Recently, our founder and president, Dr. Max Lange, visited our office in Peru. When he came back, he took some time to reflect on all the progress that has been made in Peru, and all the work yet to be done. It’s pretty incredible to hear how God has been at work over the years!
Childcare Worldwide started working in Comas, Peru in 1984. A lot has changed in 33 years, so I asked Dr. Lange to paint me the picture of what it was like then, and what it is like now.
Comas is a 25 mile long slum outside of Lima. When we started working there, the conditions were terrible. Dust swirled constantly. Clumps of shacks clung precariously to the impossibly steep hillsides. Everyone lived in these tiny, awful structures built of scraps, with no electricity, no water and dirt floors. And everyone was always hungry. Most families could only afford one meal a day – often it was just a thin soup made from chicken feed.
So our priority at the time was breakfast! At its height, this program served over 11,500 children every day. Before school, or before work, they would come to us for a healthy, nutritious meal!
Today, Dr. Lange is proud and happy to report that conditions in Comas are now improved greatly! The hills are still steep, dusty and crowded. But many houses and buildings along the main road are now permanent structures – with electricity! And Childcare has played a part in making that change. To date, we have built 103 fully equipped homes for poor families in Comas!
The area may look better now, but there is still much to be done. While Peru does have a growing middle class, those in poverty are left behind. As Dr. Lange explained, “People who are poor have nowhere to turn because there is no social security or safety net or anything.”
In light of that tenacious hold poverty has on people in Comas, I asked Dr. Lange for the other side of the story: what’s the good news? What was exciting and inspiring on this trip? Two things stood out.
First, Dr. Lange met with a number of our sponsored children who are now in trade school, and was very impressed with their progress. Most of the children in Comas are lucky to finish high school, but these kids are way beyond that. They are pursuing real careers, and getting the tools they need to survive. Looking ahead to their graduation days, Dr. Lange says, “In that economy they will get a job!” These kids have a path out of poverty!
Second, Dr. Lange got to see one of our newest projects at work: sewing machines. We are providing women with sewing machines of their very own, and all the tools they need to start earning money for themselves. At first, Dr. Lange was unsure if this would work, but Margot, our director in Peru, insisted that this could make a huge impact for women in need. So he approved the program’s launch, and while he was in Peru, he went with our staff to deliver one of these machines.
The woman who received this particular machine lived in abject poverty. She had only a tiny shack with a dirt floor. After setting up the sewing machine, our staff stepped back and let her sit at her new work table. As she settled into her seat, she started to sob with joy. This was it! The road ahead might still be hard, but for the first time in a long time, she had hope that she could find a better life for herself and her children. It was a powerful moment. Dr. Lange explains, “And do you know who else was crying? Yours truly!”
Our work in Peru has changed over the years, but those are the moments that remain constant – desperate people finding hope!