A New LAPA Link to Latin America
As you start reading this article, you might wonder what in the world it has to do with International Relief. Keep reading! I need to set the stage!
...I actually went on a date recently with my husband. We were walking off the incredibly good meal we had enjoyed and, on a quiet street in Little Italy in Baltimore, we passed a shop called Ahmad's Imports. When I looked in the door, I thought I saw wall hangings and woven purses from Peru. Seemed kind of strange since 1.) we were in Little Italy and 2.) Ahmad is not exactly a Spanish-sounding name! John actually agreed to go in (another strange thing - for John to agree to go into a store!) and, sure enough, there were ALL kinds of items from Peru - wooden boxes and carved wall hangings, scarves and capes of alpaca wool, beautiful jewelry, and other handicrafts - all for incredibly good prices! There were also other goods, mostly from Italy and some from other areas of the world. (See www.cosebelle.us)
We started talking with the owner, Ahmad, and I, of course, told him that we have a very handsome, smart, talented son from Peru. OK, maybe I didn't use all the adjectives, but we did pull out a picture! It turns out that Ahmad, who is originally from Iran, studied in Italy years ago, has several friends who became Italian priests who started an organization that sends Italian carpenters and woodworkers and other volunteers to Peru to teach a trade to the young men of the mountains. When the young men graduate, they not only have a trade, they also are given their own set of carpentry tools. They now have these trade schools in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil and they make beautiful furniture and do wonderful carvings of statues, altars, etc. Some of their handiwork was commissioned for a set of doors in a newly-built Catholic Church in Hickory, MD.
Ahmad gave me some booklets that showed samples of the intricately carved work. We chatted for quite some time about the work and some other projects run by the Italian priests who now live in Peru - weaving/sewing schools for young women (they are given their own sewing machines), orphanages, reforestation projects, special groups that work together to improve the communities and other agricultural centers. It is all so wonderful!!
I, in turn, told Ahmad about our organization and about the International Relief efforts. On a sweltering day in the last week of August, my whole family went back to the store to meet some of Ahmad's friends who were passing through Baltimore on their way from Italy to Peru and Ecuador. What timing! We were able to meet these generous people and give them 1/2 dozen boxes. Some of the items were donated by LAPA member Marlene Berg. I also was able to pack the boxes with lots of on-sale school items I'd recently purchased AND I performed a minor raid on my kids' closets! (All my other boxes that I've collected had been handed out to Mi Refugio travelers, to Airline Ambassadors, and to other individual travelers.) Hipolito, Peppo, and Diana were most grateful and promised to deliver the items to those who needed them the most. The next time Ahmad has some of the volunteers passing through, he promised to call and make "the LAPA Connection" again. By that time, I will have run another collection through my church/school and will probably have another 100 boxes of clothes, shoes, school supplies, toys, and medicines. If anyone has items they would like to donate, please contact me by clicking here, firstname.lastname@example.org
Retired Director, International Relief, LAPA-NCR