In addition to two church partners–the Evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed Church in Peru (IEPRP), and the Peruvian Evangelical Church (IEP)–the PC(USA) partners with Red Uniendo Manos (Joining Hands) an ecumenical network with three program areas in Peru: environment, human rights, and local, sustainable economies. On my recent trip to Peru together with two colleagues from Presbyterian World Mission in Louisville, I had the blessing of getting a small glimpse into each of these areas.
First was a long day trip up into the Andes to the mining town of La Oroya, the site of an infamous metallurgic complex responsible for extreme pollution and the focal Joining Hands campaign for clean water and environmental care. Decades of contamination have led to a shocking statistic: 97% of the children in La Oroya have lead poisoning. The smelter has ceased operations, for now, pending legal proceedings, but it’s unclear how things will be resolved. In the meantime, a group of children from La Oroya supported by Joining Hands continue their efforts to raise awareness about their situation. They call themselves “CAMBIALO” (Change it!) and they are outspoken and energized in sharing their story. You can find out more by visiting their website or finding them on Facebook.
Early the next morning, we set out by plane for Ayacucho, where we met with the national leadership of the IEPRP. While in Ayacucho, we got to spend a good amount of time with Lisa, the local Young Adult Volunteer who, along with two other YAVs, is under the care of Joining Hands. All three YAVs this year work with member group Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), a Christian organization that promotes social justice and human rights, in different parts of the country.
Lisa invited us over to her host family’s home for tea, and shared some of her favorite snacks, introduced us to the family, and proceeded to tell us a bit about the work she’s been doing with Paz y Esperanza in Ayacucho and the opportunities she’s had already to visit different churches and build connections. Check out this video for a few minutes of the conversation, or visit this page (in Spanish) that Lisa is working on to network local churches in Ayacucho.
After returning to Lima, I was able to stay a few days longer than my colleagues from Louisville and went to visit another part of the Joining Hands Peru work: one of the artisan cooperatives supported through the Bridge of Hope fair trade program. Ima Sumacc (“How Beautiful!” in Quechua) is a small collective of women in the outskirts of Lima who specialize in knit items, especially novelty children’s hats and mittens and their signature item, el monito, the “funky monkey.”
I was truly inspired by the testimony of these women, who came together as strangers and now have a hope-filled business that helps support their families. You can take a look at this video and hear (in Spanish, with English captions) a little bit about their experience, their faith, and how they hope to give back to their community:
Or take a look at this brief video that shows a couple of their sample products:
Products by Ima Sumacc and the other Bridge of Hope groups in Peru are available for purchase online in the U.S. through Partners for Just Trade, which began as an initiative of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. So you, too, can get some funky monkey lovin’!