Lima Peru is one of my favorite international cities. Yes, it’s large and congested, but the atmosphere is relaxed, people are friendly, the food is amazing and there is loads of culture around every corner.
But of course, like most of Latin America, there is also crippling poverty. To me at least, poverty is especially heartbreaking when it impacts children.
However, in all my travels, even in brutally poor areas, I’ve found that the youngest children do seem outwardly happy, even in what we in the developed world consider mind-numbing poverty.
They are born incredibly resilient and their needs are pretty simple. Something as simple as a bag on a string or a discarded roller blade, can serve as a distraction.
But as they get older, the temptations in poor areas are intense as the reality of their situation begins to dawn.
There are estimated 120 million children living on the streets around the world with almost half estimated to be living in South America.
Young boys (typically ages 5-17) in particular are drawn to gangs, violence and drugs. Many, for whatever reason, either run away or are abandoned by their parents and become street children, forced to try to get along with their peers on the harsh streets of Lima Peru. They are young, vulnerable to abuse and scared.
Many of Lima’s street children live along the Rimac River. In 1999 a young French student traveler got to know some of these children and decided to do something about their situation. He created the Ninos Del Rio (Children of the River) organization in 2000.
Today, years later this Paris & Lima based non-profit association continues to works with street children, establishing trust, providing food, shelter and mental counseling and when the time is right, promoting their return to their own home or reintegration into another home.
They also work with the children currently on the streets in the district of San Juan de Miraflores, and help provide these kids an afternoon or so of diversion, where the kids can be kids.
We were able to stop by and meet some of the kids at the shelter, local staff and (mostly) French volunteers during our final day filming in Lima. I’m used to seeing young children in various situations in my travels, but I was surprised at moved I was by meeting these adolescent, teen boys.
Despite their harsh situation and past, I could literally feel their need for love. It was a similar feeling I’d had when visiting the really young Restavek (Child Slaves) at Freedom House in Haiti.
Kids need food, shelter, medical care, structure, discipline…. yes, but mostly they need love. Without it, their future is bleak. With it, their lives can completely change to a future capable of anything.
Ninos del Rio is a non-profit so they rely on donations and volunteers.
If you’d like to volunteer or donate please visit HERE. (Their web site is in Spanish but Google Translate can translate to English for you).
I’ve seen first hand the good work the folks at Ninos Del Rio are doing. I can tell you that I don’t think you’ll regret helping.
I know I don’t regret visiting, and I hope I can come back soon and spend more time with these brave kids and the big hearted staff and volunteers.
Look for our “Give Back” segment on Ninos Del Rio coming up in our Lovable Lima episode set to premiere in the USA in May 2017.
A little update from our DIY Voluntourism segment in Peru.
For those of you who so generously donated to our fundraiser for school supplies for the elementary school 1.5 hours outside of Pisco, Peru, yesterday was a big day when the supplies were delivered.
Most of the kids were off on summer vacation, but some came in anyway along with some very dedicated teachers to get their gifts. Each and every student will begin school next month with pens, pencils, paper and other basic school supplies thanks to you.
This special “Give Back” segment will be part of Raw Travel – “Peru’s Southern Coast” episode which is going to kick off our 5th Season (Yep, can’t believe it either) 9/30/17.
In the meantime, enjoy the photos and if you weren’t able to donate, don’t worry, your support and encouragement helps us keep doing what we’re doing, so feel good about yourself, you deserve it!
And besides, you’ll get another chance to make a difference, I promise.
Big Mil Gracias to Sascha Rossaint who took these photos and to his wife and her friends, who coordinated this effort. Giving Back is not as easy as it sounds sometimes, but I think the smiles on these faces are worth it don’t you?
Visit HERE for more photos and how you can help these kids.
First time filming in Houston, Texas and what an AMAZING experience. Visiting Houston is like visiting several destinations in one swoop.
Like the state where it resides, Texas, Houston is BIG. Massive actually. It’s literally the size of a small state.
But what many may not know is that it’s also very diverse.
We ate a scrumptious Viet-Cajun feast, got outfitted in a custom cowboy hat & boots, participated in a ancient Chinese calligraphy and a tea ceremony in Chinatown and I learned to dance to Zydeco music with the “Queen of Zydeco” at a cajun honky tonk all while taking in some of the quirkiest art scenes I’ve ever experienced and eating some of the most amazing internationally influenced cuisine I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.
