Category Archives: Peru

Sisters Provide Disaster Relief

By Sisters Juana Rivera Jara and Evelyn Fitzke, SNDdeN

El Niño rains hit the Pacific coast of Peru in March and April 2017. In the rural north, the Piura region, where two communities of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur live and minister, the devastation was particularly damaging. Floods devastated whole villages; Houses-flooded-neighborhoods-web300pxthey washed away houses, schools, and health centers; they destroyed roads, bridges and vast areas of crops. During the heavy rains and flooding, the Sisters in the Tambogrande Region rallied to help people suffering from the disasters to their homes and property. Everywhere, destruction and disease pervaded an area where many people are already vulnerable!

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Sr. Juana Rivera Jara, SNDdeN hangs an IV for an elderly dengue fever patient. No fancy IV equipment or crisp bedsheets here! The patients walked many miles to reach the Health Center in town, where dedicated staff offer the best they can .

Sr. Juana Rivera Jara, SNDdeN is a nurse, living in Tambogrande in a community of four sisters, and working in the town’s health center. She talks about the pain and suffering that she is witnessing daily from those who are ill, living in poverty and at great distances from medical resources. “The torrential rains have brought diseases, especially dengue hemorrhagic fever and chikungunya (deadly viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes), and also the threat of cholera. There have been many deaths,” she says sadly. “In my work as a nurse, I care for people with these illnesses. They are mostly those living in poverty in flooded rural areas.”

Sr. Juana comes from the village of Miraflores, high in the hills that border the town of Tambogrande. “I was born in the rural area, I grew up in the campo,” she tells us. “I appreciate and enjoy the countryside and nature and all its beauty. But there also have been moments in 1983, 1998, and now 2017 that frightened and saddened me. I feel now the suffering of the people from the disastrous flooding: whole villages cut off by damaged roads and bridges, mudslides, crops completely lost and domestic animals carried away into the rivers and mudslides.”

 

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Sr. Juana uses games and puzzles to access the development of children in the village in order to pick up developmental delays that can be treated.

Facing Challenges
Sr. Juana realizes the challenges. The people who come to the Tambogrande health center are very poor, and often come great distances, from the rural communities that surround the town. With rivers and creeks swollen, roads and bridges destroyed, to reach the health center presents major obstacles for travel. In several rural communities, the small health clinics are completely washed away, so people have to make the long trek into Tambogrande.

Sr. Juana understands the problematic situations, hurdles and frustrations experienced by the people in the travel through raging waters and thick mud:
♦ parents bringing their child with a high fever and convulsions;
♦ the family transporting their grand-dad whose speech is slurred;
♦ the man and woman carrying their brother who fell and now is unconscious.

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Even the local ambulance sometimes gets stuck in the strong currents of the swollen river!

Once the people arrive, they need to pay for basic supplies, such as needles, IV equipment, bandages and medicines. They do not have health insurance; they do not have any money. With the bean fields washed away by the floods, the livestock drowned in the rivers and mudslides, these desperate people search for medical help for loved ones in this humanitarian crisis, caused by the severe flooding. Tambogrande’s health center, made of brick, is still standing, but desperately under-equipped and under-staffed. The flood waters are reaching the walls of the health clinic, and are now a focus of mosquitoes. There are not enough beds or mosquito nets or other essential equipment. When the emergency room overflows with patients, the medical staff must attend them on stretchers and benches in the hallways.

For the doctors and nurses, the situation is extremely difficult, Sr. Juana explains: “The hours are long, 12-18 hours per shift, which is longer than normal, due to the shortage of medical personnel. The conditions are not safe for the healthcare worker, either! I have often been afraid of contracting these illnesses, because we work surrounded by the mosquito that carries the virus.” The biggest challenge now facing Sr. Juana and the other medical staff at her health clinic is the current outbreak of deadly dengue hemorrhagic fever, carried by a mosquito breeding in the flood waters. In fact, Sr. Juana heard that 3 young healthcare workers, 2 nurses and a pharmacist in the neighboring city of Piura, have died from these illnesses.

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Sisters Juana Rivera Jara and Consuelo Zapata Crisanto (center and right) interview a resident (left) in a shanty town on their rounds as community nurses.

Assistance from a Community of the Sisters of Notre Dame
How do we help? In any way we can. Sr. Juana often finds she has to help discretely, out of her own pocket with Notre Dame funds, to make up what is lacking in terms of medicine or critical supplies. Sometimes it may be only her own bottle of drinking water that saves the day.

With Sr. Consuelo Zapata Crisanto, SNDdeN, a nursing student, Sr. Juana conducts home visits in some destitute neighborhoods.

Sr. Miriam Montero Bereche, SNDdeN, a psychologist, provides post-traumatic stress

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Sr. Miriam Montero Bereche (right) and the parish youth group distribute emergency packages of good for families living under plastic sheeting or in tents.

counseling to individuals and families traumatized by the flooding.

