After Nelson’s Nathan Beninger graduated from journalism school, he spent a number of years traveling to far-flung locations across the globe in search of meaningful photography work. He spent some time freelancing in Africa, but was frustrated by his inability to help those on the other side of his lens. It was later, while traveling through Peru, that he found his calling, eventually opening a shelter in 2009 for impoverished Peruvian girls who otherwise wouldn’t receive an education.
“There was so much tourism money available at that point that should’ve been being put back into the communities and into the cities, but that wasn’t happening. What I saw was a weird contrast between the tourism areas and the impoverished areas, and I thought that was an unfair and weird thing to see,” said Beninger, who recently moved back to the Kootenays with his wife Greta after 9 years in South America.
“There were five-star resorts that were two blocks away from Third World situations with dangerous, impoverished people. And especially for the young girls, they were back in the 50s as far as women’s rights.”
Beninger worked at state-run shelters for years, but was disappointed by the care the wards were receiving. Once Greta and Nathan began their own foundation, they were able to bring a nurse, a psychologist and a teacher on to their team. They all work together towards the same goal—giving young girls a chance at a real education.
Right now there are two students who grew up at the Pura Vida shelter who are now attending university, Yone and Grimnesa. And it’s them Beninger hopes Nelson residents keep in mind when contributing to his organization.
“Our main goal when they’re coming off the streets is to get them back into the school system and studying.”
Beninger said he was shocked to see the unfair juxtaposition between rich and poor in the country.
“Living in Nelson I’d never seen real poverty until I began to travel. I saw that and said ‘this isn’t right, how they live in poverty while we live in excess’. It was a trip for me. I’m not a very religious person, but I don’t know why I was born into this life while they were born into suffering and poverty. I still don’t get why I have it so good while they have it so bad.”
Beninger is hosting a Peruvian-themed fundraiser for his shelter from 6 to 8 p.m. at John Ward Coffee on Saturday, Sept. 5.
“It will be a website relaunch party with live music from Ruth Langevin, a Peruvian-themed photo exhibit and lots of info on what the Pura Vida Foundation is doing and wants to do in Peru.”
There will be a draw for a month’s free Americanos and a silent auction for items between $10 and $300.
For more information visit puravidafoundation.ca.
Nelson’s Nathan Beninger (above) established a shelter for impoverished Peruvian girls in 2009 through the Pura Vida Foundation. He’s hosting a photo exhibit and fundraiser at John Ward Coffee at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m.