Edomia Poma Pallcarcajo works in the comedor in the communidad of El Jardines in San Juan De Miraflores to support her family, serving up nutritious, cheap government subsized meals to her neighbors. Since living in El Jardines, Edomia has worked to improve the life of her community through efforts like teaching a weekend class to local kids out of her house and helping her neighbors on home improvement projects. She was also MEDLIFEâ€™s point of contact with the community for the recent stair project we completed there the week of December 18th. What makes Edomia and the community of Jardines even more remarkable is that they were able to organize to connect the community to the municipal water supply system and electric system, an effort which Edomia and her husband, who is general secretary of the group of communities city government, played a critical part in.
I spoke with Edomia to learn more about what her strategies and motivations are for the inspiring work she does.
* This interview has been paraphrased and translated from Spanish *
Tell me about some of the work you have done recently with MEDLIFE and within the community.
We have always wanted to have this project (the staircase) to live better, for ease of movement in our community. We have achieved this dream putting our strength, our part, of all our neighbors, men, women and children together. It is difficult, but nothing is impossible for us. Sometimes, the situation is not so easy in this place, in this part of Peru. We live on a little hill. With all of our strength we have brought water and plumbing to our community. I give this message to other communities who also organize and do their part: Not having money doesnâ€™t mean that you cannot improve, that you cannot have. You need to have strength and make a decision. Go to your neighbors, be an example, speak with them, they too can learn to work together. Unity creates strength. Every step we take brings us closer to our goals.
I also want to say thank you to the young people who have visited us from abroad. They are our brothers, I welcome and thank them from my heart. For me, it is a joy to work together with them and my community, smile and walk down the staircase with ease.
What is are some obstacles you face when trying to get the community together to work together on a project?
In a community, not everyone is collaborative and wants to work together. They are not bad people. There is always someone who is discouraged, who has lost hope. But they are not a bad person. They have not been taught, they donâ€™t have the experience, but they too can learn to think in a new way. Some people wait (to work on community projects) until they have a salary, or until they get a reward, but let me tell you the greatest reward you can receive is the happiness of your neighbors, and to see you impact of your work culminate in your community. One person alone cannot make a big difference, but together as a community you can. Give your hand to your neighbour, never your back. You will see a changed family, a new family, and this will make you happy.
Have you ever been discouraged?
When we were working on the water and plumbing project, some people thought that I was receiving a salary for this work, or that I was taking the money for the project and using it for myself. But that wasnâ€™t true, I worked on the project because I wanted it for my community. I felt very sad when one of my neighbors accused my of taking money. I had a dream of a tree that was full of fruit. I was underneath it next to the woman who accused me and it told me, help her, lift her up, so I helped her and lifted her up so she could reach the fruit. What did this tree want to tell me? I meditated and thought about it and decided to take a box and write â€œhelp your fellow manâ€ on it and â€œwe want a better life, to have water and plumbing,â€ and I went to city down below to try and raise money with this woman. We talked with passerby and sang. People gave us changeâ€¦ After some time, she forgave me and supported me on projects.
What was Jardines like when you got here? How did you start working to help others in your community?
When I got here, this place was sand. We didnâ€™t have water or electricity. Our houses were made of wood and plastic bags. I started by giving people adviceâ€¦ I saw their difficulties and gained their trust. I used to always keep medicine in my house, when there (her neighbors) kids were sick, they would knock on my door and ask for a pill. They confided in me.
Later, I would go help them fix their roof, their rooms to make it like a house and help them take out all of the rocks. I would teach them: you can make your house better. I would tell them, I will help you, show me your budget on paper and I will help you make a plan to save money for improvements. Maybe you donâ€™t have money to remove your roof that has collapsed. What about if you take a day and I will come to your house and we can do it togetherâ€¦ At first they looked at me â€œhey neighbor, whatâ€™s going on? Why are you helping me take all the rocks out of my house?â€ But I did it as if it were my own. I showed them and they followed my lead. There are a lot of houses on this little hill that have been improved.
What was your motivation to do all of this? Have you always thought this way?
I am from the district of Andamarca, from the province of conception. I left when I was 11. I saw how much need there was there. Many of us had the desire to study, but the economy didnâ€™t help us. I didnâ€™t even have shoes for elementary school, nor a uniform, notebook, my parents couldnâ€™t help me. I saw my families like this. I wanted to be a professional. I wasnâ€™t able to have a professional career.
I left and went to work in a chicken restaurant helping the cook when I was 11, but always with sadness in my heart, always with the desire to go back and help. Maybe even just by giving someone shoes, a notebook, some fruit… A lot of time passed and I never went back, I was just a child, I didnâ€™t know how to get back â€¦
I met my husband at 15, at 18 we went to Lima together and got married. I lived in a rented apartment in Pueblo Libre, then I went to Comas and had my first kid. He is in university now. He is going to finish in one year. I am so happy for him.
Since we were living in a rented room, it was so expensive. We went to visit some family in Pamplona, and they told us â€œthere is an invasion in the hills. There is land up there. You can go.â€ We went looking for a place to live. At first I couldnâ€™t get used to it because of all the sand. I suffered a lot. But I thought about my family and how am I ever going to be able to help them if I live in a rented room? It is better to stay here. So I spoke with my husband and we stayed. I still wanted to go find my family in the provinces, but I saw that my neighbours here were also from humble places in the provinces like me, and I said, well, it is better that I stay. Because the people here also need my help.