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PERU | Monday, 2 June 2008 | Views [5459] | Comments [2]

A child searching for aluminium cans in Pamplona.

A child searching for aluminium cans in Pamplona.

 At 11am Carmen and I finally met out the front of the McDonalds in Miraflores. Her friend who used to be a police officer was waiting on the street in a taxi, ready to drive us to the shanty town of Pamplona, which is in the mountains nearby the city. We said hello and gave each other a big hug (as we had been communicating via the internet for many months), and jumped in the cab.

As the taxi drove down the street, Carmen and I did not stop talking. The vibe was intensely positive, and I could feel the excitement building for where we were about to go. We were so obviously both going for the same reasons... to bring much needed help and attention to a town of about 600 extremely poor families. 

We arrived in Pamplona Baja (Lower Pamplona), and slowly made our way to Alta Pampalona (Upper Pamplona). Carmen tells me on the way up about the loads of street gangs that use football (soccer) as an excuse to start fights. Many boys in gangs here... some with guns, are only 15 or 16 years old, and will attack others just because they are on a different football team.

We ascent slowly up the hill and inform people on the way that we are there to help. We do this to keep any trouble away. I feel very safe. 

There are many boys playing football on the dirt as there isn't one blade of grass to be seen. The smell is a mixture of rubbish, dust, and pig and other animal feces. My throat and the back of my nose begins to hurt.

Carmen tells me that many people who live in this shanty town come from all over Peru... many from the mountains. They were forced to flee from the terrorist group known as "Sendero Luminoso" (Shining Path). This communist, Maoist, guerrilla organisation kidnapped and killed many people, and captured young children, and trained them to become soldiers.

Here in Pamplona, there is no electricity, and water must be brought in by trucks. Unfortunately because the roads are so steep and narrow, the people who live in upper Pamplona must carry tanks up to their homes... even women who are pregnant. It also takes over 1 hour to walk to a medical post.

I can see children digging through the rubbish, searching for a kilo of aluminum cans, in order to try and earn one sole (about 35 Australian cents). This may take all day. Many of the children have skin diseases and stomach problems, and most have chest, throat, and nose infections and allergies due to the dusty, intoxicated air.

Most mothers share one room with there children, and cook and eat all in the same room. Some even have seven children, and must share the same bed. A lot of young women (15-16yrs old), have children to their male family members. An example of this is perhaps an uncle getting so drunk that he forgets his relation to his niece, and rapes her. He may not even remember what he did when morning comes.

Tuberculosis is everywhere, and children walk over an hour to get to school. The only thing that is good, is the dining room that the community can share. It is much cheaper for the locals, who can share there food with each other there, and also more sanitary than cooking in there rooms.
But they are definitely in need of another one. 

For only about $1500 USD, a desperately required kindergarten could be built in the town, with university volunteers helping with the construction.    

The amount of tourists in Lima is increasing, and many come to see the shanty town. But Carmen tells me that very few volunteers come to help, and that no one from Australia ever comes to help.

Carmen first came to Pamplona about 7 years ago. She is a fearless woman who works throughout many areas of Peru. She helps young females who are lost in the world of prostitution in Iquitos, but was unfortunately threatened by pimps to stop her efforts in Lima. She has also been helping the poor people of Chincha (near to where the earthquake happened) since she was 15 years old. 

A funny thing happened on the bus on the way back to Mira Flores... Carmen and I were chatting, when a man sitting near us began talking to me in English. He was from Australia, but has been also working in Chincha and Lima helping the poor! we found out that he builds schools in Chincha for children and also built one a few years ago in Pamplona!! This strange coincidence shocked Carmen and I, and we quickly got his contact details before he hopped off the bus.

To volunteer in Pamplona for 3 weeks it costs only $150 Australian dollars. This includes transport to the town from Miraflores, accommodation in an area such as Pamplona Baja, and food. 

To volunteer in Pamplona contact Carmen Gomez at:  carmengomezcoello@yahoo.es   

Being so close to Machu Picchu, and many other wonderful tourist destinations, I don't see why anyone wouldn't stop by to help out in an area where people are in need of so much care and attention.




So glad you and Carmen finally caught up! Great for putting the information up about how to volunteer there as well.

  Krystle Oct 6, 2008 2:49 AM


Hola, acabo de leer tu nota y creo que no estás siendo precisa con algunos datos. Es cierto que en el Asentamiento Humano de Pamplona existe mucha pobreza, pero no debe ser generalizada; porque existe tambièn mucha gente emprendedora y progresista cuyos hijos ahora son profesionales, poseen negocios y tienen una vida sostenible.
Lo que falta en la invasión de Pamplona (lugar de las fotos que has publicado) es mucha educación y generar comunicación con las autoridades para que mejores ese lugar.
Así es que por favor debes diferenciar a Pamplona Alta y Baja de la Invasión que tienen problemas económicos, sociales y salubres muy distintos.

  Miriam Feb 27, 2013 8:41 AM



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