I still have vivid memories of my first awakening in Lima, Peru, on June 24, 1971. The population all around our mission was made up of thousands of Peruvians from the highlands, who had ventured to the coastal cities looking for a better life for their children. Living in bamboo huts, without light, water, sewer, roads or any kind of security, they literally slaved in the process of building new towns all around the coastal cities of Peru. In spite of the hardships, they succeeded as can be seen today.
Now we are in 2016. Enter another side of the story. Sabina Choi, a Columban Sister from Korea, and Eufrasia Garcia, a Columban Sister from Peru, are both missioned in Sicuaine, Cusco, in the Southern Andes. Sr. Sabina recently wrote about her the elderly people scattered around the poverty-stricken villages high up in the Andes. Their sons and daughters who left for the coastal cities and a better life for themselves and their families, did do well, in spite of the aforementioned survival conditions which they had to endure. However, few were able to return, due to the risky nature of their minimum wage employment, large growing families to clothe, feed and educate, not to mention the cost of several hours bus journeys up and down the mountains. Srs. Sabina and Eufrasia find that there is a great need for a compassionate ministry to their friends of the mountains.
In the face of the poverty of these elderly people the Peruvian government recently allocated a small amount of money to alleviate their suffering. Many of these people do not have documentation and so for all intents and purposes they do not exist. Furthermore the documented elderly often find it difficult to travel down the rugged mountain paths to receive their bit of money. There is also the fear of being robbed on the way back up. So, the Sisters and volunteers visit them in their mountain villages and bring them food and other vital necessities.
Once a month they have a gathering in the parish for the people who are able to attend. They serve them breakfast of oatmeal, milk and coffee and share some Bible stories. Volunteers from the youth group offer their services, washing the old people's feet, trimming their nails, haircuts and other personal needs. It is a time for sharing stories, enjoying the presence of one another. Lunch includes soup, rice, potatoes and some chicken. Having relished a little nourishment and loads of tender loving service from the Sisters and the young people, the friends from the mountains begin their rugged and difficult hike back up the mountain paths to their poor and lonely little homes.
Sr. Eileen Rabbitte served in the USA and in Peru, and now lives in Magheramore, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.