The PATRIZIA School Sondoveni in Peru, which opened in 2014 with just three classrooms, has developed into an exemplary school in recent years. The second construction phase has now been completed. In March 2023, Kristian Bollmann and Diego Arzabe, from the PATRIZIA Foundation, travelled to Peru together with the project partners for the ceremonial opening.
Since the last project trip in 2019, a lot has happened at the school in the Peruvian rainforest: in addition to the construction of four more classrooms, a workshop area, a kitchen, sanitary facilities, and teacher accommodation have been built. There is now a sewage system and a drinking water filter in place too. As such, the school in Sondoveni is no longer just a place of learning, but a place to live comfortably alongside one another.
A shock at first sight
For the opening of the school extension in March 2023, Kristian Bollmann and Diego Arzabe, from the PATRIZIA Foundation’s Partner and Project Management departments, visited the school. A seven-member project team joined them: two representatives from the cooperation partner apoprojekt GmbH, a photographer, an artist from Lima, the local project coordinator Juan Pablo Soto Barrenechea from the architectural group IntuyLab in Lima, and the project sponsor Nikolaus Moser.
It was a Sunday when the group arrived at the PATRIZIA School Sondoveni and saw the educational institution for the very first time. At first, they were shocked: The school was neither tidy nor furnished and in part, rather dirty. A typical construction site. Their first impression: “The grand opening on Tuesday, in this state – it will never work!” But on Monday, things turned out differently. With the arrival of the first teachers, the big clean-up began together with the community. The group learned that the short notice period is completely normal in Peru. Here, the teachers arrive just before school starts. During the construction period, the classes had been held in an interim building in the village.
Slowly, the school began to fill with life – just in time for the first day of school after the holidays. Kristian says: “After the community had decorated the school elaborately, it was lovely to see how the teachers and the local population really took in the buildings.”
Emotional and unforgettable – the opening ceremony
The school’s grand opening ceremony was a special event, and many had travelled from far away to be there. The local authorities were represented too, and were visibly thrilled about the opening of this important school. The atmosphere was highly emotional, reflected in the opening speech. Many of those present struggled to suppress a tear or two of emotion. Thereafter, there was a packed program with many activities allowing people could get to know each other.
There were poetry recitals by students, speeches by visitors, gift-giving and a community lunch. Diego sums up the opening celebration as follows: “The festivities were unforgettable, and I could really feel how excited people were about the new school building.” One of the highlights was undoubtedly the work of artist Jade Rivera from Lima, who created a wall with a huge mural and explained it at the celebration. “It was fascinating to see how he meticulously worked brushstroke by brushstroke and presented the artwork just in time for the opening day,” the partner manager said.
Working together to ensure success
The project team proved that a joint commitment to a major goal makes extraordinary success possible. Obstacles such as price fluctuations, the Corona pandemic and a politically unstable situation also had to be overcome to turn a vision into a sustainable educational infrastructure.
The director of the elementary school, Norma Chuquillanqui, also played a major role in the successful opening. It was Chuquillanqui who had observed that the primary school children had no possibility in the area to continue their secondary education and consequently had to drop out of school. She had sought out local NGOs, who in turn contacted the PATRIZIA Foundation. From this initial contact, the network – with several partners – was born. These include the community in Alto Sondoveni, as well as the architectural group IntuyLab from Lima, which has supported the project from the beginning in terms of planning. The local NGO Semillas was responsible for the construction.
The cooperation with the local partners underlined the notion that long-term cooperation and good relationships are enormously important: “In modern development cooperation, it is crucial to actively involve the local community. Otherwise, there is a risk that they will see the new infrastructure as a “project of the Europeans” and not continue to maintain it or use it for other purposes,” explains Diego. This is also reflected in the wish of project sponsor Nikolaus Moser: “I would like the partners with whom we implemented the project to take responsibility for the school, maintain it and also develop it further. Of course, they can and should change things to make the school their own and use it as a basis for the future of their children.”
To complete the project structurally, some minor finishing work is still needed. “It was important for us and our cooperation partner apoprojekt to see the good results in person and to see what we have achieved after the challenges and temporary setbacks we have overcome together,” says Kristian. Diego concludes: “The project’s sustainability is of great concern to us and we will continue to take care to document, track and actively shape the progress and development of the school in the future. It was a moving moment when we made our way back home.” The trip will now be followed by a joint project conclusion in which the maintenance plan will be developed and a framework concept for the further development of the school over the next 25 years.
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