28 times in the past 3 weeks I have bumped up and down the road through Manchay. 50 speed bumps for 50 minutes…(they’ve counted.) But I’m told the road used to be completely dirt and potholes, no guard rail to keep cars from heading down the cliff into the valley. So I’ll take the speed bumps…and be thankful they at least slow the speed of the colectivos, and busses narrowly missing us as they pass.
I’m also told that ‘Manchay’ is a Quechua word meaning ‘Fear’. ‘Horror’ and ‘Panic’ were in the online definition.
Maybe it was a trepidatious traveler on the rocky cliff that gave Manchay it’s name. Maybe the refugees fleeing the militant ‘Shining Path’ in the 1980’s precipitated the name…or maybe it stems from the precarious ownership of land. There seems to be many reasons for fear to reign on these dusty hills.
Small shacks sprawl far up the mountain sides. The view has become the familiar
backdrop to our drives each day…but still we wonder why. Why are the arid hills, so far from the road and the city a desirable place to live? The bumpy miles of dirt road, the hike when the road ends, the heavy loads that must be carried up daily.
But the Kids Alive staff have explained to us that the land is cheap or free for squatters coming from the outlying and jungle areas…looking for more opportunities in Lima, a better life. And in some areas, if they stay on the land for 7 years…banding together as families to guard the land 24/7 and make it too much of a fuss for the police to chase them off, it will become theirs.
7 years. For a few square feet of dusty ground, smaller than my bedroom and a small shack with no running water, and no electricity.
So much effort. Because there is Hope for new opportunities.
But is there opportunity? Or is it a mirage? These hill sides tell the story of so much fear…the kind of fear that invades a family broken by poverty, by alchohol, by abuse and neglect.
And that’s why the colourful mural announcing the Oasis School and Care Centre stands out on the road through Manchay. The rainbow arch declares that there is Hope, and the scrolling letters at the top remind us that ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me’.
This is a place where real-Love-in-action is working to cast out Fear.
As we tour the grounds I see a swing set, a covered volleyball and basketball court, and a big a wooden boat inviting imaginative little minds to sail right over those dusty hills into the blue of the Pacific ocean.
Bright pink geraniums against a sky blue backdrop stubbornly refuse to let the brown take over the color palette, and the room behind us is full of dedicated teachers taking a hot summer morning to learn about the benefits of physical education.
The mission of Kids Alive and the Oasis Care Centre is to be present in this poverty, and to rescue children from abuse and neglect. Over time they’ve seen that the most long term benefits come from mentoring and supporting the student’s families . And so the ‘FE’ program exists, ‘Familias con Esperanza’ or ‘Hope’ to mentor, teach, support and counsel the families…and provide a way out of poverty and hopelessness.
The ripple effect is evident.
Last Wednesday we had the privilege of meeting Lina. * She took us up a winding road on the hill behind the Oasis to visit her rented home, a temporary one till her own home becomes habitable. She led us even farther up the hill in the hot sun to her new house, only reachable by foot. She shared her dreams for the future, a new home where she, her husband and two children could live. They were waiting for the road to be built so a water truck could drive up and deliver water for them.
Lina is one of the local Manchay moms who has been impacted by the Oasis school and Care Centre. Her 5 year old girl came bounding out of the house with as much energy as the puppy she was squeezing tightly. She is one of the students at the Oasis kindergarten program where she is fed, taught, and cared for.
Lina had been struggling to raise her children, when the Oasis came alongside her. She learned about a God who offers Hope for this life…and beyond. She learned parenting skills, and sewing skills , in a self sufficient program that makes uniforms and resources to sell to the community. She discovered a talent in working with the students at Oasis and now is studying to be a Speech Therapy Assistant. Even though she has to stay up till 3 am studying in her little 2 room shack and go to school on Saturdays she is so thankful that so much in her life has changed.
And she gives the credit to her God, and to the Oasis Care Centre.
She asked if we would like to listen to her 11 year old sister play the violin.
There we stood, surrounded by desert and dust… in a humble, hot, kitchen-library-dining-living room and listened to the beautiful notes of a violin piece. My eyes were drawn to a ‘picture gallery’ of proudly displayed school photos and artwork on the wall.
And a shiny heart with the words ‘Luz del Mundo’ ‘Light of the World’…caught my eye.
Way up on a hillside in Manchay a place called ‘Fear’, in this hot little house, the beauty of the music and the beauty of those words were not obscured by the surroundings.
They were even more beautiful because of them.
*Not her real name