Vida en Huaycan travel blog

Today Lara, Crystal and I went back up to Zone Z for another meeting. I feel like we have a lot of meetings in that Zone these days, which is fantastic! Getting up there was interesting, as there was as city-wide transporation strike today, although all of the buses and motos were still running - people just weren't riding them. Apparently at the entrance of Huaycan anyone who walked near a bus or combi (the name for the small buses here) was stoned, so we just stayed away from all the buses and took "motos" (rickshaw) instead. Crystal really wants to work with the women here in Huaycan - to provide programs for them from skill workshops to help with tax forms to literacy and English classes - really cool ideas. We already have two "classes" for women here in Zone D - my walking club and an English class, but attendence is super at one person each week (and I'm an incredibly fun person to walk with!) We're having a meeting on Sunday afternoon about the women's program, so we went up to the zone z to speak with the directors and pass out's funny, our meetings always end up taking so many tangents. We walked around the zone and talked to women and gathered the other directors (who were elected onto the board last night at the meeting. Most were reelected members I already know, but I met a few new faces today). As we walked and talked, the president brought us over this wooden building and unlooked the door. We went inside, and apparently it used to be used as a public space and library but is now abandoned. It is actually very nice and has many windows and bulletin boards and benches - kind of like an old 19th century school house. They offered the space to us, which was an incredible gift. To date, we had just been working out of a space in a woman's home - the same space that doubled as the zone's church. The offer was a symbol of our acceptance in the community - the board's way of saying "thank you" and we trust you and know that you are doing great things for our kids. Well, and this is pretty funny, apparently this building was constructed at the dead end of a road and the government could come in and extend the road at any point (although this was strange to me – the government is pretty nonexistent in the zone and the building backs up to the cemetery – but if the committee says the building is in the road, well it must be in the road!) The president suggested that we pick up the building and move it several lots over, next to this dear old woman’s house. Crystal gave me a funny look when we heard this proposal and asked the director, “You mean just pick up the house and move it.” “Si, claro.” No big deal – we’ll all just use man power to carry this building down the road sometime next week. That possibility never crossed my mind – so funny!

Anyway, the women at the meeting were so sweet. We just stood out on the street and talked and talked for a long time. They said that they would clean out the school house for us. Lara and I said we’d come and help and they wouldn’t let us. They wanted to clean it for us – they said it would be easy. Crystal talked about the meeting on Sunday and possible programs for the women, and we talked about many other things that I couldn’t follow. That is what usually happens – after a while my brain hurts from translating what I know from the dialogue and I start to tune it out…

The most incredible part of the meeting was an introduction that Elena made. Apparently last night at the Zone meeting, Elena pushed the election of a certain man named Ruben. When we decided to meet today, Elena stopped at his house and he joined us for our impromptu meeting. Oh my goodness…what then passed was so incredible – Elena prompted Ruben to tell the group about his “accident.” I had initially noticed that his arm hung limply at his side, but it was also in a jacket so I thought that maybe he was just nervous or stiff about the meeting – as he is the newest member on the leadership board. Well, he told us very humbly (and never would have told the group had Elena not prompted him) that a year ago his arm was slammed in the door of a combi and he hasn’t been able to use or move it since. I didn’t actually see his arm – but it sounds like it was badly broken and didn’t heal properly, and I am sure there’s a ton of nerve damage. He has a wife and two young children and hasn’t been able to work for a year – no one will hire him with only one good arm. Well, after he spoke, Elena addressed the group, saying, “this is your neighbor, a man with incredible potential who is hurting. We are a community, we need to help him.” Everyone piped up and asked for his lot number and said that they would cover his electricity expenses, and everyone said they would collect money so that he could see a doctor. I had goosebumps for nearly an hour afterwards. Here I was, standing in a circle with the poorest people in the largest shantytown in Lima, people who literally have nothing. They can’t even afford appropriate shoes for their kids, yet they were going to give anything “extra” that they had to help this man and his family because it’s the right thing to do. What a testimony to community! Elena looked at me and said, “I’m glad you’re here. This is a story you should write about.” She’s right. And there are so many others.

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