest days KATC met outdoors at the mirador (viewpoint) atop of El Cerro Acuchimay (a really big hill … muy arriba es). GeGe’s first classes featured around a dozen students who would sit in a tiny outdoor amphitheater and get reading, math and homework support from this crazy gringa who had decided to move to town. Shortly thereafter, GeGe rented the bottom floor of Alejandro’s then 2-story home and hired her forst employee, Wilber, a local boy who was in high school and lent a bit of street credit (so to speak) to GeGe’s work. Over time, the program would grow to see around 120 kids and occupy a good portion of a three-plus story house — in addition to the two floors in the main house, the program also hosts classes in a detached mother-in-law apartment and large outdoor patio behind Alejandro’s house. Though in many ways the program has grown to unrecognizable heights since those early days — they now employee 3 certified teachers and 6 instructional assistants, plus GeGe — many things are the same. For example, Wilber still works here, having been promoted from managing attendance and watching over the play area to providing 1-to-1 remedial support for 1st and 2nd graders who are behind their peers. Additionally, the man who currently has Wilber’s previous responsibilities, Noe, was one of the dozen or so students in GeGe’s very first classes (along with Yamilé, Alejandro’s daughter, who currently works as an IA for KATC). Check in over the next few days for posts about the program’s current day-to-day operations, a bit about KATC extracurriculars (both locally in Ayacucho and on the surrounding mountain villages), and, finally, what exactly Meg and I are doing while we are here at the program. Also, please click here to donate to KATC. Just $5 will buy enough food to feed all the kids for a day.