Guinea pig stew for me, please!

When we think of guinea pigs, we see the cute little pets with super soft fur. However, this is not the case in the rest of the world! In Peru, a guinea pig is not seen as a pet, but as a delicious meal. Eating guinea pigs is a very common thing. In fact, it is their national dish! That’s why we decided to surprise our Peruvian moms on Mother’s Day with a guinea pig (and flowers of course).

I can understand that your first reaction when reading the intro sounded a bit like this: “Huh? Guinea pig as a meal? EW!” Yet it is a very well known dish in Peru. Also in other Andean countries like Bolivia and Ecuador Cuy -as they call the guinea pig- has been eaten for years. Even before the Europeans invaded in the 16th century! The latter brought the animal to Europe with the function of a pet instead of a meal.

The guinea pig is served in prominent restaurants frequented by tourists, but also in small local restaurants for rich and poor people. Guinea Pig is also the highlight of many family parties. Usually, it is women who are at the helm of these things. They pass on their knowledge about the meal from generation to generation. It is a gem of Peruvian culture.

Mother's Day

Yet not all tourists like the dish. This is mainly due to the presentation of the guinea pig. The head and legs of the animal are often put on the plate so that the animal remains recognizable. Moreover, such a small animal is a lot of nibbling, but the Peruvians have no problem with that, they eat it very tasty with their hands.

Why are they so popular? Guinea pigs are very cheap, require little maintenance, and breed quickly. That is why we often see them in poor families. There, they usually just walk around in the kitchen or another room. They live off the leftover food so the families don’t have to look after the animal, which is very convenient for them.

To surprise the mothers of the children of Oye LENA, we brought them a guinea pig and a bunch of flowers for Mother’s Day. And how happy they were! It was a great pleasure for us to see how happy they were with this attention. However, what they do with the guinea pig is their own choice. Some will prepare a delicious plate with it, while others choose to keep it as a companion during the lockdown, which still applies in Curahuasi.

Mother's Day

Protection against the largest amount of UV radiation!

Global warming has serious consequences. We also notice this at our project: due to global warming, the region around Cuzco is receiving the largest amount of UV radiation. To guarantee the health of the children, we were therefore forced to find an efficient solution to this problem. Today, we can proudly say that we succeeded in our mission! Thanks to several generous sponsors, we have recently been able to realize the installation of an awning.

Due to its altitude and proximity to the equator, the Andes Mountains, in particular, are exposed to high levels of UV radiation. Although it was always thought that this was mainly the case in summer, climate scientists now claim the opposite. According to them, the planet reaches critical temperatures worldwide for most of the year.

The consequences of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation can be extreme. According to dermatological research, the risk of developing skin cancer doubles after just a few acute exposures, and repeated exposure can cause cataracts and permanent eye injuries. Although people in Curahuasi try to protect themselves by wearing long clothing, we still see many children with permanently affected skin from prolonged exposure to the sun. This particularly affects the cheeks and hands.

Considering the extreme risks in Curahuasi, Oye LENA wanted to install a large canvas tarpaulin above the playground, just like the local state schools did. That is why a while ago we appealed to sponsors who wanted to help us realize this project. And yes… we did it! It took a while, but now it’s finally here! After the lockdown, our children will be able to enjoy the shade on the playground and play outside carefree. We will continue to apply sunscreen to them every day and take care of the affected cheeks with good creams.

We are very grateful for all the help we have received.

Thank you Municipality of Wevelgem, Municipality of Nijlen, Municipality of Schilde, Fifty One Club Diamant Nijlen, Responsible Travel Peru, Wereld Missie Hulp and Sint-Jozefinstituut te Bokrijk.

Not two people in charge, but three!

If you have worked at Oye LENA as a volunteer or intern before, you will know that we always work with volunteers who stay at the project for a longer period and who receive room and board in exchange for more responsibilities. However, this has changed in January 2020! Now, we don’t have two people in charge, but three!

Before, we always made a distinction between the function of the coordinator of the volunteers and the coordinator of the toddlers. The first is mainly responsible for the reception and guidance of new volunteers and students. The coordinator of the toddlers mainly takes care of everything that has to do with the toddlers and the classes.

In practice, these tasks are really mixed up. There is also our permanent employee Sara Defoor, who joined our team in 2017. She became the person in charge of special education. She takes care of our children with disabilities, their lessons, and keeping their files up to date. But, as a permanent worker, she does much more than that, of course!

Everyone works closely together and in cooperation with Stefanie, they make sure that the project runs well. However, because everyone’s tasks grew bigger and bigger every year, we decided to ‘hire’ an extra volunteer from January 2020. From now on, this person will combine two jobs: on one hand, he or she will work as a physiotherapist, and on the other hand, he or she will help with the coordination of homework support for primary school children.

