Having a good time in Peru
The caravan (top) arrives at "Friendship Park" in Surco city. At bottom: seniors receive special presents as they leave the party. Photos courtesy of July Carlin
Rotarians in Peru know how to throw a party.
For the past 25 years, the Rotary Club of Monterrico-Surco has been hosting what it calls an annual "happiness caravan" for low-income seniors in the Lima area, serving up food, music, and dancing as well as tending to the seniors' medical and personal needs.
"We are going to give you one happy day for 364 ordinary days," explains July Gereda de Carlin, a past president of the club and one of the event's organizers.
The event got its name in its early years, when club members used their cars to shuttle seniors on tours of the city and gatherings at a local park.
Later, for the comfort of the seniors, the club switched to buses and moved the event to a school gym.
The most recent event, held in September, was attended by 320 seniors. A well-known musical act performed, and a national champion dancer, the grandson of a Rotarian, demonstrated the traditional Peruvian marinera. The seniors also were treated to a "crazy hour," with Interactors and Rotaractors handing out balloons and Rotarians donning festive hats. The crowd celebrated like it was a "big Carnival party," Gereda de Carlin says.
"They feel they are again in their young times, when they went to the Carnival parties," she says. "Everyone wants to dance."
The lunch included rice with chicken, tuna sandwiches, desserts, and Inca Kola, a Peruvian soft drink, all prepared or donated by Rotarians and their relatives and friends. Dorit Gross, the wife of Past RI Director Gustavo Gross, obtained 75 donated cakes, a task she’s performed since the first happiness caravan.
In addition to the food and festivities, the seniors were given makeovers including haircuts and manicures, and Rotarian doctors and their colleagues provided medical care. Participants were sent home with gifts like scarves and personal care items.
Gereda de Carlin, District 4450 governor nominee, says she plans to encourage all the clubs in her district to do a similar project when she is governor.
"It’s a lot of work, but people are very grateful," she says. "You feel your heart is big."