Wearing her characteristic black woolen ski hat even in the blistering heat of Lima summer, Rosita MuÃ±oz purposefully ascends the steep hillside of Santa Cruz, an enormous bucket of cement firmly gripped in each hand. She passes the unwieldy bucket up to a neighbor and immediately turns to go back down and retrieve more. She is working tirelessly at finishing what will be the last of three staircases that have been inaugurated in Santa Cruz, where Rosita acts as a community leader.
Santa Cruz is a small community of around 25, comprised mainly of young families who moved to Lima together from Huancayo when they learned there were large swathes of open land available outside the city. The small community sits at the top of a precipitous stretch of hillside where damp winters and dusty summers create a hazardous, accident-prone ascent for community members. Having learned of MEDLIFE’s staircase undertakings in other areas, Rosita approached Project Coordinator, Carlos Benavides, in July of 2011 and proposed that her burgeoning community be next to receive assistance.
After several MEDLIFE staff members visited Santa Cruz, most were hesitant to undertake the project. Due to its daunting altitude and distance from any navigable roads below, carrying building materials was going to require a fortified and committed community. Thanks largely to the tenacious and determined spirit of Rosita, Santa Cruz presented MEDLIFE with just that. After waiting out the remaining weeks of an intractable winter, neighbors organized an impressive “cadena” or chain of workers who labored for days, bucket by bucket, to bring sand and water to the future site of their first staircase.
Rosita headed weekly meetings in Santa Cruz in the months leading up to the project, inspiring community members to participate and volunteer.
“I want my kids to have better opportunities than I did,” said the mother of three. “My own mom was a single mother and nothing was ever easy.”
During every stage of all three staircases, Rosa worked tirelessly, carrying buckets and rocks, mixing cement, positioning handrails, painting, and planting trees. The relatively young community now stands out against neighboring areas as a developed example of organization and initiative, its three bright red staircases striking and visible throughout Pamplona.
MEDLIFE now hopes to repay the persevering Rosita for all her hard work by helping her treat a painful kidney problem she has been suffering from for the past two years. The wrenching pain didn’t stop the community leader from sweating through hours of hard manual labor, and MEDLIFE is eager to help her manage the financial strain of managing her illness.