Water is an interesting issue in Lima. Lima’s usable water actually comes from ice melting in the distant glaciers high in the mountains, a frightening dependency as the glaciers are quickly vanishing. The mornings in Lima are usually wet, but not from rain. From what I am told, and what I have experienced during my first two days, it never rains in Lima. Cold ocean waters moving up from Antarctica causes a sort of omnipresent cloud cover, generating a thick humidity that leaves Lima moist and damp through the morning hours. The pervasive gray affords Lima with one particular advantage. It keeps the otherwise barren desert from being scorched by the sun.
It is prudent to befriend the sublime benefits that the gray provides.
Today, I was shadowing the work of Coprodeli, a not-for-profit foundation in Peru. I visited one of their sites as they were showcasing their work to a delegation from the United States who is interested in funding some of Coprodeli’s projects. The site visit was in an area outside of Lima known as Pachacúte, named after one of the great leaders of the Incas. I don’t know if I felt better or worse knowing that this desolate slum was named in the heritage of a great leader, a man who was himself exploited by Spanish Conquistadors.
Luckily, Pachacúte is beautifully situated overlooking the Pacific coast, which means that when the government of Peru eventually gets a constant supply of water to Pachacute, and figures out how to build mansions in loose gravel, the poor who live in Pachacute will probably be relocated. It won’t be a surprise to them. The inhabitants are migrant people who were forcibly relocated here in the first place.
The Peruvian government, in an attempt to relieve the overcrowded slums of Lima, mandated the evacuation of inland migrants to this location, which is in itself, a make-shift settlement. Pachacute currently has 100,000 inhabitants, all living without the benefit infrastructure, government, industry in which to work, or public transportation to get to a place where they can work. There is however a whole mountains of loose, gray sand in every direction. Because of the lack of water, all of which is brought in by truck, they can’t even start small farms to grow the sparsest of food. Most people live in single room, four wall houses, made from woven palm, with plastic roofs for the very odd occasion that it might mist heavier than normal.
Coprodeli was created, in order to provide assistance for the human beings who have no choice but to live in places like Pachacute. It was founded by a diocesan priest in the diocese of Callao, outside Lima, by the name of Fr. Miguel Ranera in the year 1989. I would be proud to mention the work that Coprodeli has accomplished in eighteen years, their 3,000 students, nine schools, their small business initiatives, housing assistance, etc., but all that information can easily be accessed by visiting their website at www.coprodeli.org.
In Pachacute, Copradeli is working in a center they developed known built around St. Francis parish. If you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer, you can view my pictorial of the facility by clicking here.
Copradeli helpd to fund and construct the St. Francis facility. In doing so, they developed a place to care for the physical and spiritual needs of people. There is a school, an adult learning center, a dispensary for donated clothes, and emergency food. It includes a health clinic and pharmacy. It even has x-ray equipment and an ultrasound to monitor pregnancies. Where there is absolutely nothing, Coprodeli is everything.
Which gives me very mixed feelings. One of the greatest ironies about helping the poor is that it can lead to the development of a poverty subclass. As long as you keep helping, the poor will reinforce the inabilities they posses that made them poor in the first place. Social welfare institutions, such as Coprodeli, are notorious for causing a perpetual cycle in which they enable people to stay poor. By helping, they can actually be hurting.
From St. Francis’ parish, I looked out over the roaring ocean at what has to be one of the bigger social welfare mistakes I’ve ever seen in my life. The wind picks up, and launches a grey mist into our faces. In the derelict city that is left here, it is difficult to discern in the short time that I am here what is helping and what is hurting the poor. The obscurity of the social conditions matches the ubiquitous cover of grey in the weather.
The American delegation I am with is hopeful. They are able to fund close to one million dollars in development projects in Peru every year, and are very interested in the work of Coprodeli. Both institutions seem to be on the right track. They spend the greater portion of their time talking about support for the school, trade skills, and business development. Funding those kinds of programs have a proven tract record of making a difference, but it would be a greater assistance if they could fund a change in the weather patterns. If there were sufficient water to irrigate the sandy terrain of Pachacute, it could at least be used for small farms. That would do some real good. Unfortunately, there is no way to undo the idiotic public policy that led to moving tens of thousands of people to a place where there is no viable livelihood to be had.
Without a shining ray to cast light on the situation, we’re all just wandering around, hoping that we’re doing the right thing. The American’s are throwing money at the situation, Coprodeli is taking care of the immediate needs of the poor, and I’m hoping that social relationships, inspired by the narrative of the marginalized will inspire a generation of global citizens who will address the real problem, a world that is content to ignore the dignity of our fellow human beings.
I don’t think that any one of us has the whole answer. We’re each doing a part. We’re all just a little bit handicap in our approaches. There are a lot of gray areas in the work of social justice, but there is… a sublime benefit that gray provides. At least we can move. We can work. We can love. At least we’re not completely in the darkness.