Lien Dejaegere was the first who took up the challenge and performed this task. Unfortunately, due to the compulsory repatriation to Belgium, she was only able to do this for three months. Fortunately, we already have three new people in charge who will start this summer: An-Sofie Van Leemput, Peter Gansbeke, and Kato Doms… Hopefully, the Coronavirus doesn’t screw things up! We keep our fingers crossed.

Because we are so grateful to all those volunteers who have been at Oye LENA, we would like to take this opportunity to put them in the spotlight and thank them again for their commitment.

Without you, Oye LENA would not be possible! Thank you so much!

Hanne Delfosse (2013)
Mieke Bierkens (2013-2014)
Shana Berrevoets (2014)
Kim Dierickx (2014)
Kim Welman (2014-2015)
Milena Vleminckx-Huybens (2014)
Raquel Rodriguez (2015)
Katleen Loos, Roel Verhaert, Wine en Tonke (2015-2016)
Emma Schneider en Alessio Vecchiato
Liesbet Van Valckenborgh
Lydwin Bulckens
Lisa Vermeulen (2018-2019)
Hannah Bauer (2018-2019)
Sofie Verrijkt (2018-2019)
Laurien Demaerschalk (2019)
Sofie Cumps, Kim Van Roey, Roos en Nand

Alicia Duran Miñana(2020)
Lien Dejaegere (2020)

Tess Metdenancxt & Joris Silverans (2020)
Sara Defoor (2017-heden)

How does the Peruvian government protect its people?

As we could read in several news headlines, each country is taking its own measures against the coronavirus. For example, we see that in some countries the shops are gradually opening again, while in other countries it is still severely punished when you leave home without a valid reason. The president of Peru is doing everything he can to protect his people against COVID-19, the virus that has already claimed many victims.

According to Worldometers, today -Sunday 26/04- the number of infected people in Peru is 25,331, of which 16,834 are still active. In the meantime, 700 people have died. Because this is a deplorable high figure, the government is doing everything they can to avoid any increase.

In Peru, social isolation is still the norm. The population is only allowed to leave their house to buy groceries and medicines, to go to the bank or to go to the doctor. Also a walk with your dog is allowed. An exception is also made for adults or children with autism. They are also allowed to leave their house for a short walk.

Furthermore, there is a curfew from 18 hours to 4 hours, where everyone has to stay inside. Also on Sundays, there are no exceptions and it is strictly forbidden to go outside (although we see that this is not always and everywhere respected). People who do not abide by the rules by, for example, not wearing a mouth mask or not keeping to the 1.5 meter distance, will be fined from now on.

International borders will also remain closed. This means that there will be no flights and the repatriation of tourists will also be suspended for the time being. Fortunately, more than 23,400 foreign tourists have already been returned home.

For the domestic Peruvian population, the governement is still searching for ways to get them back home. For this purpose, there are several priority rules: priority is given to older people, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, people receiving medical treatment and economically vulnerable people.

A transport company is appointed to move people from point A to point B with buses that are only half full. A thorough health check is also carried out and people are only allowed on board if they have a certificate of good health. If a person tests positive for COVID-19, the person in question is not allowed to travel and is immediately placed in quarantine.

The government in Peru is doing its utmost to assist its population as much as possible in these difficult times. For example, economically vulnerable families will receive a bonus of 380 soles (+- 100 euros) from the government during the state of emergency of COVID-19. Besides, independent workers – subject to a list of conditions – may also receive a bonus of 760 soles. This was implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Employment Promotion in Peru.

Also, food parcels are distributed in several municipalities to those who are not entitled to the government’s bonuses. The police in Curahuasi will also try to hand out some baskets of food in the coming weeks. We are very happy about this because it turns out that many people are falling outside the requirements for a bonus. Some mothers of our children at Oye Lena will not receive the bonusses of the governement. Fortunately, the solidarity in Curahuasi is great and we also saw some other individuals handing out packages!

President Martín Vizcarra is doing everything to inform the Peruvian people sufficiently about the situation. He holds a daily conference in which he speaks to the people and gives updates. In the meantime, the emergency situation has been extended until May 10th, after which it will be examined to what extent it is possible to gradually restart activities and get out of this state of emergency.

3 things you can do to fight boredom

Although some people can spend their days in their sunny garden, others find it more difficult to keep themselves meaningful. But that will change now! With these three tips, you won’t get bored during the lockdown!

1.           Plan your next trip

Unfortunately, we are not yet allowed to leave our room and travel to other countries. But we can already have some imagination, can’t we? A city trip within Europe, an adventurous trip through the mountains or a super nice tour through Peru?

