HOW THEY SEE THE GOLD RUSH / THE PUERTO MALDONADO PROJECT

Florida Baja, Puerto Maldonado, Madre De Dios, Peru, April 2014

Daniel Malka Madre De Dios Peru

River Madre De Dios,Peru, the shores of many rivers are destroyed by gold mining

Thanks to a collaboration with the NGO ANIA, we brought the How They See project to Florida Baja, a district of about 80 families located 50 km of Puerto Maldonado, on the Interoceanic Highway in Madre De Dios, Peru.

The project was run with the cooperation of the teacher, director of a primary school, harboring 22 children aged 6 to 13 years old, all in the same classroom.

The stories told by the children and families of Florida Baja gives us a cross-section of life in the area of Puerto Maldonado in the jungle of Peru.
They are a testimony of the severe multilevel issues caused by the rising price of gold and the ongoing illegal gold mining in Madre De Dios.

Of course, the lack of resources and struggle to meet basic living needs is a common denominator. Most families struggle to make ends meet.
I can not put in words my outrage at the social consequences, minors rights violations and environmental disaster brought about by the gold rush in this jungle of Peru.

Once again, I need to emphasize the importance of story telling education in populations at risk to give us a true cross section of the issues voiced so bluntly and so honestly by the children when they are given the opportunity and tools to do so in the safe environment we create for them.

The School

The Class

Main Issues Observed and/or Reported to Us
- Extreme poverty
- Child abuse
- Prostitution
- Sexual Abuse of minors (reported to authorities, to be discussed in a separate article)
- Lack of resources for proper education: computer, internet, books, sustained children rights education, social worker aid.
- Severe deforestation and mercury contamination of rivers, wildlife and vegetation by gold mining: 70,000 acres of jungle in 4 years.

11 year old with her 10 day old baby as a result of sexual abuse by step father

Results Achieved with 35 hours of classes and 8 days living in the community
- Complete program in verbal story telling, drawing and documentary photography
- discovery of new talent
- Group interaction and promoting self value
- Create a safe environment for the children to tell their stories
- Identification of serious social issues and immediate needs of the children
- Focus of classes on the environment and childrens rights
- Repair the school playground
- Supply the school with the tools and seeds for an orchard
- Involve families in the building of a model orchard to be replicated at home with the plants of the school orchard.
- Emphasize the importance of the orchards as a source of better nutrition, protecting the environment, and as a potential alternate source of income to working in mining.

The drawing class

Documenting The Orchard

The Swings are repaired, thank you Pietro

Parents and children preparing the orchard

Planting the seeds for vegetables

Objectives Remaining To Achieve

- Continue the Learn Create and Share Program
- Get a computer and internet connection for the children in order to share more work and communicate.
- leave at least 5 cameras with the school teacher for the children to continue their work.
- Build a small library in the school
- have a social worker visit at least once a month that can educate the children on their rights and encourage them to verbalize the issues.
- monitor the progress of the Orchard program.
- Set up an exhibition of the photos taken by the children.
- Create a fund to help single minor mothers victims of rape and sexual abuse.
- Educate girls on their rights and to break the cycle of abuse and reduce the risks of prostitution.

All the children of the world have the same right to be heard and achieve their dreams

My conclusions and thoughts:

In a paradise like setting in the jungle of Peru there are children full of hope, smiles, affection and dreams just like any other children all around the globe. They are materially very poor, no doubt, but their hearts are full of dreams and love.
Puerto Maldonado is a city decimated by strikes, delinquency, prostitution, direct consequence of the gold rush in Madre De Dios.
One can feel the hostility in the air. An anarchy like atmosphere. Illegal strikes, armed mining workers, violent demonstrations forcing stores and markets to shut down.
The illegal gold mining and the ever increasing price of gold is a disaster not only for the environment but also for the children and the population.
Single mothers of all ages seeking income as prostitutes. An infernal vicious circle that needs to be broken.
Schools with less than the bare minimum to be able to teach a basic education, with overwhelmed teachers having to play the role of director, mother, social worker, psychologist and environmentalist.

These children might not be war refugees, but in many ways they are. They are the forgotten victims and figures of resiliency of a different kind of war: the quest for gold at any cost.

It is incumbent on us, NGO’s, government, parents and human beings to brake the cycle of poverty and lack of education that brings about social chaos in a land where children’s dreams and lives are chattered.

A sustainable education program is a large part of the answer.
We have reached the hearts of families and given some hope to the children of Florida Baja.
Parents came running to build the school orchard, swings, and to thank us for being there.
The project and the results obtained in Florida Baja puts the emphasis on how valuable a Learn Create and Share education model is in not only educating the children and families but also in educating us by collecting anthropological and true data from the field, allowing us to identify directly the issues and needs, as opposed to relying on outdated statistic sheets. I say outdated because by the time these stats are collected and programs are developed, the picture and issues have changed or evolved.
In a country as diverse as Peru, lit is crucial to adapt a creative education program to each area and ethnic group according to their language, values, culture and specific needs. An at large program can not work.

Our Learn Create and Share education model has proven its efficiency in Ruka and now the jungle of Florida Baja.
Children learn, create and share their lives, issues and values in many forms of story telling.

In order for the program to continue and to reach our objectives, we need the help of everyone.
You can support our programs by sponsoring, or simply donating what you can by clicking on the DONATE button at the top right of the page.

Thank you.

Daniel Malka, Lima, Peru.

Many thanks to Joaquin Leguia from ANIA, Ysabel, Segundo, the children and parents of Florida Baja.
My gratitude goes to my childhood friend Pietro Micheletti for all his support and coming to share another chapter of my life.

© Copyright on all texts and photos, Daniel Malka, All Rights Reserved.