MEDLIFE has been working in Pamplona Alta since March 2010. The majority of MEDLIFE Service Learning Trips and community development projects in Lima, Peru serve the communities of Pamplona Alta. Zenobia Gonsalves, our media intern in Lima, captured the shots below.
Located in the hills surrounding Lima, Pamplona Alta is a shantytown, or pueblo joven, characterized by conditions of extreme poverty and a lack of infrastructural development. Now housing more than 20,000 residents, it was first populated in the 1990’s when massive numbers of Peruvians immigrated to Lima from the rural countryside — either displaced by the Shining Path terrorism that marked this decade, or looking for better opportunity in Peru’s capital city.
Dirt paths crisscross the valley walls, reaching the families who reside at the top — a long climb from the main avenue below. Can you spot the three MEDLIFE staircases?
Prior to this flood of immigration, Pamplona Alta was occupied by other residents — pigs. Pig farming remains to be one of the primary industries of the region. Currently the small ranches, or chancherias, occupy the most expensive real estate on the valley floor, while the human population resides higher on the valley walls, with entire communities resting on steep, rocky slopes. Typically owned by Peruvians living outside of Pamplona Alta, the chancherias contribute both an unpleasant odor and large amounts of waste to the valley. Above, a pig rests in his shelter.
The pig pens of the chancherias mix with the housing for local families.
Though they may more closely resemble tool sheds than houses, entire families (and in some houses, multiple families) reside in these small shacks. As evidence above, most houses rest on makeshift walls of loose rock — or worse, discarded car tires. The potential earthquake damage instills great fear among residents, and as such the Peruvian government is attempting to add retention walls to Pamplona Alta’s steepest slopes.
Water and sewage lines haven’t yet reached the vast majority of the valley’s communities. Water trucks, run by private companies, deliver water on a daily basis. This system is marked both by its high expense (water costs 10 times as much as it does in areas where lines exist), and the possibility of contamination, both from the trucks themselves and the dirty containers in which it is stored. Families who don’t live by the roads accessed by the water trucks must haul water to their home, bucket by bucket.
The lack of sewage lines means that residents use outhouses — holes in the ground that sometimes are left unsealed. The seepage of this sewage into the ground leads to high rates of parasitic infections, particularly among children who often spend their free time playing in the dirt.
A rooster surveys the valley floor. Many families raise hens to supplement their diet, or sell at market.
The community of Minas 2000 received MEDLIFE’s first-ever stair project. Why? When six months pregnant, the woman residing on the green house on the left fell on the rocky slope outside of her home, prompting an extremely premature birth. MEDLIFE has sought proper treatment for the child, who is now a healthy 2 year old, but wanted to do more to prevent future accidents. The first project was greeted by strong enthusiasm by Minas 2000 and neighboring communities, and MEDLIFE hasn’t stopped building stairs since!
A recently completed staircase sports a MEDVIDA logo.
A private (though free to attend) high school sits in stark contrast to the painted houses below it. The school was built and is partly run by a Catholic aid organization, but currently half of the classrooms remain empty because the government is unable to supply a full teaching staff.
A government-sponsored nursery adds color to the hillside.
The valley floor of Pamplona Alta stretches towards the more developed center of Lima. Government services and infrastructural projects such as paved roads, retention walls, water and sewage lines, and electrical grids are slowly creeping into the valley. Hopefully, the families of Pamplona Alta will soon be receiving the services and structural development that their neighboring city dwellers enjoy.
Photos by Zenobia Gonsalves. Text by Tommy Flint.