In our first full year in Arequipa we have tried hard to integrate ourselves in the communities of Alto Selva Alegre and Miraflores.  Through ICDU we have opened libraries and taught seminars on urban gardening.  For Christmas we decided to take the advice of our Peruvian friends and throw two parties, one at our library in A.S.A and one close to a new library up in Miraflores.  These traditional holiday parties, called chocolatadas, were mainly for the kids, but it gave us a great opportunity to meet more of our neighbors and spread the word of what ICDU is about here in Arequipa.  Each year companies and other organizations hold chocolatadas all over the city and in the surrounding towns.  It’s pretty simple: you take a guess at how many kids will show up and then make vats of hot chocolate, which you serve with fruit cake.  Usually a small toy is also given to the kids.  Very simple?  Yes.  Did the kids love it?  Yes.

Collaborating with our new friend Abraham we planned to serve up to five hundred kids in Miraflores.  The Rotary Club helped again by bringing all the makings of hot chocolate, some toys, and a clown.  We have found that having a clown at a party with kids is almost a requirement.  At a function like this the clown will lead the group in a time of games and dancing.  Even though we planned for five hundred, we were not surprised when only 200 arrived.  Everyone seemed to have a great time and the low numbers allowed us to send the extra fruit cake and toys with Manuela out to Naranjal.  In all, this first event lasted a little over four hours, at which point we gringos were ready to head home, though the kids probably could have stayed all day.

At our library in ASA we prepared for up to 200 kids coming but thought that less would show; that’s just the way things work here.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that more than 200 came to this chocolatada!  The Rotary Club helped here too providing everything needed for the kids.  Again the clown played games with the kids and even later dressed up as Santa to keep handing out presents.  The ladies of the community helped by making the hot chocolate and serving everyone.  At the end the kids left with smiles on their faces.  We couldn’t ask for anything more.

All in all our chocolatadas were a success.  I think next year we will be able to do an even better job, or at least a more efficient job, but our main goals of getting our names out in the community and making connections were met.