Carlos Kamisaki (Nexos Comunitarios Ambassador)
A week before Easter, as an ambassador for Nexos Comunitarios, I signed up to go and help people affected by the floods in Piura by delivering the fruits of a short but difficult fundraising campaign. Beyond a simple personal vindication, this time I needed to experience and try to understand a real problem, and make it my priority. I needed to observe how thousands of Peruvians, in regions most affected by the floods lived. I needed to gain a deeper perspective of my future. The experience allowed me to see deeper, and it is with the knowledge that I gained that I write this text.
I must stress, that it is not my intention that reading this makes you feel uncomfortable, nor that you compare what I have done to help to what you are doing to help. I am simply going to tell you what happened, with the objective of transmitting my feelings and emotions in facing the real face of the emergency.
In Lima, we live in a tiny albeit not insignificant portion of the reality that is Peru. We feel discomfort from being without water, unable to shower, or water the garden. In Lima, we had a bad time, right? But in reality, our homes were not filled with mud, we were left with only what we could carry, no experienced real tragedy, and above all, after a couple of days, our lives returned to normal. Although nothing so dramatic happened, we basically went mad very due to small inconveniences, and I the end we decided to quickly turn the page.
However, only 40 km from the center of Lima, the situation was quite critical. But even in those places the help from the government did arrive within hours or days. Now imagine those regions like Tumbes, Chiclayo, and Piura, where there are communities that were isolated which barely received any real assistance. During the first few weeks there was a lot of help but it was certainly not enough.
As a Peruvian organization, Nexos Comunitarios had to do something to help the people affected. Thanks to the donations that we received, beyond the temporary relief offered to a small group of affected people, the impact this experience left on our group is and will be important for each one to decide what he will do to help the people affected, not only to return to normal but to improve, as many of those affected were already living in a state of poverty.
In my case, I first had to face the comparison. The floods had left locations quite compromised. When I remembered the events that happened in Lima, I felt ashamed that I had been so bothered. My problems were greatly reduced, although this is a delicate and debatable concept. However, I think we can agree that wearing masks, using very high doses of repellent (some also vitamin B capsules daily), the overwhelming heat in a city where everything had collapsed, added to the despair of being in a certain way disconnected from the rest of the country. For me this represents the real emergency facing Peru at the moment.
Then I faced the constant threat of having to stop my plans against an eventual dengue disease. My perspective changed the moment we visited the first affected people. The first day was dedicated to the families of the refuge at San Jacinto (the parish of Santisimo Sacrimento). The people who took refuge in this place had lost practically all of their belongings, some were waiting to rebuild their houses and others were left taking care of what was left of their land, so that no one can take away their one remaining possession. Apart from being a painful scenario, we cannot forget that the road ahead for these people remains unclear, they all have the goal of rebuilding their homes but remain without the resources or the necessary strength. Of course, those at the refuge had some needs met for a few days, but they cannot stay there forever. What remains for those who have lost more than material? The stories of the days following the floods were raw and intense. “Beyond a small change in my plans, my life would not change much more when I return home,” I convinced myself. The initial fear I had before this visit affected me, it became respect for all those strong and struggling people, who have not surrendered even though the situation continues to be harrowing. For them, there will be many plans to change when they return home, and for some of them, then won’t go back to their locations but they have to start their lives again in a new location, that is almost in the middle of the desert. Can you believe this?
Despite these first impressions, I still hadn’t seen anything. The second day we visited the emergency camp of the victims of the Cura Mori district. This time describing what I saw is not going to be enough, so I will choose to exemplify my emotions with some sequences of images that I took during the delivery of the donations and I will briefly explain what happened in my mind while I observed them.
The first thing was the camp itself. To see the tents in a desert where all you could see that was supported were the trees that adorned the area. The whole time, we saw people who clearly their despair that the fact that they did not have the resources to survive. With the help of two doctors, we were able to supply some medicines and others were delivered to the very small health center that has been installed there (which does not even count with the basic medicines).
That said, we could not decide who to give them to and who not to, it was not always evident how to direct our efforts to help the neediest. How do you decide who to help and whom to pass over? It was clear that we could not help everyone all, the faces of my companions demonstrated despair at this reality.
Nevertheless, in focusing on the most innocent, the reactions were different. Those children who sought to rejoice, despite their situation, looked for any excuse to laugh and forget that their lives changed drastically. They were of course unable to understand why they had suddenly ended up in such a situation. The smallest things made them happy. You could recognize their satisfaction in getting whatever it was that we were delivering, even if it was just a roll of toilet paper.
In other locations the reactions were similar with children. For some, just a little bit of water was enough, a photo, a candy, or a balloon. In short, these were small doses of happiness that left us with rewards much greater than what we went to deliver.
It is true that the campaigns had a high impact, the signs of solidarity manifested in one way or another. Now we are reminded that the crisis is not over. We are reminded of how much is needed so that the affected people can resume their lives with dignity. But the commitment can not be limited, at least for now, to the reality of those affected. That is why I am very grateful to have participated in this initiative, to have been part of Piura for at least a few days. Trying to understand this part of my country from the approach we took to achieving this understanding it has been crucial for me in a very personal sense. Being able to cope with selfishness, conformity and avoidance of important character traits like compassion and respect, make this trip an opportunity to start over.
At Nexos Comunitarios we are looking for the best way to help the more than 6,000 affected people who are still living in tents and who will have to spend more time in them until solutions are found. As we work to evaluate the options available to us, on behalf of NC I want to thank all those who made their donations!
I also want to thank the people of Piura, in so few days, you taught me so much!