April 23, 2018 9:20 am

A profile of our Lima Communities

Written by Sarah Margolis

This information is based on a sampling of communities around Lima, Peru that hosted MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics between December - January 2017-2018.

Gender Breakdown

Since MEDLIFE clinics take place during the day, it's often difficult for men to attend as they most often are at work.

age

During summer vacation, more children attend MEDLIFE clinics.

Education

While most children attend school through at least year one of secondary school, many people who come to Lima from rural Peru may have received very limited education or no education at all.

Occupation

In Lima, many mothers do not hold formal jobs. Instead, they may cook in community kitchens (Comedores populares), sell goods on the street, or have other informal sources of income.

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In Peru, there are two main types of public insurance: Essalud and SIS. Essalud is insurance aimed at the middle class and is granted through work contracts, SIS is for those who do not receive benefits from their employer or who do not have government regulated jobs. While SIS is meant to provide insurance to the poorest class, there are still obstacles preventing everyone from registering for this basic service.

Last week, our first group of MEDLIFE volunteers for the winter season helped to host a Chocolatada at the community of Secsencalla, located in the district of Andahuaylillas outside of Cusco. Before the event, the volunteers had been leading a Healthy Homes project in the community to improve 4 homes of families with children at risk of malnutrition. 

A Chocolatada is a traditional Christmas celebration in Peru but dates all the way back to the Spanish conquests of the Americas when the conquistadors spread their method of preparing hot chocolate throughout their expansion. Hot Chocolate later became a staple at Christmas time, and thus a tradition was born. 

The modern Chocolatada celebration has its roots in charity, however - as Christmas approaches, private businesses, organizations, or even individual groups of friends will use their resources to organize a Chocolatada event to benefit rural, impoverished communities.  Children from all corners of the community descend upon the Chocolatada, eager to receive the typical cup of hot chocolate, traditional Peruvian panettone (sweet) bread, and a small present. 

Last week, 91 children also received a present donated by the mobile clinic volunteers and from the travel agency Good Life Expeditions, who also sponsored the celebration. It was an amazing evening where children were able to break 3 piñatas, share a delicious meal with the volunteers, and also meet Santa Claus!

This is the second year we are able to hold a Chocolatada in Peru and we hope to continue doing it in the following years! 

Check out the photo blog below to find out more!

IMG 2120Children from the community shared a dance together while waiting for the piñatas to be ready.

IMG 2121The tradition stipulates that every child should have an opportunity to try to break the piñata, but these children were very strong and almost break it at the beginning!

IMG 2126To keep the order, our Director of MEDLIFE Cusco, Heidy Aspilcueta helped break the piñata. The children were really excited!

IMG 2131Another piñata was opened for more children and finally one last for the little ones.

IMG 2135The arrival of Santa Claus was one of the most anticipated moments!

IMG 2155The children did not hesitate to come and say hello while they enjoyed their hot chocolate and their sweet bread.

IMG 2157Finally, we distributed the gifts and 91 children from Secsencalla had a Merry Christmas thanks to our volunteers and Good Life Expeditions!

 

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Carmen Galanza has lived in Nicolas Pierola for twenty years. She never expected to see a disaster the magnitude of the Huaycos, a flood of mud and water, that came and tore her house in half, along with dozens of others on March 15 of 2017. Fifteen days later, no organization has arrived to help those left homeless, and no one has arrived with water. “We are here, waiting and forgotten,” said Galanza, “hoping they come and tell us something.”

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            Galanza describes the day of the Huayco, which came down at 1 in the afternoon, as like “being in a disaster film. We had to run up the stairs to escape. It pulled the house apart and took everything with it… everything shook and moved horribly.”

            The Huayco tore off a section of her home that used to be her kitchen, laundry room, and her brothers bedroom, leaving nothing but a gaping precipice over the massive trench carved by the Huayco.

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Galanza was forced to go live in a tent camp with 205 refugees displaced by the disaster from the surrounding communities. Two weeks later, little help has arrived and no one has made it to where she lives to sell water.

