This week, the MEDLIFE interns are working on building a new staircase with the community of Jesus Obrero in Villa Maria de Triunfo. Intern Lara Chambers, a student from the UK, writes about the process leading up to this project:
Having arrived in Lima at the beginning of the week, Benjamin, Karolien and I got our first opportunity to go into the field on Thursday afternoon.
We rode on combis with Carlos, the director of MEDLIFE in Peru, and Inge from the communications team to the community of JesÃºs Obrero. It was our first experience of Peruvian transport, and it was certainly different from what we were used to! The bumpy ride, on an old bus, filled to the brim with people is a far cry from the established, modern bus system which exists in Great Britain. However, the bus had character, it was typical of Lima, and as Carlos said “asÃ es PerÃº!”
We visited a part of Lima where people live without running water and without lights up in the hills. For me, it was my first experience of such poverty and I was struck by the contrast between this poverty and the bustling, modern Lima we had experienced earlier in the week. Here people live in houses they have made for themselves, dogs roam the muddy streets which have become quite treacherous as winter has set in here in Lima, bringing with it the rain on these hilly communities.
Carlos did a very good job of explaining why we were visiting this community and what we were going to be doing there. The idea is for the interns to undertake a development project whereby we will help this community to build a staircase later in July. This particular group of “vecinos” live in houses which are scattered down a very steep hill and they have no staircases by which to access their properties. As we witnessed on the day, they are remarkably skilled at scaling the hill without falling, but this will become much more difficult to them as the damp winter makes the path very muddy and dangerous.
Carlos had already engaged with the community and they have rallied together a group who will help with the construction project. They have cleared the pathway and stones so that construction can begin without any problems. On this day we were visiting the community to make sure everything was in order and that they had established a group to help out. We explained how the project would function and together we came up with the idea of having “almuerzo” (lunch) all together every day to ensure a united team effort during the project.
The people here struck me as a very happy and clever bunch. They worked very well together under the leadership of the matriarchs of the community and I felt a true sense of community amongst them. They were keen to interact with us and to show us around.
We met the local baker and his wife. He bakes bread in a little stone oven on their plot of land and then his wife visits the other houses in the community selling their bread products. This is how they make their living, yet I was struck by their generosity as they shared their bread with us. After speaking with them about what they do for their community and tasting their delicious bread, Carlos was so impressed he said we might be able to help them out with a few essentials in the future!
I really enjoyed my first experience in the field with MEDLIFE. I was struck by the positive attitude, the sense of community and the generosity of the people there. I am really looking forward to building the staircase with them, it is a really exciting project for this community and their enthusiasm is infectious.
The staircase in Jesus Obrero is now almost complete! Stay tuned for more updates.