Written by Sandra Gastañudi Torres //

(Article originally written in Spanish. Click here for the English translation)

Spanish

Alto Trujillo y Nuevo Jerusalén, son dos localidades contiguas, que se extienden en los  arenales del Cerro Cabra, en la ciudad de Trujillo; son altamente peligrosos y delictivos, abundan las pandillas, sicariato y bandas organizadas. Probablemente el germen del problema es el abandono y violencia familiar  que viven los niños y las niñas.  Los padres salen temprano a trabajar, dejando a los pequeños solos en casa o encargados con vecinos; nadie supervisa su comportamiento y alimentación. Los padres regresan  casi de noche, muchas veces a castigar a sus hijos por el mal comportamiento durante el día.

Hacia el año 2007, Dios puso en mi corazón a llevar una cantina de leche, todos los sábados, para compartir con niños de extrema pobreza, en Alto Trujillo. El objetivo no era asistencial ni de nutrición, ya que 20 litros de leche, un día por semana, no contribuye a elevar el estado nutricional, de los aproximadamente, 40 niños y niñas que asistían.  El propósito era  predicar la Palabra y formar valores en ellos. Compartí esta experiencia con la Iglesia a la que asisto, y decidieron ser parte de este hermoso ministerio que Dios nos había inspirado. Nuestro Pastor Ramón Casana, que trabaja en la ONG A Rocha Perú, elaboró un proyecto socio ambiental, cuyo objetivo consistía en crear un Centro para la Paz, que diera a los adolescentes y jóvenes oportunidades para desarrollar ideas creativas y sostenibles, recibir capacitación en liderazgo, y desarrollo de los valores sociales y ambientales.

La ayuda llegó; en el 2014 recibimos la noticia de la aprobación del proyecto, el cual iniciamos en enero del 2015, en el sector Nuevo Jerusalén, cerca de Alto Trujillo; desde allí, hay una historia hermosa que contar. Recuerdo que el primer día de trabajo, tratando de ubicar a adolescentes y jóvenes para ejecutar el proyecto, me encontré en medio de una “guerra campal” de dos bandos de niños de 6 a 11 años de edad, aproximadamente; con ondas en las manos se lanzaban piedras unos a otros, un grupo de niños estaban ubicados en la parte alta y otros en la parte baja. Me acerqué a la escena gritando: ¡Paren, basta, se van a lastimar!… miren traje caramelos y quiero compartirles.

Desconfiadamente, se fueron acercando. Les pregunté por qué peleaban y comenzaron a agredirse verbalmente,  los de arriba con palabras soeces decían: ”Nosotros somos de la U y ellos de la Alianza”, (La U significa que eran del equipo de fútbol de Universitario de deportes y Alianza del equipo de fútbol de Alianza Lima), entendí que se peleaban por ocupar la única loza deportiva, hice mi mayor esfuerzo  por tratar de mantener el orden entre ellos, y explicarles el propósito de formar un club con adolescentes y jóvenes, pero que también me encantaría trabajar con ellos. Como no teníamos aún un local, para nuestras reuniones, la loza deportiva era el lugar perfecto. Les conté una historia bíblica y luego compartimos gaseosa con bizcochos, que compré en una tienda cercana.

Al principio, eran reacios a participar y  mantener el orden y disciplina, se acercaban sólo para interrumpir, peleaban entre ellos y se insultaban, bueno, aún algunos, siguen haciéndolo. Cuando no asistían iba a buscarlos; pero pasado algunos meses, ellos llegaban a la hora pactada, e incluso reclamaban que debía venir más temprano. Empezó a darse un cambio, note que los niños ya no venían motivados por un refrigerio o alguna recompensa, por los trabajos realizados, ellos venían porque encontraban lo que no tenían: disciplina y amor.

Les agrada que los corrija, mirándolos a los ojos, en una conversación a solas, y les diga lo valioso que son, que tienen grandes talentos, que los impulsarán muy lejos, si así lo desean y se esfuerzan; pero que pueden echarlos a perder con sus malas acciones,  los abrazo, oro por ellos y les digo que los amo; trato de ser una mamá en ese momento, devolverles lo que no encuentran en casa, porque la pobreza se los quitó; casi siempre terminamos con un profundo suspiro y ojos humedecidos.

