Columban Fr. Ed O'Connell Is Requesting Your Assistance
to Help the Hungry in Peru During the Pandemic
Warmi Huasi is a small NGO I set up with other Columbans and three professional women in 2003 to accompany families in poverty and especially children at risk. Over the years, one of the main problems faced by the women in San Benito was that, whilst they worked, their children were at risk. Warmi Huasi set up, with the help of the community, 4 homework clubs so that the children and adolescents have a safe place in which to be, in the afternoons, as well as receive help with their homework. Warmi Huasi also has a reading club in their Centre in San Benito on Saturday afternoons and had built a library and reading club in the local State primary and secondary school so each student has reading time in school.
Then sadly the coronavirus arrived, and all the families in San Benito and elsewhere in Peru were in lockdown from March 16 until June 30. Even today, all children and adolescents under 14 and those over 65 are still in lockdown whilst the adults are allowed out to work even though Peru still has on average 3,500 new cases each day, and there is no sign as yet of the downslope.
Now we are facing the prospect of mass unemployment. Many jobs have been lost, and others are slow at staring up again. None of the San Benito mothers have been able to return as of yet.
However, in the midst of the fear of the virus and the worry of having no income to feed their families, some of the women showed their resilience. The mothers of three of the homework clubs got together, in each place, with their neighbors to start communal kitchens. By pooling their resources and giving quotas, they can feed their families and at the same time cut down on costs.
Below are two photos of the Communal Kitchen in Sector 3 of San Benito. The building was built by the local community and a breakfast program has been functioning there for years. Now they are also preparing 50 lunchtime rations that cover 18 families, with an average of 5 members per family, a total of 90 people being fed one meal daily. A ration is often shared between two people.
The mothers meet every afternoon to plan the next day. This communal kitchen, registered as a breakfast program for a number of years, receives some supplies of oil and food stocks form the local municipality of Carabayllo monthly.
The mothers take turns to prepare and cook the food, which is then collected by each family around midday and consumed at home.
Los Cipreces is a small village of 65 families in a narrow gully to one side of the main township of San Benito. They have built their own community rooms, in one of which we normally have a homework club in the afternoons. Now the children are at home. Below are two photos, that show how basic their situation is but they have great spirit. They are preparing on average 35 lunchtime rations that cover 20 families, with an average of 5 members per family, a total of 100 people being fed one meal daily. A ration is often shared between two people.
In the last couple of weeks, the mothers of the Chapel homework club, that normally would meet in one of the wooden constructed huts in the mission compound, met to organize their communal kitchen, sometimes referred to as a common pot. Below are various photos, that show the mothers getting organized. They are now preparing on average 48 lunchtime rations that cover 16 families, with an average of 5 members per family, a total of 80 people being fed one meal daily. A ration is often shared between two people.
We would like to donate $339 a month. I imagine that the number of rations will increase once they communal kitchens get established and better known. I am concerned that the ration be nutritive, especially for the children, so our donation will be focused on that concern. Some of the mothers who have work will be able to pay for their rations, others will be able to make a contribution, whilst some will be social cases, including elderly people as well as children.
When I use the royal “we”, I am talking about those who might be in a position to be in solidarity with these mothers. Parishes, Columban benefactors, friends and family have all helped me out in the past. This time it is a more urgent appeal to help the families have a more nutritive plate of food each day. Thank you for any assistance you can provide.
Columban Fr. Ed O’Connell lives and works in Peru.