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Helping the new “Montagnes” of Fr. Champagnat



Marists promote the construction of schools in the outer suburbs

02/12/2019: Peru

In line with the call of the General Chapter to “be present among the children on the margins of the world”, the Group of Lay Marists of Champagnat in Peru is supporting around 30 kindergartens and informal projects of early education in the poorest areas of the city of Lima. The charism of the group, started more than 4 years ago, is to support those most in need through works of solidarity, seeking funds for building and equipping educational centres for children under 5 years old with no access to formal education.

The Group of Lay Marists of Champagnat in Peru is made up of Marist ex-students of St Joseph’s College in Huacho. Some of them belong to other groups such as “The Devotees of the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal”.

“Our Solidarity Project consists in helping the children in extreme poverty living on the edges of the city of Huacho and other locales such as the City of Primavera, Santamaria, Carqíin, Hualmay,Vegueta, and Barranca. In concrete terms, we help with the gift of teaching materials, furniture, second-hand clothes for the children and their parents, building materials, and assisting in the construction itself of their small class rooms”, said Mr. Arturo Bazalar Barrón, a member of the group.

This worthwhile Marist initiative of building education centres began at Christmas time 2014 when the Champagnat group visited a slum. “We took clothing and toys but the people told us, ‘we want a school for our small children’”, recalled Br Carlos Arrazubi who accompanies the Group of Lay Marists.

From then on, the Group set to work on various informal Programs of early education (Proneis), that is, programs of the Ministry of Education, developed for working with children, of 3 – 5 years of age, who live in marginal areas of the country and who do not have access to formal centres because of money or distance. As part of its Marist work, the Group, in collaboration with “Proneis”, provides concrete slabs and toilets, needed equipment, and, in some cases, physically helps in the construction.

How does a project of constructing small schools work? The government organises the curriculum and appoints a coordinator responsible for recruiting volunteers who, in addition to teaching the children, have to find a suitable place and provide teaching materials. This is where the Lay Marist Groups swings into action to “help the young ‘Montagnes’ of Fr Champagnat”, notes Arturo Barrón.

One of the last schools that the Lay Group helped the build was the pre-school “Rayito de Dulzura” in the Santa Maria district. The Marists participated directly in the construction alongside Father Canonio Colombo, curate of the City of Huacho. The building began in January 2016 and was made possible by the funds raised by Father Antonio who sought donations from Italian and German friends belonging to the Bad Mergentheim Community; the contributions of the Sodality of the devotees of the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal) and from a classroom collection at St Joseph’s College. 

“The Mission of the Lay Group is not just about material aid, but also spiritual, since we teach the little ones to pray, to know about Jesus Christ, and above all to love our Good Mother. Everywhere we have put something up, we leave an image of the Good Mother with its captivating charm, so that every day before classes begin, they can pray to her to look after them”, added Arturo.

The group began at an ex-students’ meeting at St Joseph’s College.  They were determined to keep alive the call of Father Champagnat and so decided “to do the work of the Gospel”.  Thus they launched this project, the activities of which are publicised on their Facebook page @laicosmaristasperu.

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