Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Name: Casa de Acogida Mantay

Location: San Jeronimo, Cusco (15 minutes bus ride from ProPeru office)

Directors: Raquel García Matías and Sergio Vásquez

Casa de Acogida Mantay is a non-profit organisation that shelters, orientates and teaches useful skills to teenage mothers from 12 to 18 years old. . It is estimated that around 25% of Peruvian mothers are under the age of 18. Many of these mothers might have otherwise abandoned their babies due to lack of support, or simply being overwhelmed and under prepared for the experience. The purpose of the home is to give the mothers another option, and to promote the human development of the mothers and children.

Raquel and Sergio, the owners and heart and soul of the organisation, try to teach the young mothers as much as possible about looking after their babies, and the realities of motherhood. They run workshops focussing on things like domestic violence, which can stem from a family being unprepared or resentful of their situation. Volunteers who have good Spanish communication skills, and experience in these areas will be able to run their own workshops, and assist Raquel and Sergio in the regular workshops.

Mantay has a small workshop where the mothers produce artisan products Such as purses, bags and bookmarks. The skills they learn in the workshop can help them to find work in the outside world, and the products created can be sold to raise a little money for the upkeep and running of the home.

ProPeru is currently involved in the building of a new, bigger and independent workshop in the grounds of the home. Semester program volunteers have been building the workshop from August 2006, and it is scheduled to be completed in May 2007. The completed workshop will be far bigger than the current one, allowing Mantay to greatly increase the amount of products they can produce, and therefore the income generated and women and children they can help.
The home has a Capacity of 18 mothers (with their babies) at the moment, however they have unused space due to lack of funds. The name Mantay comes from the Quechua word for mother.

Raquel and Sergio welcome the assistance and support of ProPeru volunteers. They are eager for volunteers to be involved in both the everyday tasks and chores around the home, and in interacting and supporting the mothers and children. Any knowledge or skills that volunteers have can be put to good use in the home. Some examples of this might be running a series of English or Yoga classes, or helping out in the workshop. They are also eager to have volunteers with some health or psychology experience to help them with the care of the children and mothers.

Volunteers with experience or interest in child care and early learning would be especially helpful to the home, as the nursery is one of the areas in which they need the most help.


Name: Lauren Sillery
Dates of Project Placement: June 6th – July 22nd, 2006

Please provide a brief description of what your organization does and what a typical day at the organization might look like:

Mantay provides a home for teenage mothers. A vast majority, if not all of these young women, became pregnant as a result of rape and sexual abuse. Mantay houses the mothers and children, teaches them how to care for their children (proper sanitation, feeding, etc.), teaches them marketable job skills (including artisan work), helps them find jobs, and provides them with psychological care. There are generally about thirteen mothers living in the house at once, with about eighteen children. A day includes sending the older children to school, caring for the younger children, cooking, cleaning, working in the artisan shop, school instruction for the mothers, psychological visitations, and group meetings.

Please provide a brief description of your role within the organization and a timeline of your activities there:

I worked primarily with the infants, whose ages ranged from a little over two years to as young as 3 weeks. I worked as a caregiver—I changed the babies’ diapers, bathed them when necessary, put them down to nap, fed them their snacks, and sang and played with them. I also talked to the mothers, as one of them was always working alongside me. (This was easier said than done, since they were all terribly shy.) I also made sure the mothers knew how to care for their kids—made them pay attention when the babies were crying, stressed the importance of sanitation and of washing hands, etc. My duties didn’t change all that much from the time I arrived to the time I left, although as more babies arrived while I was there, the work certainly got harder!

What was surprising to you at the start of your internship?

I was surprised at what I saw as very unsanitary conditions—wiping the infants with sponges instead of sanitary wipes, for example, or having them play on a floor that was pretty perpetually dirty, despite twice-daily cleanings. What I had to realize was that Mantay just didn’t have the monetary resources to match American standards of sanitation—it just wasn’t practical. I also had to realize that imperfect as the cleanliness was, it was much, much better than anything these babies would have received in their hometowns.

What initial frustrations, if any, were you presented with at your project?

I was frustrated, at first, with my inability to talk to the young mothers—we didn’t have all that much in common, or at least it appeared at first. Also, there were other communication problems (One girl was half deaf, for example, and many had very strong accents or had only learned Spanish a little while ago themselves!) I was also frustrated with what I was doing, at first—I felt like I should be doing something more active, more constructive, I guess. This was certainly resolved for me because I became aware of how important “aimless” job was. The kids really did need a lot of extra attention to develop better, and my presence freed up the mothers working with me to bond more strongly with the children. Talking with my counterparts helped, too. They provided me with some literature and some advice that gave me a bit more direction in the work.

What aspects of your project did you find particularly enjoyable?

The babies were great. I loved playing with them and smothering them with attention, and I liked seeing the effect that my games or songs had on them—how much more active or engaged they were. I liked getting to know the moms, too, even though it was difficult to talk with them at first. I also enjoyed the outside life of my project. Since it is such a home-like setting, I was invited to baptisms, birthday parties, all sorts of celebrations. They were really fun, and they were a great way to get to know the women I worked with and to learn more about the Peruvian lifestyle.