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Creating Hope

Children playing at Warmi Huasi
Finding Purpose

By Fr. Ed O'Connell

When things are not going well, like the situation of Peru in these present years, people can lose hope. During the pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs, although disproportionally the poor lost their jobs at higher rates. Plus global inflation has pushed up prices, and now there is a political crisis that has brought overall instability and fear.

In such situations, it is necessary to “create hope,” that is provide the conditions whereby the people can begin to believe in themselves again through participating in a self-help program that also includes improving community life.

Fr. Ed O'Connell
Fr. Ed O'Connell

Following are three examples of such conditions being created so that people can have reasons to hope again. After the testimonies of the five women, there are the testimonies of two adolescents Lula and Leti, who were somewhat lost. Warmi Huasi provides the welcoming and friendly atmosphere where people feel valued, their dignity respected in a society where often they are mistreated, and the encouragement to believe they can achieve their goals. It makes an enormous difference to them.

In San Benito, a state-run Adult Education Program was set up to meet local need. The program provides education for 31 young and adult women so they can finish their primary education. In November 2022, they covered topics such as nutrition and nutritious food. This was an opportunity for mothers in the Health and Environment Committee (organic vegetable gardens) to share their knowledge and what they have learned and to promote the expansion of family or community organic vegetable gardens. These gardens also give them the chance to improve the nutritional value of the food they eat at home or generate income for their families in the future.

Sonia and Danny took part in these programs.

The “Mujeres Empoderadas”

(Women Leadership Empowerment Program) initiative set up in 2022 has been well received by mothers in the San Benito and surrounding communities. Discussing topics such as sexuality, gender, self-esteem, emotional control and preventing child abuse and violence has contributed to improving their self-esteem and safety and has empowered them. It has also helped them to update their understanding of these issues and be better equipped to interact with their children and give them emotional support and guidance. This whole process has even motivated them to hold awareness-raising activities in their own community, and enabled more women and mothers to join them.

Jessica, Milagros and Eugenia took part in this program

Volunteer tutors a child after school at Warmi Huasi
A volunteer tutors a child after school at Warmi Huasi

In both regions, initiatives to protect children and adolescents and reduce violence against them have progressed successfully. At the local government level, Warmi Huasi is providing technical support to improve the system for registering and dealing with cases of violence against children and adolescents, both in terms of collecting relevant information, and implementing the operating system/ program (referral pathway).

In Carabayllo the Committee for the Safeguarding of Children and Adolescents and Prevention of Violence was set up in 2021. In 2022 it has strengthened its identity and organizational skills. The committee members are interested in and motivated by this issue which is so prevalent in their community. They see the need to continue their training on the subject, and as a committee they also want to run awareness-raising activities in the community and with school parents, mainly on violence prevention.

Eugenia also took part in this program.

Sonya (45 years old)

“I was born in Puno. They brought me to Lima when I was three years old. I don’t remember much because I was very young when I came. I currently live in Los Cipreses township with my husband and my two children. I don’t have close relatives, I haven´t worked since the pandemic but have participated in a communal kitchen and spend my time there until midday. My financial support comes from my husband as he works. Warmi Huasi supports us through training, other activities and psychological support, which has helped me a lot. When I go to Warmi Huasi I relax and learn a lot. What I learn motivates me to teach at home. One example is the organic garden. I have one at home, and everything I learn in Warmi Huasi I do at home and pass it on to my children.”

Jessica (47 years old)

“I live with my husband and our four children in San Benito. I am a seamstress, and I participate in the Warmi Huasi Women Leadership Empowerment Program. Before this I lived by working at home, doing housework, but now in the workshops I relax and get away from the stress of so many worries that we have at home. It helps us so that between us we can continue in good spirits and be able to create a calmer community where our children can grow up safe. I would like to thank Warmi Huasi because they give us time for ourselves to be able to continue improving as people and as mothers. My goals and plans is to keep well and advise my family in everything I have learned. I have learned to value myself which helps me improve my relationship with my children. My faith has motivated me because I believe in myself, and I believe that I will always achieve what I set my mind to do.”

Milagros (43 years old)

“I was born in Piura, but now I live in San Benito with my husband and my two children. I work independently selling in the market. This year I participated in the Women Leadership Empowerment Program that Warmi Huasi carried out, at the invitation of some neighbors, and I can say that it was an unforgettable experience. Before participating, I was always doing housework, and I didn’t have much time for myself. Now I have improved a lot. It helps me to have time for myself and thus improve every day as a person, since I have gone through difficult times in the pandemic. My goals and plans are to increase my business, have a prosperous business and improve as a person, mother, wife and in my community. This experience has improved my everyday faith because I believe in myself, and I am learning to be better and to control my emotions.

Eugenia (44 years old)

“I live in Lomas de Carabayllo with my family. This year has been very rewarding as I have been able to participate in spaces such as Women Empowerment for Leaders. This space helps me to clarify many doubts that I had regarding the issue of raising my children. I did not know how to help them. But now I have more clarity on what I am going to tell them and how to go about it. This has improved my relationship within my family. I also participated in the Protection Committee for the prevention of violence. I work in a kindergarten, which is a space for educational attention of children from 3 to 5 years old. Participating in the committee has helped me to focus more on my community, give them support and guidance especially in cases of violence. I always invite the women of my community to come along because I know that the workshops that take place in Warmi Huasi are not only to improve myself as a person, but to be able to improve my community. I would like to say thank you to Warmi Huasi, thank you and please continue supporting small communities so that we can improve our lives.

Danny (45 years old)

“I was born in Cajamarca and at the age of 16 came to Lima. I currently live in San Benito with my family. My husband and I worked before the pandemic, but with the pandemic we lost our jobs. I get temporary jobs but now to maintain our home, we depend on our eldest son. This year I have been very happy because my neighbors told me about Warmi Huasi and the adult education program. I was very scared at first but my eldest son encouraged me, he told me: “Go mommy you will learn a lot there.” Thanks to that, I have participated in the Health and Environment Committee. I have learned to make a garden and harvest my own vegetables and reuse recyclable materials. I can say that I have learned a lot. I value my time more, I am motivated and I want to continue learning. I have even saved money by not buying in the market anymore. My goal is to finish high school, and in my organic garden, I would like to plant vegetables so I can sell them. Now I feel that my faith and my thoughts have given me power, and I believe that I will achieve everything I set my mind to.”

Lula (13 years old)

“I live in San Benito, but I was born in Lima. I live with my mom, my older sister, an aunt and my cousin. The pandemic has been very difficult. With the return to school I feel that my routine has changed, and one of the new things I am doing is participating in Warmi Huasi. On Fridays I had nothing to do, but now I do because I go to my workshops, I have fun and have met children that I like, and I think the workshops are nice. My goal is to first finish all of my high school, go to college, if God allows, and have a career. I am grateful to Warmi Huasi and the team there, because these workshops they give, in which I have a lot of fun, I know that many adolescents do not have this opportunity.”

Leti (12 years old)

“In my family we are: my father, my mother and my older brother. We all live together in a house that is located in San Benito. I was born in Lima. I participate in the workshops Warmi Huasi runs and also in the Reading Club. I love it! I go to my workshops and the club, because before I only watched televisión. Because of the pandemic I couldn’t see my friends, now I feel that I have more productive time and that I have learned several things. When I finish school I want to study graphic design or psychology, to help other children. I want to thank Warmi Huasi and their team for always helping us to have our workshops.”

Columban Fr. Ed O’Connell lives and works in Peru.