It was unusually cold (my lips are still chapped), but the people were so warm and hospitable I didn’t feel the chill.
Thank you Houston, for your hospitality and for your kindness and yes for your diversity and quirkiness.
Be big…be Houston…but please don’t ever change, ’cause I love ya just the way you are!
Here is a clip from my appearance on KPRC – NBC 2’s “Houston Life” . Enjoy!
Sometimes it’s fun being the indie, scrappy DIY producer. It allows us the ability to do things that “larger” production companies and networks just can’t do, like posing as regular tourists in Cuba in order to document a more authentic story and travel experience.
Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” show on CNN is a show I respect. It makes A LOT more money than Raw Travel. In fact, I doubt there is even a worthwhile comparison. I won’t get into all the reasons but suffice it to say that marketers have gotten overwhelmed with the plethora of media choices available these days and despite the lack of good, travel programming in the USA, it’s hard to compete with outlets like the NFL and Cable News Channels during an election year.
Yet Raw Travel’s audience is consistently larger than Mr. Bourdain’s on CNN which is quiet remarkable when you consider that CNN is a very well known national brand with huge marketing resources and that “Parts Unknown” airs in primetime.
This is not a business blog, so I won’t get too far into the weeds on this one but I will just say I’m proud of what Raw Travel – Cuba Undercover was able to accomplish and from the looks of the audience tune in and reaction our work paid off.
We way over delivered an established celebrity on an established show (Parts Unknown) in primetime (Sunday @ 8PM) on a major news channel (CNN).
His Cuba episode aired to much ballyhoo just when the travel thaw was developing between Cuba & the USA and ours aired a year later during an election cycle (November 2016) when folks were more interested in Hillary vs. Trump than seemingly anything else on the planet.
Do the right thing and the money follows? We’ll see about that.
But at least we know we’re doing the right thing, and that my friends is worth way more than any money any marketer can throw at us.
Thank you for helping us to become the #1 most watched travel show in the United States.
Anthony Bourdain in Cuba Vs. Raw Travel in Cuba In the Fall of 2015, CNN aired Anthony Bourdain in Cuba to kick off Season-3 of “Parts Unknown”
In the Fall of 2016, “Raw Travel” kicked of its Nov’16 sweep with “Cuba Undercover”
Raw Travel out-delivered “Parts Unknown” by more than +50% in all key demos…
“Parts Unknown – Cuba” CNN Sun/9-10P (9/27/15) – FALL 2015 HH 496K A18-34 45K A18-49 197K A25-54 256K
I’ve been to Cuba twice, both times via another country. Now that travel restrictions have lessened and opened up to U.S. citizens there’s a “gold rush” of companies rushing to make money from the opportunity, from the well know, to the not so well know. But it’s fraught with difficulty and if you throw in a good old fashioned incompetence. I’m going to offer some personal tips for travel to Cuba soon in an upcoming episode that premieres Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S. (sorry about that!) called “Travel Hacks for the Raw Traveler” and an accompanying blog post.
But in the meantime, I thought I’d share with you an experience from a pal of mine who was heading to Cuba for 2016 Holiday Season, or thought he was and found out the hard way, how difficult it can be.
What follows is a 1st hand account from Ryan Lewis, a traveler from NYC.
FROM RYAN LEWIS/ NYC TRAVELER
If you were planning on flying JetBlue’s new direct flight from JFK to Havana Cuba… save yourself a massive headache and several days of lost travel time, book on another airline, or fly to another city and fly JetBlue through JFK to Cuba, but whatever you do, DO NOT plan on departing from JFK and making it to Cuba that day.
The beauty of a direct flight from the northeast to anywhere in the Caribbean is that it’s a short flight to paradise. Not so for JetBlue’s disastrous new service which allegedly instructs its passengers to arrive FOUR (4) HOURS ahead of time if they are to make their flight. Is this true? No, not actually, but that was what the 56 stranded passengers of flight 243 were told by JetBlue’s staff yesterday as they were being rebooked for flights several days out. Apparently it was the fault of the passengers for only arriving two hours early for their international flights – the same 2 hour advance arrival that is standard for all airlines throughout the world is apparently not standard for JetBlue flights to Cuba… or is it?
