Damon From Helping Hearts Council Shares his Peru School Opening Experience

I really do love food. I love eating, I love cooking, I love it all, but there’s more to it. The affect food has on a cultural level really intrigues me. My recent trip to Peru with Happy Hearts Fund only strengthened this previous fascination.

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I didn’t come to this realization eating at a 5 star restaurant. Instead I was sitting in a bakery, in Lima, with a group of Peruvian kids, all holding red balloons to welcome us into their community. There we stood on the third day of our excursion in and around the outskirts of Lima, already getting a taste and understanding of the impact myself and HHF were having on these children.

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The impact was far greater than I could ever imagined. I’ve been involved with HHF for almost 5 years, but this was the first time I got to see the reality of what it all meant. Actually… scratch that, this was the first time I got to truly feel what it’s all about.

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So, back to this bakery, I’m sitting there with this group of first through sixth graders, listening to their stories. Stories of growth and increased enrollment of students from around 1900 to 2400 since the bakery opened. Stories of academic excellence, some of the highest scores in all of Peru. It was more than hearing about the 30 students that have graduated and gone on to university, but hearing about those around them. See, I don’t speak Spanish, but I understood everything that was being said. The passion that these children had for baking and education was so real that it didn’t need translating. I realized that this was more than baking, more than school, more than food. It was their future, their families, their community, and their livelihood. Simple things – to see the smiles and feel the warmth that came from them when finding out that their favorite dish to make was pizza.

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It was moving to hear the teachers speak of the great pride they took in being invested in the long road of the student’s future, when not too long ago, there was no road. This is why food is so important. The bakery is more than a means to a better tomorrow. It’s a means for a better TODAY. The added bonus is that the students sell the baked goods and use that money towards their education and beyond.  They continue to bake and sell through university in order to support their families. One of those talented students was so generous that he used that money to buy a pair of glasses for his younger sister. This story was told by the boy’s mother as she smiled from ear to ear and shed a tears of joy. This is why food is so important.

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Lima has such a beautiful and amazing food culture that it’s no surprise that it’s fueled by this love and passion. No translator needed when you witness that. We are all different, extremes from one end to the other, but we are all creatures of passion and when that’s exposed, it’s a connection that speaks to all.

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