This morning, I came upon some old friends via the internet.
When I am feeling a bit nostalgic, I occasionally turn to the ‘Costa Blanca News’, an English language newspaper published on Fridays in Spain. It was from this week’s paper that the names of Peter & Teresa Cunliffe leapt from the screen at me.
Until two years ago we lived on our sailing boat, ‘Bolero’ in the Puerto Deportivo at Guardamar Del Segura on the Costa Blanca. It was here that we met the Cunliffes. Indeed, we went to their housewarming party when they moved into their new home in Castalla.
Clearly, the people they met in Guatemala have made a big impact on them. I quote from the ‘Costa Blanca News, Sept 27th 2007:
“Brits touched by plight of Guatemala village
By Dave Jones
COSTA Blanca residents Peter and Teresa Cunliffe have launched an appeal to help the inhabitants of a remote jungle village in the impoverished Central American republic of Guatemala.
The couple, who live in Castalla, discovered the hamlet by chance as they were exploring the vast Río Dulce near the country’s Caribbean coast earlier this year.
The Cunliffes were scouting a tributary of the river in their 38-foot boat Sonatina when they came across a group of children in canoes at tiny Lagunita Salvador.
After spending several weeks with the villagers who live without a source of drinking water and on a restricted diet, the couple decided they had to do more to help them become self-sufficient.
“We fell in love with the children and we wanted to do something for this lovely village which is not getting any help,” said Peter, a retired garage owner from Blackpool.
While the Cunliffes were staying at the hamlet, they discovered that the 20 families had arrived after being displaced during the 36-year civil war which ended in 1996.
One man, Álvaro, had witnessed his parents’ murder by an Army death squad when he was just 12 years old.
However, with the aid of American missionaries they had built a school and church, although funding from abroad has now dried up.
“We are currently raising money for a dozen or more projects from providing clear drinking water to paying teachers wages,” Peter explained.
“This year only one of the teachers’ wages has been paid.
“When the children started at the school they only spoke the Indian language Qeqchi.
“Now they have learned Spanish and they are teaching them maths and other subjects.
“We don’t want them to lose this.”
The Cunliffes are currently sponsoring five children to go to school and have also forked out for infrastructure projects as well as financing a scheme to start a fish farm.
“We are doing this all on our own and at times find it incredibly hard work and even depressing when giving a talk about the village school and the only reply to us was ‘why do kids in the jungle need to learn maths?’” said Teresa.
“That’s the opposition we’ve been getting but on the other hand we’ve had a lot of generous people who have given as much as £350 per person.
“Now we need to raise £1,000 as quickly as possible to help them purchase a boat and outboard motor and will need £5,500 for next year to keep the school open.”
The couple are heading back out to Guatemala in January and are trying to raise as much cash as possible before they go.
“We need donations but we also need people to organise fund-raising events and set up a website and put up posters for example,” said Teresa.
They are raising money through a raffle for an MZ Simpson 50cc motorbike and a Halloween fun day which will be held in Calle Río Nácera, Castalla International on October 31.
Anyone who can help out can contact the couple on 0034 697 985 882 (Spain) or at firstname.lastname@example.org ”
So…. anyone who is touched by the plight of these people, and would like to offer help, is welcome to get in touch with Peter & Teresa Cunliffe ….. and if you do, please tell them you heard about them via this post!