Although our attendant informed us in no uncertain terms that all flights going to Cuba needed 3 – 4 hours to complete the allegedly cumbersome paperwork for U.S. passengers, that same attendant then proceeded to book us on a make-up flight from JFK, through Ft. Lauderdale to Havana, Cuba, which had a 1 hour layover, during which we were to have that same paperwork and visa processed by JetBlue’s staff in Ft. Lauderdale… soooooo, lie? To be honest it’s unclear to me whether the necessary visa paperwork would even be processed in Ft. Lauderdale as the JetBlue attendant repeatedly assured us it would. My suspicions were peaked by the fact that I was told by other passengers that on other JetBlue flights to Cuba, which traveled through JFK, the passengers had their paperwork handled at the airport of origin. Is it just that JFK’s JetBlue staff is so incompetent or understaffed? Seems plausible based on what I saw and heard yesterday.
The same attendant who rebooked us on what was allegedly the next best flight (a non-direct flight that departed two days later, with no actual seat assignments), also insisted to my girlfriend and me that there was a warning on JetBlue’s website informing all passengers to Cuba that they had to arrive at the airport 3 – 4 hours before their flight in order to process paperwork. However, when I asked where on the site that warning was, she said she didn’t know. I informed her that no such information ever popped up when I was booking my flight, or after I booked my flight. She then informed me that I had “to click on something”. I literally could not find words to respond.
So, what’s the skinny? Basically, I have heard from multiple parties flying JetBlue from SFO through JFK, flying other airlines from LA to Cuba, from various points in Florida to Cuba and elsewhere throughout the nation that by and large things go smoothly, short processing times and easy flights are the norm. However, of the people standing in line with me yesterday, the girl in front of us was in line for the second time in two days, having been rebooked to Cuba from the previous day by JetBlue. The man in front of her was also in line for the second time, having been rebooked from two days prior. And all, like us, had arrived two hours or more in advance and all, like us, were being rebooked for flights up to two or more days out. A week long vacation turned into mere days, all because of a problem which is, by all accounts endemic with the JetBlue staff and/or system of processing passengers at JFK. After a month of providing this “service” to Cuba, and a month of the same problems, the JetBlue staff simply find it easier to continue ruining their passengers’ vacations and covering their tracks with laughable lies and excuses than to actually find a quasi-workable solution to the problem.
The problems there are so bad that the “managers” have seemingly stopped addressing them. After waiting at the airport for over three hours, no manager would come and speak with me to explain what had happened or what could be done. I was told that I could go upstairs and find “Justine” but she probably wasn’t going to come down because it was “real busy” up there.
One last tip for those of you departing JFK to Cuba on JetBlue, another thing that no one will inform you of is that the JetBlue Cuba check-in and visa processing is not even actually on the same floor as all of the other JetBlue check-in and baggage lines, apparently they thought it best to secret this special check-in on the baggage-claim floor in the very back, behind baggage carousel #6. When you go to self check-in, the terminal will simply tell you that you that you can’t check-in, but that you need to see an assistant. However, it being holiday season, the check-in lines literally have hundreds of people waiting in them to check bags, etc. as does the “Special Help” line. I am told that if you actually wait in any of those lines, when you get to the front they will simply tell you they can’t even take your bags and then they will (at long last) tell you that you need to go downstairs to a secret line somewhere behind all of the baggage claim carousels. This unfortunately happened to a number of people on flight 243 yesterday, the rest of us simply spent 15 – 30 minutes walking around the JetBlue terminal asking stray attendants where to go.
RED CLOUD INDIAN SCHOOL & RE-MEMBER
You may recall our “Raw Travel – Pine Ridge: Tribal Tourism” episode from Season 3 about travel to the Lakota Sioux reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
Through your generosity via buying T-shirts and/or supporting our crowdfunding efforts, I’m happy to report we raised over $3k for the Red Cloud Indian School after school arts programs.
These kids grow up in the poorest county in the U.S. and have a ton of challenges facing them unlike anywhere else in the United States. It does my heart good to see the work Red Cloud Indian School does on the reservation and the support you so generously gave when we asked for it.
If you missed it and are looking for a cause to support this holiday season, there is not better organization than Red Cloud Indian School or Re-member which were both featured on our Pine Ridge show. I hope the episode will be available digitally in the not too distant future, as we continue to try to raise funds for these guys.
You can learn more about Pine Ridge and our fundraiser HERE:
Please enjoy this bit of Holiday Cheer from our little pals at Red Cloud Indian School.