After all, it’s important that, after the lockdown, we give the economy a boost. Especially now that many countries have missed their main source of income from tourism for a long time. They would love to see you come! So it certainly can’t hurt to already get inspired and start planning the next trip, right?

2.           Online shopping is always a good idea

For thé perfect holiday, you also need a comfortable walking shoe, a super trendy bikini, and a nice dress. Now that the shops are closed, we can’t help but let our shopping behavior take place digitally.

And what could be better than online shopping? Online shopping and supporting Oye LENA! You’re probably thinking “huh, what?”, but yes you can! It’s very simple!

Through the Trooper website, you can go to the Trooper page of Oye LENA. Or you can just click on this link:

On this page, there are links to all participating webshops. If you surf to the webshop via those links on the Trooper page of Oye LENA, the shop will know which association you want to support. The link does the work, and you can just shop, without spending €1 extra! Of every purchase you make, a percentage goes to Oye LENA. Isn’t that great?

3.           Visit a museum or exhibition (digital of course!)

You know it or you don’t, but the internet offers us a lot of possibilities these days. You can now walk through museums on your computer screen! It then seems as if you are walking through all the art galleries yourself.

On, you can follow virtual tours through more than 100 different museums. In total there are about 2,000 cultural institutions – spread over 80 countries – to be found on the platform. Besides walking through exhibitions, you can also swim through coral reefs, clamber through caves and climb between an ice rift. But that’s not all. You can also wander through Peru’s famous world heritage: the Machu Picchu. What are we waiting for?

With every food package, another family is saved!

Barely three weeks after we started the fundraising campaign for food parcels, we can proudly say that we have been able to provide all 84 children with two parcels. The parcels were adapted to the number of children per family and in order to guarantee sufficient variation in the parcels, we worked out a schedule until the beginning of May.

Gratitude. That is a word that should not be missing here. We are very grateful to everyone who donated! Thanks to you we can provide our warm families with enough food and together we can do our part and endure these difficult times.

Besides food, we also provide other important basic necessities, such as nappies, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and detergent. We always try to add something nice for the children as well. This is not self-evident because shops with stationery and toys are closed. But, fortunately for us, every now and then one opens secretly and we still have a lot of stuff on the project as well. The children already received crayons, coloring pages, plasticine and the biggest ones also work sheets. This way they can keep themselves busy during the lockdown.

In the coming weeks we will make some materials of our own such as the board game ‘snake board’ and we will put together packages to make something nice with free material such as papier-mâché with water, flour and newspaper.

So Sara, Brandon and Cristhel have their hands full!

Although we hope that the situation will have recovered after this month, we are aware that the chances are small that everything will be back to normal. That’s why you can still donate because every penny still makes a difference! This way we can provide the families with supplies for as long as necessary.

If you are interested in helping, you can always deposit your contribution to the account number of Oye LENA with the reference: food packages/pampers.

BE28 0688 9753 0620

Thank you so much!

Back on Belgian soil after 60 hours!

This morning our students and volunteers, who could be repatriated from Peru, arrived well in Brussels. After a trip of more than 60 hours they finally put their feet back on Belgian soil. An adventure they say they will not soon forget.

Tuesday morning, our students and volunteers heard the news that their repatriation flight from Peru to Belgium would leave on Saturday and that they already had to take a bus to Lima on Thursday. Suddenly everything had to go very fast: the last works on the project were finished, classes were cleaned and the necessary preparations were made for their trip.

On Thursday morning, the group first had to go to the local hospital to receive a certificate of good health. This was mandatory to be allowed on the bus. In the afternoon they were picked up and started a 20 hour bus ride to Lima. On the way they were occasionally stopped by the police for a health check, but otherwise everything went smoothly.

Friday afternoon they arrived in Lima at their hotel where they stayed for one night. Meals were delivered to their door and also in the morning a food package was provided. At 5 o’clock they had to be ready to take the bus to the military base. On the way there was a stop to sign a document in which everyone declares that they will pay the 500 Euro for the flight when they get home. In total there were six busses, with more than 250 Belgians and some Dutch and Spaniards.

Upon arrival at the military base, they were met by several soldiers and had to take their luggage in large tents. Several dogs sniffed past their suitcases and then their passports were checked as well. Then they had to get back on the bus that dropped them off at the foot of the plane of ‘Air Belgium’. The last phase of their trip could begin.

No seats were allocated on board, but by means of a push-through system everyone took their seats. This all went quite smoothly. Also during the flight of 12 hours they were well served and got enough water and food. The aircraft was regularly disinfected with a spray that was sprayed into the air.

