Sunday, 20 September 2009

Obra Rural Metodista

We started the day back at the Obra Rural Metodista, the offices for the rural work. Pastor Pedro Grandon described the extent of the work they were doing and highlighted some of their limitations and hopes for the future. He showed us a room fitted with a dental chair and equipment. This had come with a mobile unit from Holland nearly 20 years ago. Over the years they have been able to secure funding to support short periods when a dentist visited regularly to provide dental services to the children in the schools and the women and families with whom the projects have regular contact. It was an important service as dental decay is common and access to a dentist too expensive for the majority.

Another project they have started is to support women who weave mats and clothes. They help the women to access better quality wool and give advice about weaving techniques that lead to better quality products that are more saleable.

In a field next to the rural office is the frame of a building built with the support of a Volunteer in Mission team from USA a few months ago. It is the first of a series of dormitories and meeting rooms that will form a training centre for local women’s groups. It is hoped it will enable more to develop skills and trades as well as strengthening the Christian bonds between groups of women in the area. The Obra Rural Metodista is certainly not short of ambition and vision.

Today was the Chilean National Day, with flags hanging from most buildings, and parades and festivals in most towns. We went to watch the festival in the centre of the nearby town, New Imperial, which included a parade of children from various schools and day centres. Leading the way were the youngsters from the Methodist Day Centre in the town. We visited the centre which is next to the local Methodist Church. As with the schools the Church run, the majority of children attending the Day Centre come from the indigenous Mapuche community.

From New Imperial we travelled out in to the countryside to visit the primary school run by the Methodist Church in Rulo. As it was a public holiday the school was closed, but families and children had come to greet us, and we shared a traditional meal together. Children travel many miles to get to the school on a daily basis and a mini-bus travels around the rough rural tracks picking up many on a daily basis. Even with this service children have a long walk to the various pick-up points, and one even crosses the river by boat every day in order to meet the mini-bus.

The school also has classes for adults, helping many with literacy skills.

After our meal we watched the children showing us both traditional Mapuche dancing as well as Chilean dancing that has a very Spanish style. Tug-of-war and sack races completed the afternoon’s festivities before they started the long journeys back home. It was wonderful to be able to share in this special event.

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