(MNN) — School in Peru
is supposed to be free. In reality,
however, it is not.
"Many parents cannot end up paying the tuition and buy all the materials including their textbooks and then their
uniforms. So the parents can't afford to
put their children in school," missionary Billy Drum explained. "The kids that aren't on the streets are
helping their parents in the fields, or they're at home taking care of other
Billy and Laurie Drum, missionaries with The Mission
Society, plan to do something about this problem. On August 10, they hope to start a program to
integrate street kids into the school system. They are excited because the municipality, and especially the food
program director, is "100% behind" their idea.
"We're working with the municipality to find those kids, to
get them sponsored, and to actually support them in school by doing tutoring
and working with them," Laurie said. "Billy and I were both teachers in the United States. We want to be that support, be the homework
tutors…because most of these children have parents who are illiterate, and so
their parents can't help them do their homework."
Simply covering the children's educational expenses would
not solve their problems, because they're not ready to jump right back into school.
"We're not trying to take the job of the local school away,"
Laurie explained. "In fact we really
want to focus on getting the kids into the local school, but the issue is
they've been out of school for so long, that they're so far behind. The local school will take them if we sponsor
them and put them in. But then you've got the problem of the kids
failing because they're so far behind."
The missionaries will prepare the kids to re-enter the
regular school system through tutoring and other homework support. Not only that, the Drums also plan to let "[the kids] know that because of the love of Christ, we want the best for them,
and we want them to have an education," Laurie said.
Left on the streets, the kids can easily get into a lot of
trouble. The police are becoming "very
aware" of human trafficking problems, Laurie explained.
"Because of so many kids on the street, there is a crime situation. But they're also getting into other kinds of trouble," Laurie said. "They can make money through child
trafficking, through child prostitution, and it's a sad situation. So we want to get them out of that and into
the school situation."
In smaller communities, the simple lack of education is more
of a problem than crime or trafficking, Billy said. He talked to the director of the food program
in a very small municipality where the first program will be started; she told him that 500 children in the town
attended school, and 80 could not.
"In those areas, there's not an issue of crime; it's
more of an issue of the kids just not getting the education," Billy said.
Children can also fall victim to predators in other
"We have a friend who is a widow," Billy related. "And she had a problem with people wanting to
take her children and actually keep them in their home, essentially becoming slave labor. And that is a really big problem as well."
The Drums have been meeting with the municipality to work
out the specifics of costs, the number of kids, and the space needed. Now, they need to find people willing to
sponsor the kids. They estimate that about
$20 a month will cover staff salaries, school fees, school books and supplies,
The biggest obstacle to getting the program going, however,
will be finding people to help. "Volunteerism is not part of the culture here," Laurie explained. "So we're going to have to find people who
can see the benefit of volunteering, or we're going to have to come up with
money to pay people."
A couple of young Peruvian women are interested in
volunteering, and the Drums hope to find more such people. The municipality has found someone willing to
cook lunches for the children.
"That's really what we want to see happen — Peruvians
stepping up and supporting their brothers and sisters in Christ and working
with us to do the same thing," Laurie said. "If we had to leave the country tomorrow, we want to be able to
continue" the ministry, Billy explained.
The Drums would appreciate prayer for their ministry. "Pray for the government here to start
changing their policies and helping those kids actually get into school,
because it's a nationwide problem," Billy said.
Christians can also pray for wisdom for the development of
the program, Laurie said. "We're…trying
to figure out the best way to do it, so it's fair to those kids and it doesn't
build an issue of dependency with the family," she said.