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vidas mejoradas (improved lives) STORY by JENNIE TAL Thanks to their uncle, Steve Bouton’s nephews and their classmates have a sister school in Peru. Students at North Branch School have more in common with their peers in the village of Sipascancha, Peru than one might think. Not only are the groups similar in age, but they’re both learning Spanish as a second language and they’re all psyched to talk to the children in another country. “They seem to be really excited by their presentation,” said Bouton, who grew up in Afton. “The thing that sticks with them the most is that they seem to pick up the language issue.” Many Americans learn Spanish in school, but the North Branch students are a few years ahead of the game. And while Spanish is one of Peru’s official languages, the students in Sipaschancha speak Quechua, common among indigenous people in the Andes, and very few speak Spanish any better than their American counterparts. “So we would explain things with the names in all three [languages],” explained Bouton about the cultural exchanges. “I think that really may have made

them realize the necessity of a multilingual approach.” At press time, Steve and his wife, Laurie Iaccino, were on their way to catch a plane to Peru, where they will make their way back to Sipascancha to continue a series of health screenings. As part of an outreach group called Vidas Mejoradas, Steve and Laurie are helping villagers improve their quality of life. After generations of cooking over open flame wood stoves, many of the villagers and their children suffer from respiratory problems. To help, Steve and Laurie are working with them to install new stoves that use combustion chambers creating a safer breathing environment. “All of it contributes to the best air flow and the best hot flame burning clean,” said Iaccino. “That’s probably a very important distinction, that it burns clean.” “And it doesn’t create smoke,” she added. In addition to installing the stoves, the small group provides health care and teaches the community about safer burning practices. In short, they’re making a huge difference in the lives of people they never knew. NCL

Afton-raised Steve Bouton, along with his wife, Laurie Iaccino, are traveling to Sipascancha, Peru to give health screenings to villagers, many of which suffer from respiratory issues related to traditional open flame cooking. Part of the group’s efforts is to install cleaner-burning stoves. The children in the village have formed a relationship with students at their sister school, North Branch, in Afton.

Want to help? 10% of proceeds from this year’s Nelson Clay event – featuring local potters Kevin Crowe and Nan Rothwell – will go towards Vidas Mejoradas. Crowe and Rothwell will host Nelson Clay at their respective studios November 29 & 30, and December 6 & 7 from 10am to 5pm. For more information, visit and


Profile for Nelson County Life Magazine

Nelson County Life, Issue #45  

Nelson County Life, Issue #45 December 2008)

Nelson County Life, Issue #45  

Nelson County Life, Issue #45 December 2008)

Profile for nclmag