NH man fulfills dream helping Peru's many homeless children
Daniel Pluta, standing at back, with his students at a Lima, Peru, boy's center where he worked and gave workshops. (Courtesy)
“My life dream was to go to Peru, ever since I was seven years old. It was one of those places that stuck in my mind,” said Pluta, 28, in a recent interview. Pluta recently relocated from Peru to Albany, N.H., after he married his wife, Aislinn this spring. Aislinn is originally from Sanbornville.
Earlier this month Pluta gave a presentation at the Wolfeboro Public Library on his experiences, titled, “They call them piranhas: living and working with street children in Lima, Peru.”
Just how does a native of Poland end up in Latin America?
Pluta said he studied anthropology in college in Poland because it allowed for world travel. After earning his master's in Cultural Anthropology, he volunteered with an organization in Lima, Peru, at a boy's shelter called “Ayllu Situwa,” which translates to “a community of spring light,” he said.
The population of homeless children in Latin America in general is astounding, where Pluta said he's heard estimates of 40 million. Children end up on the streets because of poverty, a mother or father with drug or alcohol abuse problems, or because the family has always lived on the streets.
“One reason is poverty, it forces the kids to start working; add to that family violence, or alcohol and drug problems, and kids end up on the streets,” he said.
He first visited in 2009 as a volunteer with a Polish government project working with street children. He spent time in a shelter, working with the kids. He stayed for almost three years. During that time he mentored eight to 10 boys aged seven to 16 years old.
“They lived with us. We created a family. We shared everything, like meals. After breakfast the kids and I would clean the house. Each had their own duties. We would do homework, they would go to school and play together. We really were a family, and that's what they didn't have — a family or a home,” said Pluta.
Another thing the shelter provided the boys was rules and structure.
“On the streets there were no rules. The only rule is survival,” he said. “In our home you had to get up at a certain time,” he said, “and go to school.”
The shelter also saw to it that the boys had some creative fulfillment, like music lessons or field trips.
Pluta speaks fluent Spanish so he could get along in this foreign land, but at six foot tall with Caucasian skin and brown hair, most folks knew he wasn't from Latin America, he said.
“I'm a white Polish guy with brown hair and brown eyes,” he said.
Pluta said he likely will not return to Peru until 2013, but will keep in touch with the boys through letters, Facebook and phone calls. Since Pluta has settled in New Hampshire, he launched a business as a life coach, “Your Inner Purpose Coaching.”
He said he works with people who have a vision or a dream that they want to make come true. He helps people turn dreams into reality by breaking the actions into manageable steps.
Pluta made an impact on young people's lives in Peru, as he recalled in this story. Before he left, he did run into one child he worked with at a prevention center (aside from the shelter.) He said the boy was taken off the streets after he was abandoned, and subsequently spent eight months at the center. When he saw the boy on a bus some time afterwards, he was doing well, living with his grandmother, and going to school. He was selling candy to make some money.
“As he was leaving the bus, he turned to me and said, 'thank you for everything.' Those kind of moments, when you see people grow and making process ... when you hear about those kids trying to improve their lives and grow. It's really rewarding,” he said.
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Larissa Mulkern may be reached at LMulkern@newstote.com.
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