IMG 3045A tent at a camp for people displaced by the huaycos. MEDLIFE brought a Mobile Clinic here along with donations.

Galanza said she and her community are getting by without electricity and housing, but the water shortage has become a serious problem and people are getting desperate.

The residents of Nicolas Pierola have had to travel long distances chasing down the trucks selling water at high prices. “The other day, an old woman fell and hurt herself chasing after a water truck,” lamented Galanza.

As MEDLIFE staff surveyed the community, nearly everyone we passed asked us if we could bring them water.

            “What we want now is water,” Galanza said. “There are kids, there are elderly here, and we don’t have water. We are asking for water, nothing more. Without water we can’t do anything, water is the base of everything.”

            MEDLIFE was able to contract a water truck to bring water to the residents of Nicolas Pierola and several other communities the following day. Bringing water trucks to communities that have been left dry during the crisis is one of the primary uses of flood relief donations. Please, DONATE now and help us bring water to Huayco victims. 

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In the hills, high above the city center of Lima, Peru, sits the community of Nadine. One of Lima’s Pueblos Jovenes, or young towns, people began to settle in the area in 2012 and now there is an estimated 350 families living there.

Lima is surrounded by informal communities, like Nadine, without land titles and thus without recognition from the government and legal access to public electricity and water. However, Nadine sticks out as a dramatic example of the city’s stark divide between rich and poor because it sits along what has been dubbed the “Wall of Shame”.

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The wall was built about 30 years ago by those living below in the wealthier area of Santiago de Surco to divide themselves and their poorer neighbors. The wall has been covered by Peruvian media as well as internationally. The dramatic view from the top works as an all too provocative visual metaphor to the divide between the rich and poor of Lima.

Living up in Nadine means no access access to a public water supply. Fabiola Rosales Bartolo, a resident who has lived in Nadine for 3 years says she pays around 200 soles, about $60 USD, a month for water for her family.

“We pay much more for water than people that live on the other side,” Bartolo said. “I have a baby and it lasts for a week, because I have to wash clothes, I have to cook.”

Oxfam estimates that those living without access to SEDAPAL, Lima’s public water supply, pay up to 10 times as those with access, a case where it truly is expensive to be poor.

Life for residents in Nadine and communities like it reflects the informality of the town itself. Houses spring up on land not formally owned by those who live there. Water deliveries can be infrequent and unpredictable. Most residents make their money in an informal economy by selling goods and services on the streets.

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In Nadine, this life is all lived with a view of the paved, tree lined streets of Lima’s wealthier districts. However, from below, you can only see a wall.

“Here we can to look at the other side to a comfortable life,” Bartolo said. “There is a big difference between the rich and the poor. The wall separates us from the people that have. More than anything it shows you the reality of our country,”

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 Edomia Poma Pallcarcajo works in the comedor in the communidad of El Jardines in San Juan De Miraflores to support her family, serving up nutritious, cheap government subsized meals to her neighbors. Since living in El Jardines, Edomia has worked to improve the life of her community through efforts like teaching a weekend class to local kids out of her house and helping her neighbors on home improvement projects. She was also MEDLIFE’s point of contact with the community for the recent stair project we completed there the week of December 18th. What makes Edomia and the community of Jardines even more remarkable is that they were able to organize to connect the community to the municipal water supply system and electric system, an effort which Edomia and her husband, who is general secretary of the group of communities city government, played a critical part in.

I spoke with Edomia to learn more about what her strategies and motivations are for the inspiring work she does.

* This interview has been paraphrased and translated from Spanish *

Tell me about some of the work you have done recently with MEDLIFE and within the community.

We have always wanted to have this project (the staircase) to live better, for ease of movement in our community. We have achieved this dream putting our strength, our part, of all our neighbors, men, women and children together. It is difficult, but nothing is impossible for us. Sometimes, the situation is not so easy in this place, in this part of Peru. We live on a little hill. With all of our strength we have brought water and plumbing to our community. I give this message to other communities who also organize and do their part: Not having money doesn’t mean that you cannot improve, that you cannot have. You need to have strength and make a decision. Go to your neighbors, be an example, speak with them, they too can learn to work together. Unity creates strength. Every step we take brings us closer to our goals.

