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Pura Vida seeks community’s ideas

Nathan Beninger with his wife, daughter, and four of the Peruvian girls they look after in a shelter are seen on a visit to Machu Picchu.  - Courtesy Pura Vida Foundation
Nathan Beninger with his wife, daughter, and four of the Peruvian girls they look after in a shelter are seen on a visit to Machu Picchu.
— image credit: Courtesy Pura Vida Foundation

Nelson’s Nathan Beninger hasn’t given up his dream of expanding a Peruvian shelter for abused girls, but he’s asking for the community’s help to achieve it.

Beninger, who founded the non-profit Pura Viva Foundation in 2005, will host a public session next week to brainstorm ways of finding enough money to build a new shelter for 20 children and ensure it stays open.

“I’ll go over how much we spend yearly, how much it will cost to build the bigger shelter, and what we’re trying to accomplish in Peru,” he says. “I’d like to get new ideas on how we could get the community behind it.”

Pura Vida has already benefitted from local generosity: last year Wildlife Genetics announced it would donate $25,000 per year for five years. Beninger says it was a fantastic start, but they need two or three like-minded individuals or businesses before they can be push ahead with expansion.

That’s where the public input comes in.

For the last five years, the shelter in Cusco has cared for five to seven young girls at a time who have been forced into prostitution, severely abused, or abandoned. They’re provided food, safe housing, and rehabilitation at an annual cost to the foundation of $25,000 to $30,000. Two are now in university.

Last year the foundation acquired land in a small town 1½ hours outside of Cusco that will become home to the new shelter. An architect has drawn up plans and the local school has pledged its support, but Beninger is reluctant to start building unless there’s enough funding to keep it going.

“If I build it, have money for first year and then don’t have money for the second year, what do I do? I need that consistency. I would like to have more security to take that next step.”

Housing 20 children would cost about $75,000 per year to cover salaries for four staff, food, health care, and education. Although Beninger would like to branch out to bigger cities for support, to date the bulk of his donations have come from Nelson and area.

In any case, he won’t be spending as much time in Peru, where he and his family have lived most of the year, as his daughter will soon start Kindergarten in Nelson. In his absence, a psychologist is looking after the shelter.

Beninger first travelled to the South American country to photograph its beauty but was alarmed by the exploitation of young girls he witnessed. He decided to stay and do what he could to help them.

The meeting, open to the public, is on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the church at 702 Stanley Street. Beninger encourages families to attend.

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