Our Stories

Lyn and Kevin St. John

We went to Peru recently for a holiday. While there we planned to meet Michael Murphy, Peru Children’s Charity, and to visit Las Lomas. We had raised €3000 for the charity from family and friends, and Michael was anxious that we meet the people in Las Lomas, and see things at first hand.
Las Lomas de Carabayello is a sprawling shantytown of a million and a half people on the outskirts of Lima. It spreads as far as the eye can see up the foothills of the Andes. The land is barren, rocky sand (Lima is a ‘desert city’). There’s no running water, sanitation, or electricity. Houses for many people are only 4 ‘walls’ made from a basket-type weave, with plastic for a roof. Starter homes, for people lucky enough to have them, are comprised of a living room with one or two bedrooms, made of mud bricks (adobe) with a galvanised roof. Over the years people build more permanent houses with brick, if their circumstances improve a bit.
No families have cooking facilities, so a community dining room is vital to ensure that the kids get a hot meal during the day. The dining rooms are simple buildings of brick and reinforced concrete. They are run by committees from the local communities themselves, on a voluntary basis. They allow the community to buy food (for example, rice) in bulk, at a significant saving. When community dining rooms are up and running for a year they are entitled to avail of the Government’s food aid programme. The buildings also double as community centres, meeting rooms etc, where lectures are arranged on topics such as nutrition, and skills such as cooking, crafts etc are passed on.
Michael’s focus is on the children, and he helps to organise the building of community dining rooms, and the building of starter homes for the most needy. As well as providing the funding he will help with the planning and co-ordination of the construction, dealing with the authorities, procuring the materials, etc. The labour is provided by the local community on a voluntary basis. He will then keep in touch on an ongoing basis to make sure that everything is working ok. Michael also funds medical treatment for kids with the most critical need where funds allow.
We traveled to Los Lomas with Michael, and we visited numerous communities there. The bleakness of the landscape, and the awful poverty, are striking. However there is a fantastic spirit and hope among the people. And their generosity is incredible. People who have virtually nothing are willing to share what they have with their friends and neighbours. Children ran around and played and made mischief like children do everywhere. However, it is striking the high number of children suffering from serious medical conditions of one type or another, for want of proper pre and post natal care, proper nutrition and medical care. Many of these conditions are easily preventable or curable, but doctors and treatment cost a lot of money in Peru.
Some of the communities that we visited have community dining rooms, which were provided by Peru Children’s Charity. They are run by voluntary local committees. Although they are simple buildings, they allow the people to cook, eat, store food and have meetings etc in a clean environment.
Some of the other communities that we visited are trying to operate dining rooms in appalling circumstances. The buildings can only be described as dilapidated shacks, with no floors, wicker roofs, totally inadequate cooking facilities and no food storage facilities.
Despite all this the people have great spirit, generosity, pride in their communities, and hope for the future. One community had arranged refreshments especially for our visit. Another had bought meat (when did they last have meat?) to make a stew for us for lunch. It was enjoyed by all, including the vegetarian!
We also visited houses that had been built by Peru Children’s Charity for the most needy – simple houses, but so much better than the wicker structures that they were in. People’s lives are transformed by what for us is a relatively small amount of money.
€1200 of the money that we raised was used to fund a house for a couple with 8 children, who had been living in a wicker house. The remaining €1800 is being used to replace a dilapidated community dining room with a new brick building. It was very rewarding to see exactly where every cent donated had gone, and the huge difference it will make to a family and a community, even if only a drop in the ocean.

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