One project here at the school that I'm just starting to think about how to help is La Tuna Cafeteria. I think it's pretty awesome, which is why I'm writing about it here. I often faced my students' reality during my year of service in Costa Rica, but felt helpless to make a difference. My students would arrive to class without eating supper, which to them was normal, as they were only provided 1 or 2 meals a day in the cafeteria through their room and board plan and didn't have enough extra cash to buy supper for themselves. My meager solution was to take my supper with me and share with them. But as you can imagine, 1 person's supper split 5 ways didn't make that big of a difference.
And here we have the same reality. Many students come from poor families who are unable to help them financially, earning less than a few dollars a day. And the work these students find is rarely even enough to cover their tuition. So for many, the choice becomes either chip away slowly at their mounting school bill or eat. Well here at Peruvian Union University they actually have a system in place for these students. There is a regularly functioning cafeteria on campus, but for those who are unable to cover the cost of $3 for a full meal there, La Tuna Cafeteria was opened which provides a complete lunch for $.75, including soup, salad, main course and fruit. Currently, it serves over 200 students a day and for many of these students this is the only meal they eat during the day, because it is the only one they can afford.
As you can imagine, the $.75 does not cover all the operating expenses of this program when considering food costs, labor, equipment and maintenance. They also depend heavily on donations. Which is why I'm excited to put in my simple efforts. Yes, I believe in seeking donations to build a church, buy updated lab equipment and to start the medical program here etc, but something like feeding students who are already working so hard to receive an education brings me back to why I first became interested in this kind of work. Because when it comes down to it, I feel like these are the ways we "teach a man to fish." And in this case, make sure he doesn't starve while he's learning. At least that's my two cents about it.
As always... I accept donations :)