Each day they walk the boulevard, among the hookers and crooks, the drunks and the demented sometimes as young as 5 or 6. Tourists pay them 10 or 20 cents for a box of Chiclets but mostly to get them to move on so they can enjoy their lunch or a cold beer.
There is no tomorrow for these kids, only today. Where will I find the money to eat? Mama is expecting me to come back with money for food. We are behind on the rent? All problems larger than these little minds, they didn’t choose this life it was bestowed upon them, the life lottery.
School? That’s for rich kids, who can afford the uniform, the pretty patent leather shoes and hair bows. Who needs it?
Each night Ruth slides onto her wooden bed with Maria and Jeremy, her mother and little sister in their tiny ramshackle room, the overpowering smell of urine and trash waifs in the sweltering heat. The baby swings in a hammock stretched across the room. No sheets or blankets, no screens on the windows, no indoor plumbing, no food in their bellies.
The morning light brings the same routine, taking a bath, washing your clothes, brushing your teeth, water for breakfast all come from the what flows from a pipe in the ground underneath the house next door. School? Who needs it?
Ruth and her friends play in a toxic playground, infested with hookworm, tuberculosis and dengue fever; raw sewage and trash are their sandbox. The river floods their homes each year as Belen turns into a sort of Venice slum, with kids swimming, playing and drinking water we wouldn’t want to flush our toilets with. School? Who needs it?
Each time a child is sick, clothes need to be bought, an unexpected expense comes up, someone or something has to go without. Rent, food or health all take a backseat to living day to day. The kids beg on the streets, park motorcycles or you share your bed with a paying customer something has to be done to take care of the basic necessities. School? Who needs it?
Anali is 16, a child who should be dreaming of college and career but instead she struggles to support her 7 month old child. Believing in dreams is like believing in superman; too much kryptonite here. The cycle continues mother to child, children having children, no paternal support, plenty of poverty and sickness to go around and no one cares. School? Who needs it?
Feeding programs put food in their bellies and survival another day, another generation. The cycle continues from mother to daughter, mother to son. No fathers in this home. Answers to untangle their twisted web of poverty are out of reach. School? Who needs it?
“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.” Bono
You can do something today www.peopleofperu.org $125 puts a child in school for a year.