I also want to say thank you to the young people who have visited us from abroad. They are our brothers, I welcome and thank them from my heart. For me, it is a joy to work together with them and my community, smile and walk down the staircase with ease.

What is are some obstacles you face when trying to get the community together to work together on a project?

In a community, not everyone is collaborative and wants to work together. They are not bad people. There is always someone who is discouraged, who has lost hope. But they are not a bad person. They have not been taught, they don’t have the experience, but they too can learn to think in a new way. Some people wait (to work on community projects) until they have a salary, or until they get a reward, but let me tell you the greatest reward you can receive is the happiness of your neighbors, and to see you impact of your work culminate in your community. One person alone cannot  make a big difference, but together as a community you can. Give your hand to your neighbour, never your back. You will see a changed family, a new family, and this will make you happy. 

IMG 1142MEDLIFE Projects Director Carlos Benavides Discusses a potential project with Edomia.

 Have you ever been discouraged?

When we were working on the water and plumbing project, some people thought that I was receiving a salary for this work, or that I was taking the money for the project and using it for myself. But that wasn’t true, I worked on the project because I wanted it for my community. I felt very sad when one of my neighbors accused my of taking money. I had a dream of a tree that was full of fruit. I was underneath it next to the woman who accused me and it told me, help her, lift her up, so I helped her and lifted her up so she could reach the fruit. What did this tree want to tell me? I meditated and thought about it and decided to take a box and write “help your fellow man” on it and “we want a better life, to have water and plumbing,” and I went to city down below to try and raise money with this woman. We talked with passerby and sang. People gave us change… After some time, she forgave me and supported me on projects.

What was Jardines like when you got here? How did you start working to help others in your community?

When I got here, this place was sand. We didn’t have water or electricity. Our houses were made of wood and plastic bags. I started by giving people advice… I saw their difficulties and gained their trust. I used to always keep medicine in my house, when there (her neighbors) kids were sick, they would knock on my door and ask for a pill. They confided in me.

Later, I would go help them fix their roof, their rooms to make it like a house and help them take out all of the rocks. I would teach them: you can make your house better. I would tell them, I will help you, show me your budget on paper and I will help you make a plan to save money for improvements. Maybe you don’t have money to remove your roof that has collapsed. What about if you take a day and I will come to your house and we can do it together… At first they looked at me “hey neighbor, what’s going on? Why are you helping me take all the rocks out of my house?” But I did it as if it were my own. I showed them and they followed my lead. There are a lot of houses on this little hill that have been improved. 

15722588 302901013439773 1162283020 nEdomia with her kids on a new MEDLIFE Staircase

 What was your motivation to do all of this? Have you always thought this way?

I am from the district of Andamarca, from the province of conception. I left when I was 11. I saw how much need there was there. Many of us had the desire to study, but the economy didn’t help us. I didn’t even have shoes for elementary school, nor a uniform, notebook, my parents couldn’t help me. I saw my families like this. I wanted to be a professional. I wasn’t able to have a professional career.

I left and went to work in a chicken restaurant helping the cook when I was 11, but always with sadness in my heart, always with the desire to go back and help. Maybe even just by giving someone shoes, a notebook, some fruit... A lot of time passed and I never went back, I was just a child, I didn’t know how to get back …

I met my husband at 15, at 18 we went to Lima together and got married. I lived in a rented apartment in Pueblo Libre, then I went to Comas and had my first kid. He is in university now. He is going to finish in one year. I am so happy for him.

Since we were living in a rented room, it was so expensive. We went to visit some family in Pamplona, and they told us “there is an invasion in the hills. There is land up there. You can go.” We went looking for a place to live. At first I couldn’t get used to it because of all the sand. I suffered a lot. But I thought about my family and how am I ever going to be able to help them if I live in a rented room? It is better to stay here. So I spoke with my husband and we stayed. I still wanted to go find my family in the provinces, but I saw that my neighbours here were also from humble places in the provinces like me, and I said, well, it is better that I stay. Because the people here also need my help.

 

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