Durante tres años hemos emprendido juntos el  cuidado de la creación a través del reciclaje, hidroponía, biohuertos, y crianza de cuyes. En lo social y cultural, hemos tenido talleres de danzas y  escuela de valores, así como paseos. La tarea es ardua, esperamos tener financiamiento para los próximos años, pero sé que Dios proveerá.

//

English

Alto Trujillo and Nuevo Jerusalen are two contiguous communities that extend across the sandy skirts of Cerro Cabra outside the city of Trujillo, Peru.  They are highly dangerous and crime-laden, with an abundance of gangs, assassinations, and organized bands.  Probably the origin of this problem is the abandonment and family violence experienced by the girls and boys in these communities.  The parents leave early in the day for work, leaving the little ones alone or in the care of neighbors.  No one supervises their feeding or behavior.  The parents return almost at night, often to punish their children for bad behavior during the day

Around the year 2007, God put it in my heart to take a large jug of milk to Alto Trujillo every Saturday to share with children in extreme poverty.  The goal was not nutritional aid—barely 20 liters of milk, once a week, did not contribute to elevating the nutritional status of the probably 40 children who attended.  The goal was to preach the Christian gospel, and to form values.  I shared this experience with the church that I attend, and they decided to be part of this beautiful ministry that God had inspired in us.  Our pastor, Ramón Casana, who works with the NGO (non-governmental organization), A Rocha Perú, designed a social-environmental project with the goal of designing a “peace center” that would give adolescents and young people opportunities to develop creative and sustainable ideas, receive leadership training, and develop social and environmental values.

Help arrived.  In 2014, we received notice of the approval of the project, which we began in January of 2015 in a sector of Nuevo Jerusalen close to Trujillo Alto.  From then on, I have a beautiful story to tell.  I remember my first day of work when, while trying to locate the children and teens to take part in the project, I found myself in the middle of a “gang war” between two bands of boys between 6 and 11 years old.  With slingshots in their hands, they launched stones at each other, with one group located on the high ground and the others located on the low ground.  I approached the scene yelling, “Stop! Enough, you’re going to hurt yourselves!  Look, I brought caramels, and I want to share them with you all.”

Untrusting, the children drew cautiously closer.  I asked them why they had been fighting, and they began to insult each other verbally, the ones on the high ground saying, with foul language, “We are for the U and they are for the Alianza.”  (“U” is nickname for the soccer team of a local university, and “Alianza” refers to the team Alianza Lima).  I understood that they were fighting for control over the cement slab that served as the community’s soccer field.  I made my best effort to try and maintain order between the children and to explain that my intention was to form a club with youth and adolescents, but that I would love to work with them as well.  As we didn’t have a place to meet, the soccer field was a perfect place.  I told the children a Bible story, and afterwards, we shared soda and cake that I had bought in a nearby shop.

At first the children were unwilling to participate and to maintain order and discipline.  They came close only to interrupt, to fight amongst themselves, and to insult each other.  Well to be honest, some continue to do so.  When the children failed to show up, I went looking for them, but after a couple months, they began to arrive at the agreed-upon hour, and even to insist that I should come earlier in the day.  A change began to occur—I noticed that the children were no longer motivated to come by snacks or by some reward for the work they would do.  Instead, they came because they found what they didn’t have: discipline and love.  They were pleased when I would correct them, looking them in the eyes, in one-on-one conversations.  I would tell them how valuable they are, that they have great talents that will take them far, if that is what they desire and work for.  At the same time, I warned them that they can lose that potential through bad actions.  I hug them, I pray for them, and I tell them that I love them.  I try to be a mother in that moment; to return to them what they do not find at home because poverty has taken it from them.  Almost always [after these conversations] we end up breathing deeply and with damp eyes.  

During three years we have learned together about caring for the environment through recycling, hydroponics, mini gardens, and raising guinea pigs.  On a social front, we have had dance workshops and a school of values, as well as field trips.  The work is hard, and we hope to have financing for the next years, but I know God will provide it.  

//

Sandra Gastañudi Torres es esposa, madre, enfermera, y activista en contra de la violencia a la mujer y abuso infantil. Trabaja en la ONG A Rocha Perú, pero también tiene un establo como negocio familiar. En sus ratos libres le gusta leer temas de actualidad política, arte y música.

Sandra Gastañudi Torres is a wife, mother, nurse, and also an activist against violence against women and child abuse. She works with the NGO A Rocha Peru, but also runs a stable as a family business. In her free time she likes to read about current issues in politics, art, and music.

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One thought on “Children of the Sand: Restoring the Home Poverty Stole

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