Our friend, Paul Eklund, has recently written a brief history to be used as an introduction to the ministry of Casa Hogar Torre Fuerte. As I stated in my previous post, Paul has been very involved with Torre Fuerte, but his recent health problems are forcing him to take a step back. Here’s what Paul has put together:
Background: Peru is a nation of approximately 24 million. Of these, 70,000 are orphans and a much higher total are ‘ninos en riesco’ (children at risk or ‘street children’). Peru has a developing economy with an insufficient tax base to generate sufficient revenue to care for these children. Many organizations (churches, Catholic homes, private NGOs) provide resources to supplement the shortfall.
Torre Fuerte is a home for children at risk, many of whom are orphaned (no biological parent). All are girls. Peruvian law requires children to exit an orphanage or care-institution at or before age 18. Peru has an administrative agency similar to ‘DSHS’ in Washington called MIMDES.
Torre Fuerte is located in Arequipa, the original capital of Peru (prior to Lima). Arequipa was founded in the 1500’s and is nicknamed: “The White City” because many of its ancient buildings are constructed of white-colored volcanic stone. The approximate altitude of Arequipa is 8,000 feet, as it sits at the base of the towering Andes mountains. A nearby volcano (“Misti”) is one of more than 60 peaks in Peru that exceed 20,000 feet. The population of Arequipa is about 1 million.
Torre Fuerte was founded over a period of time beginning around 2000 by Dario and Indira Quintana, who relocated from northern Peru (near Ecuador) to Arequipa (near Bolivia). The first child to arrive was a teenager (age 13) who police rescued from a relative who was ‘trafficking’ her in Peru. Shortly thereafter, three sisters arrived (ages 5, 7 and 11). All had been in an abusive environment. Others to arrive are children who had been abandoned at an early age (3 months on a street corner), children whose parents had died of AIDS and children who had no home because one parent killed the other (and the living parent was imprisoned, and later died in prison). One resident was raped at age 11, gave birth at 12, and she (now 16) and her daughter (now 4) both live there. Presently 39 girls reside at Torre Fuerte. Each has been either orphaned, abandoned, or resides there because her home was an unsafe, abusive nightmare. Each girl who resides at Torre Fuerte has arrived as a result of tragic consequences. To cope with a shortfall in funding from the USA, Lightshine and Dario have designed projects to provide income within Peru (a ‘mercado’).
History-Development: Dario and Indira Quintana moved to Arequipa from northern Peru in the 1990s. The development of Torre Fuerte (‘strong tower’ or … a ‘safe place’, in Spanish) came slowly. Initially they took children into their home (about 2003). Assisted by an American non-profit ministry, Dario and Indira received funding to purchase land and capital to build the various buildings and structures necessary to house dozens of girls (dorms, kitchen and eating area, play area, offices, etc). In 2005, an American foundation (Lightshine) commenced partial funding, targeted to provide education and health care. Lightshine’s director (Paul Eklund) also assisted the Peruvian founders (Dario and Indira) by arranging for teams of Americans to visit Torre Fuerte and assist with projects (construction) and child care. All children are required to have the approval of MIMDES (see above), written approval of a parent or guardian, or a court order to reside at Torre Fuerte. The government of Peru provides NO funding for the kids at TF.
Purpose/Vision/Mission of Torre Fuerte: The Americans and Peruvians who have developed Casa Hogar Torre Fuerte all agreed that the primary purpose of this girls’ home was to become a model facility, providing the physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and educational care and resources necessary for each child to realize her full potential and healing. In 2006, Lightshine arranged and funded a visit to Peru (and to Torre Fuerte) by Dr. Niels Rygaard, a Danish psychologist. Dr. Rygard is the author of a leading text on ‘Attachment Disorder’ and an expert on emotional and psychological issues germane to orphans. His observation was: “In 25 years as a university professor and psychologist providing treatment to orphans (and training to caregivers), I have not seen a better ‘home’ for children at risk than Torre Fuerte”. Dr. Rygaard has adopted two abandoned children. He presently works for the European Union.
Problem to Research/Analyze/Suggest Solutions:
From 2005 through 2009 two American foundations funded Torre Fuerte. In January 2010, one of the foundations dropped support, leaving Lightshine responsible to raise 100% of USA based funds for TF. Torre Fuerte has developed funding within Peru (a grocery store), producing $1,000/mo and jobs for the kids!
In January 2010, the director of Lightshine assumed primary responsibility for funding Torre Fuerte and for assisting the on-site director/founder (Dario). Lightshine has never provided a salary to its director and in July 2010 he commenced full-time work at a university, limiting his ability to fund-raise for Torre Fuerte. The minimum budget to provide the basic needs for the 39 children of Torre Fuerte is $7,000/ month. The months of July, November and December all require a minimum of $9,000, for an annual budget of $100,000. There are no cash reserves. In October 2010, the director of Lightshine developed significant health issues from the stress of working multiple jobs and continuing to bear primary responsibility for fundraising for Torre Fuerte. As a result, Lightshine will no longer serve as primary fundraiser for Torre Fuerte. Lightshine’s commitment will return to funding health care and education (including college).
Lightshine has searched for a replacement to assume primary funding for the girls at Torre Fuerte. Finding replacement funding and finding replacement assistance for Dario has been a challenge. In 2009-10 a couple from Chelan, Washington (Scott and Leslie Hargrove) made 3 trips to Peru to work with American teams visiting Torre Fuerte. They have made arrangements to move to Peru to assist Dario ‘on-site’ and to step into the shoes of Lightshine as primary fundraiser. Lightshine is an approved charity (a Washington non-profit, approved by the IRS under section 501(c) (3). Lightshine will remain available as a conduit for donations to care for the children. The Hargrove’s church in Chelan is also a resource for funding.
As primary fundraiser at this time, I feel I must make myself available to present and promote this ministry to any group who will have me. I’ve never before felt the weight of securing the funding to provide for so many kids. Will your church, civic organization, or other group consider a presentation? I know I have some readers from across the nation, but I will travel and do what is necessary to help the girls of Torre Fuerte. All I ask for is a slice of your time and chance to present Torre Fuerte to your group. Thanks for giving this some thought …