Around half past 8 Belgian time, the group arrived in Brussels and all that was left for them to do was say goodbye. But, with a distance of 2 meters between them, this was not easy. After a few sweet words and the presentation of the farewell pictures of the project, everyone went his own way, ready for two weeks of quarantine.

Oye LENA thanks all his volunteers for their time at the project and regrets that some of them volunteered for a short period of time.

A lot of courage for the next two weeks and hope to see you again soon!

Teamwork during lockdown in Peru!

The situation in Peru and around the world changes every day. The measures are tightened up again and again to guarantee the safety of the population, which is of course a pitiful but good thing. What consequences this has for our volunteers and students, you can read here!

At this moment, there is a lockdown in which no one is allowed to leave his or her house. Need some groceries? That may only happen between 6 am and 8 am. And also in the evening, a loud alarm sounds to warn people that they have to go inside. It’s like we’re suddenly playing in a movie.

So the lockdown also means that our volunteers and students have to stay at the project. However, this is not a disaster, because this way they can perfectly dedicate themselves to refurbishing the project. The orange and white class have already been given a new layer of paint, all outside walls have been thoroughly polished and a new playhouse is in the making.

Picture of two students painting the playground

Also the borders are still closed. This means that our students, who were called back by their schools, cannot yet return to Belgium. However, they are well informed on a daily basis about the state of affairs by the embassy. They are currently looking for a solution to bring all Belgians who are stuck in Peru back to Belgium. They will probably do this with government flights departing from the air base in Lima. So for the students of Oye LENA it’s just a matter of time and patience for more news about a possible repatriation from Cuzco.

The local public health department is closely monitoring everything. They go all over the village of Curahuasi to check everyone and collect data. They give a phone number that everyone can call when he or she feels symptoms and this way they can come to help immediately. We found this very clever and reassuring! This way we can keep the number of victims in Curahuasi at zero.

As you can read, everything goes pretty smoothly. We use our time to do other things and keep a close eye on the measures we take. For our students it is just a matter of waiting and enjoying the time they can still spend here.

Life under quarantine: a time of rest, boredom and a little bit of loneliness

You know or you don’t know it yet, but a few days ago the President of Peru decided to quarantine all people arriving from Europe to the country for a period of two weeks. This happened with two of our volunteers, a couple from Antwerp who is about to do a four-month internship at Oye LENA. They now stay for two weeks in “home isolation” in the Bed & Breakfast of Casa LENA, without any social contact. They told us how this works with this interesting testimony.

“I have to admit that I initially considered the home insulation situation as a favor and not as a negative thing. Let’s be honest, two weeks in a beautiful room with its own kitchen, bathroom, and a great view. For that, people would put themselves in isolation almost voluntarily!”

Still, it turned out not to be all rosy for the couple. Soon boredom struck. “In Belgium, we are always busy. So it takes some getting used to this special way of life. We try to use our time here in a useful way by continuing to work on our internship and school assignments, but this is not always evident. The combination of rapid distraction and a shortage of mobile data does not make it easy for us.”

The couple also tries to keep themselves busy “offline”, for example by reading a book, cooking extensively or playing a board game. “Yes, real nostalgia! We could really enjoy this in the first few days. It was as if we didn’t notice the whole chaos in the world. We really were in an oasis of peace. A digital detox. But yes, in the meantime it all starts to get a bit boring …”

So boredom strikes. And the two also notice this in their eating habits. “It seems like we’re hungry every minute of the day! A real occupational therapy, I fear.” That is not always fun for them, because of course, they cannot go to the store themselves. “We have to ask the other volunteers every time if they can bring something from the village for us. I think that dependence is one of the worst things about the whole quarantine event, ” they laugh.

The local community is literally scared of us.

But besides boredom and hunger, there is a third factor that comes up in quarantined living: loneliness! For a couple who attach great importance to social contact, the seclusion is a lot to take in. They admit that they can feel lonely from time to time, especially when they see the others having a nice dinner together or going to the market. “Okay, we have each other and we are very happy about that! Nevertheless, it always pleases us when we see a face, even if it is with a two-meter distance or with a window in between! ”

They also have a hard time with the looks they get from others. “The locals here are literally afraid of us. Even though we are not even sick. But we can’t blame them. Health care here is a lot lower compared to Belgium. An outbreak of the virus here would, therefore, be 10 times worse. ” Therefore they take the safe side and do what is expected of them: stay indoors for 14 days until they are sure they are not infected.

However, the couple remains very positive about the situation. They are almost halfway. “We are going to try to make the best of it and enjoy the peace and the beautiful view we have here. Obviously, this will not ruin our entire experience. It is part of our adventure. We are here in a beautiful country and can’t wait to discover it! ”