AMERICA/PERU - Growing up (and studying) in the Peruvian Amazon. The boys and girls of the “St. Clotilde Boarding School”

Wednesday, 1 March 2023 evangelization   education  

St. Clotilde (Agenzia Fides) - This year more than two hundred boys and girls will attend the “St. Clotilde Boarding School”: 114 girls and 98 boys. For ten months a year the boarding school becomes their home. They come from the rural and indigenous communities of the Napo, Curaray and Arabela river basins and are sons and daughters of 63 indigenous communities: Huitotos , Secoya, Maijunas, Murui, Quechua, Kichua, Arabela and Orejones, reports Sister Vianey Ambriz Núñez SJS, who is in charge of the economic-logistical part of the boarding school, to Fides. "They live permanently in the boarding school," explains the Sister, "because it is their only chance to attend primary and secondary school: some of them would have to travel the river for seven days to return to their villages. The closest ones would take five or six hours...".
The history of the boarding school is a story of volunteer missionary service that began in the 1950s when the Canadian sisters of the Congregation of Missionaries of Our Lady of the Angels found that the young indigenous girls who had come to town to attend school, had no accommodation. At that time, the Canadian sisters opened the first girls' boarding school. In 1994 the house passed into the hands of the Mexican Congregation of the Servants of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which still cares for it today and which, thanks to the support of the Apostolic Vicariate of San José de Amazonas, has also opened a Boarding School for boys.

Living in St. Clotilde, in the Peruvian Amazon forest on the Napo river, means having unpurified drinking water available for thirty minutes a day, electricity for five hours, using boats and canoes to get around, spending three days and two nights on the boat to reach the nearest town: The smaller speedboats may be called "rapid" but their travel time is still at least eight hours.
St. Clotildeis located in the Loreto region in the Apostolic Vicariate of San José de Amazonas, where the population consists mainly of indigenous groups living in precarious economic conditions. The only livelihoods in this part of the Amazon are farming, fishing and hunting. There are no factories or businesses and the level of education in the indigenous communities is very low. The teachers who work in these communities teach only about three months a year, and often the children and young people cannot read or do even the simplest math problems. Teachers often spend much of their time traveling and arriving in different locations teaching students of all ages.
"Children and parents come to 'St. Clotilde' with the hope that education will enable their families and communities to have a better future," said Sister Vianey Ambriz, "unfortunately, the families from which these boys and girls come do not only have limited economic resources, but also live in a precarious situation in terms of basic services. This region of the country is completely neglected, the poverty here is extreme and the children and young people are the ones who suffer".
The students of the
"St. Clotilde" boarding school attend the "Lucille Gagne Pellerin" public school, which guarantees an integral and continuous education. Participation in the cleaning of individual and common rooms, leisure and sports activities as well as project work are part of the school activities. The boys and girls also attend catechism and take part in missionary workshops for children and young people. (EG) (Agenzia Fides, 1/3/2023)