I was climbing down a steep hill-side of slippery rocks when I paused to catch my breath. It was my first week in Lima, and I was participating in our Reality Tour. Carlos, the Director of MED Programs Peru, was leading us through the communities on the outskirts of Lima to help us better understand the challenges they face everyday. â€œYa, chicos, bajamos,â€ Carlos tells us to hurry down as we’re supposed to meet with the community members from Wilbert Basurto. Fearful I might fall, I crouched down and placed both hands on the rocks beside me for support as I lowered myself down.
Once I planted both feet on solid ground, I looked back at the precarious path I had just descended. There were two young children scrambling down the rocks, followed by a woman wearing flip-flops and carrying her baby in a poncho on her back. Shortly after, another woman approximately 7 months pregnant, Herlita, slowly made her way down to greet us. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here I was properly equipped with good health, youth and sturdy hiking boots, yet struggling to safely reach the bottom. How were these individuals supposed to do the same without stable shoes? What would they do if it were raining or dark out? It was that moment I realized the gravity of the situation. They need a safe passageway; specifically, a staircase.
Less than two months later, I found myself sitting in that same location next to Herlita, except this time she was holding a happy, healthy baby, just 20 days old. We shared traditional foods, cachanga and cebada, from the region Huancavelica, where most of the community members had migrated from. As we enjoyed this meal, the community members of Wilbert Basurto discussed their plans with Carlos to begin the process of building their first staircase. The community was ready and inspired. They had just witnessed the inauguration of two new staircases in a nearby community Laderas de Nueva Esperanza, a location where we have been working for five years and have completed 11 staircases. The community members of Wilbert Basurto were able to see the success of their neighbors’ efforts first-hand, turning a seemingly unattainable idea into a more tangible goal.
Wilbert Basurto is a much smaller community. They only have 21 families in comparison to the 93 families that make up Laderas de Nueva Esperanza, but Carlos assured the community members that it can be done. He emphasized the importance of commitment to the project and suggested that they ask to rent the wooden molds for their staircases from Laderas de Nueva Esperanza. As the community members came to an agreement with Carlos, I turned to Herlita by my side and smiled. She, her baby, and countless neighbors would soon have a staircase, providing safe access to and from their home.
It was that moment that I realized the true magnitude of MEDLIFE’s impact. We have built staircases, individual relationships and collaborative partnerships. We have empowered communities to organize and create positive change for themselves, but what I find to be the most meaningful is how communities have started to collaborate and learn from each other. To me, this is the truest essence of empowerment, and this is how the MEDLIFE mission will continue to grow.