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Sr. Evelyn Fitzke visits an elderly man in a small village and brings medication and food supplies.

 

Sr. Evelyn Fitzke, SNDdeN, visits the elderly through our St. Julie Senior Adult Program and ensures that they have essential medications and food.

Sharing is a primary value in the Peruvian culture.
During the recent floods, the SNDdeN community as a whole worked in coordination with the local parish to obtain and distribute supplies of food and medicines to devastated neighborhoods of people living in poverty. Recently, Sr. Miriam accompanied the members of the parish youth group to the town of Catacaos, which was completely

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Children and parents sit outside to eat packets of food, just distributed.

destroyed when the Piura River overflowed. The group distributed emergency packages of food to families camped out on the side of the road or to whole families living under plastic sheeting or in tents. This project, initiated by people who themselves have lost so much shows how even the most vulnerable find some way to reach out to someone who has even less. Through their involvement in the parish, specific experience and training and the generosity of donors, the Sisters feel blessed to share and to offer some relief in a humanitarian crisis.

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Enabling Women with New Skills

By Sister Mary Isabel Kilpatrick, SNDdeN

A few years ago, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur began a new mission in San Clemente, Pisco, south of Lima, Peru. In this region, the people continue to experience lasting effects from the earthquake of 2007. In February 2010, Sisters Miriam Montero Bereche and Mary Isabel Kilpatrick, SNDdeN visited this area in an effort to determine the best way to reach out in a new mission to the people.  The needs were obvious.  At first only those who could prove they were “damnificadas” received any grants for housing.

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Sr. Miriam Montero Bereche with Rosa and Magdalena at a workshop.

Sister Miriam (center) began to offer workshops to help displaced people dealing with stress. With such little assistance and a lack of housing, multiple difficulties resulted in physical and emotional health problems, including poor nutrition, family violence as well as delinquency among the youth.

Yogurt Project
Sr. Mary Isabel saw the need to provide some employment for women seeking a source of income. She searched for the possibility of developing small projects with the women. She called on a friend, Maria, a food engineer who had helped her previously in Lima. Maria had given a course on the preparation of fruit drinks and yogurt with the mothers of the children in the Fe y Alegria School in Lima. Again, Maria was willing to give lessons in

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Patty and Sr. Mary Isabel Kilpatrick label and seal the yogurt containers.

making yogurt, now in San Clemente.  First, someone offered their house for the classes, the women contributed ingredients and shared the product at the end. While in this area, Sr. Mary Isabel and her volunteers discovered a small hall that had been built recently for people with special needs. The watchman, a blind man, offered the use of this hall, far from the centre of town but with better conditions and more space for the course. This location put the Sisters and volunteers in touch with some of the families with special needs in the area.

Project Becomes Sustainable
From this contact, they developed two small lunch programmes, one in this centre for disabled persons and another in the Santa Rosa barrio, in collaboration with the Dominican Sisters ministering also in San Clemente. Various groups of women enjoyed taking the courses but they had difficulty in organizing themselves to be able to continue.

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Jenny and Rosa collect milk for the Yogurt Project while little Yumi helps.

Later, we were able to rebuild  one of the rooms damaged by the earthquake  next to our house in the Parish. This space is large enough to have the necessary equipment and reasonable conditions for groups to learn different skills. With the help of our engineer friend, Maria, a small group of women developed successfully the Yogurt Project. At present, by working two days a week, the six women are able to produce 60-80 litres of yogurt. This amount covers the cost of the ingredients and gives a small profit for each participant as they sell the yogurt. It is possible to increase the capacity but the women are not yet ready to take that step.

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Jenny assists in the fruit preparation.

Although the project is small, it is significant as a source of income for the families involved; the product itself has health benefits for the recipients; the  participants  have developed friendships, learned to deal with customers and  to cope with fluctuations in prices and availability of ingredients. They have their trials and tribulations but also a place to share them. They bring more life to the parish community. They hope eventually to provide catering services for groups that come for baptisms and funerals.

Development for Women
Besides the Natural Yogurt Project, Sister Mary Isabel is creating an Integrated Development Program for Women by providing workshops and hands-on training. Sewing Projects, such as painted tablecloths, which are sold, give training and income and cover as well the cost of the materials and supplies for the women workers. The Baking Project allows saleable goods yielding some income for the women workers after financing initial expenses. A growing program, Healing Touch, trains pastoral health group members to use “energy medicine” as a tool for overall wellness. An educational component is growing slowly yet positively as two women prepare for Level 5 certification. About 50 women have benefited directly from these projects while many more members of the parish community also received assistance.

Although family responsibilities continue to make demands on the time and energy of these women, those who choose to work together and learn new skills, do become more self-sufficient. They grow in confidence in their own abilities and a sense of God’s goodness in their lives.

GW June 2016 – Enabling Women with New Skills.pdf

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