Education is the bedrock of the Friends of Chimbote mission; always has been, always will be. That’s why it’s so exciting to announce the grand opening of ACAF’s community learning center—Centro de Aprendizaje Comunitario. Sister Peggy, Jorge Villar, the ACAF board and staff, city officials and several community members were on hand for the dedication and christening of the building.

The 52,900 square-foot, two-story facility is the result of ACAF’s needs assessment study which revealed that this centralized location would better serve a larger population of students than several smaller tutoring labs located throughout the mission barrios.  An added benefit of this particular facility is the opportunity for future expansion with the renovation of another large room on the second floor. The learning center provides a quiet place to study, computer access, tutoring assistance and counseling services. It is available to students ages six to 18 and is already a hub of joyful activity that has exceeded the original enrollment expectations.

“I’m grateful to ACAF for providing us with this beautiful library. Our parents do not have enough money for us to have a library or computer at home; here we have new books, new computers and a teacher who can teach us new things,” says 17-year-old Ronald Bocanegra Tiburcio, who attends Eliazar Guzman Baron School.

Public schools in Chimbote operate somewhat differently from those in the U.S. The school year begins in March (their fall season) and ends in December. They also divide their school day between high school and elementary sessions. Grades one through six attend school from 7:45am until 12:45pm; grades seven through 12 attend from 1pm until 6:30pm. This allows for maximum use of a smaller facility and eliminates the need to serve lunch, which both add up to a significant cost savings for the government.

ACAF currently has 70 high school students registered for the morning session at the community learning center. They arrive any time after 9am to get help with homework, use the computers or just quietly study for exams. They return home for lunch and then attend school in the afternoon. As is the custom in Peru, there is a family siesta period following lunch so the afternoon grade school participants don’t arrive until around 3:30pm for their study time and tutoring.

ACAF has a great staff of tutors and social workers at the center who are all dedicated to the mission of transforming lives through education. Eduardo Salinas Eusebio, pictured below, is the morning session tutor; in the afternoon he teaches science at the high school. Although the students say he is tough and has high expectations of them, he is one of the most loved tutors and has a long history with the mission. Sister Peggy lived with his family for 27 years and he was instrumental in helping launch the very first tutoring libraries. He continues to be a champion for education at school, the learning center and in the parish barrios.

“The development of the community learning center was truly a community effort,” says Jorge. Students, parents, city officials and local businesses were involved in planning efforts and the project provided employment opportunities for a crew of eight men in our barrios to do the necessary construction, electrical and plumbing work. Many people volunteered their time to help us paint, decorate and arrange the sturdy furniture and computers that arrived on the container shipment this past November. Jorge adds, “There is great community pride and protectiveness of this valuable resource. Both the students and their parents are so grateful for the opportunity it provides.”

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