The Pura Vida Foundation is hosting a documentary night to raise money for a shelter to support abandoned and severely abused girls in Peru.
Three years ago the foundation’s Nathan Beninger started making a documentary about a little Peruvian boy with one leg — Ricardo’s Story. The filmmaker spent two weeks in the community in which the boy lived documenting his struggles.
“I thought this was an interesting story to tell,” said Beninger, a photographer by trade who first went to Peru to capture its natural beauty. Instead, he became captivated by the struggles of that country’s poor and what he could do help.
Ricardo’s story is common. His family lives in extreme poverty with food not available for several days at a time. His father abuses rubbing alcohol. Still, school is very important and Ricardo’s mother carries him there. For him, it’s a four-hour round trip.
Beninger revisited story this year as students at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario fitted the boy with a prosthetic leg.
“The film’s second part is awesome. It shows him running around for the first time, playing soccer,” he said. “It was gratifying to see something such a positive change for this boy. I really did something cool for this kid’s life.”
Positive change is something Beninger works for at the expense of luxuries in his own life. It’s often a hard sacrifice considering the work is, at times, very dark.
“People give me a hard time because this stuff is so depressing,” he said. “These kids were born and their live’s paths were set at birth. Here we are changing that path.”
While Beninger filmed Ricardo’s Story, he came across the property eventually purchased as a site for a bigger shelter he intends to build to house more young girls needing help.
Since 2009, Beninger has been helping a half dozen girls in a smaller shelter in Cusco where he lives with his wife and their young child.
“With the girls we have in the shelter, it’s super gratifying because you get to see the change you are making,” he said.
The documentary night will include a short film made on the work the foundation is doing through their shelter and the dire need for more space.
“We’ve told the social workers hundreds of times that we have no more space, but they still bring us kids and it’s really hard to say no. I’m not going to say no to an 11-year-old kid that’s been forced into prostitution for the last year… if she’s not going to stay with us, I know where she’s going to go and it just makes be feel so bad,” said Beninger.
A Freeride Entertainment film called Through Their Eyes about several girls from a shelter’s first trip to Machu Picchu will also be shown.
The documentary night will be held at the Prestige on Friday, September 20. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the films start showing at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.