The mission of the sister parish ministry is to support programs that improve and transform the lives of our brothers and sisters at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Chimbote, Peru through prayer, education, fundraising and witnessing trips to our Sister Parish in Chimbote, Peru. Contact Kassy Kenney to get involved.
Kassy Kenney, 651-690-3741, firstname.lastname@example.org
I was fortunate to travel to our Sister Parish in Chimbote with 13 other women from our parish. It was truly a wonderful and eye opening experience. Every day we attended mass where we listened to the parishioners give thanks for our Lumen Christi parish and our Highland Catholic School. It was challenging to be in an unfamiliar environment where we didn’t speak the language, but the people welcomed us so warmly. We were able to see first hand the huge impact our support makes to the people of Chimbote. Unlike the US where we have welfare and other social services, there is no social safety net in Chimbote without the Parish. The economy crashed when the fishing industry was severely depleted due to overfishing, pollution, and changing currents. The average household income is only $330 per year. Many people live in estera homes with straw walls and dirt floors with no plumbing or electricity on squatted land. The parish provides immediate life giving support through their soup kitchens and well projects but they do so much more. While there, we were able to visit the Santa Anna clinic which provides medical, dental, and rehab/PT care and the first hospice in Peru. I was so touched by the story shared by Sr. Juanita. She said their first hospice patient was found unconscious and dying in the street. They brought her to the hospice before it was even completed. They bathed her and placed her in a bed. When she woke up and looked around at the clean white sheets that she was laying in, she bowed her head and gave thanks for having made it to heaven! The Parish and Friends of Chimbote have developed an organization called ACAF which trains social workers to go out into the community and help those in need. It was through ACAF that we were hooked up with a family that had been separated because their home was inhabitable. While there, we were able to tear down most of their walls, put in a foundation, and build new walls. We were also able to supply a working toilet and some basic furniture. Imagine building a new home in a few days! What is really exciting, ACAF is working on developing new building materials that are more cost effective, durable, and safer than the estera “straw” homes. ACAF also provides vocational training and micro loans to help people become more self sufficient. There is so much that the Parish does to support the people of Chimbote, but my heart really belongs to the education programs that were started by Sr. Peggy. Although public education is “free” in Peru, the parents must pay for uniforms, books, supplies, and testing materials. Many children could not attend school because their parents couldn’t afford all the fees. The parish works with the families to provide what is needed so the kids can attend school. The Parish also provides early childhood education, kindergarten, and before and after school programs, tutoring, and libraries. Sister Peggy worked tirelessly to follow up with the kids receiving services to make sure they were all attending and excelling at school. A great example are twins that we met first during their choir tour to the US and then in Chimbote, Tatiana and Veronica. Like typical sisters, they are very competitive with each other, but also very supportive of each other. They were always ranked #1 and #2 in their class. Thanks to Sr. Peggy’s scholarship fund, both girls are now in their final year at University learning to become midwives. They will be coming back to Chimbote to work and give back to this community. This parish is truly life giving and also transformational in the way it touches people’s lives! Gracias.
I would let the congregation know that this not the simple Mission that might envision from watching old movies on television. The Friends of Chimbote does not seek to merely allow the community to maintain a subsistent standard of living, but to achieve a meaningful independent self-sufficient existence for the individual, the family and the community. I would emphasize the Mission’s work in education, both academic and the skills training that is provided to allow members of the community to find jobs, go on to higher education, find a profession and/or to create their own small businesses. I would let the congregation know that the mission is providing micro lending for small business. Aid donations are not just given because someone came to the church with a good story. Social workers from the Mission goes to out to the home to evaluate the situation and determine what the needs are and what can be done to help.
More than a year after my visit, what stays with me are the visits that we made with the social workers. It ranged from the elderly couple with virtually nothing who lived in a dirty home and who made their living creating rope that was used for making simple furniture to the woman expecting her fourth or fifth child in a neat little home, with one of her sons at the kitchen table doing his math homework. There was the home with two young girls who were living alone. Their father had left and there mother had to go to Lima to find a job. It was not safe for the girls to be there alone in the evening, so their married brother would come there in the evening to sleep. The oldest sister, maybe 12, was tired after school, but she had to fix dinner for the 2 of them and it was hard for her to find the time for her studying. Unlike the mother with the neat home and the children doing their homework at the kitchen table and who was so proud of the complements that we paid her and her family, that oldest girl was just tired and there was no hint of hope in her expression.
The needs are wide and varied. There are inspiring success stories and still much work that remains to be done.
I have been to Chimbote 4 times since 2008. My first impression was the “two kinds of people” there. The first – probably relatively newcomers to the city, as they have come in from the mountains, appeared unemployed, possibly a single parent living in an abusive arrangement, with drugs / alcohol as a major factor. Dirt flooring, reed walls, and a blue tarp roof. Deplorable bedding. The adults looked weary. The children did not smile. It was a sad, depressing situation.
The other kind of resident of the area did not live in the hovel. They had artwork on the walls, a small garden out front, children in school – and a much happier outlook. They smiled and chatted with me. They were the results of the programs administered by our Sister Parish in Chimbote.
My last trip in 2014 indicated a change for the better in the neighborhood around the mission. Sturdier housing, painted. Second floors being added. More gardens, more colors. I believe a difference in life is being created by the programs started by Fr. Jack and Sr. Peggy and continued by the ‘Friends of Chimbote.’”
I was fortunate to go with a great group of people to Chimbote, one of the first big groups from Lumen Christi. I had never experienced such poverty first hand and touch and look into the eyes of children, teens and the elderly. What you learned quickly about poverty is that it comes with great frustration, greed, sadness, helplessness, violence and suffering.
However, Father Jack and Sister Peggy have shown the people of Chimbote hope and the power of prayer, intervention of others’ talents, in-kind donations, education and restored dignity to family life. The people that we worked with from the town were very kind and filled with such gratitude for our willingness to travel so far and to share our talents, donations and gift of time. It does take a village to bring widespread help to communities.
It was a true blessing to witness firsthand Father Jack and Sister Peggy work within the streets of Chimbote and see the various programs, chapel, school, gatherings for the elderly, choir and youth activities. Building homes, supplying stoves, beds, clothing, the soup kitchens providing perhaps their only meal that day. The streets we were told were dangerous yet we encountered gracious, kind people throughout; despite the lack of simple comforts of food, clothing and shelter.
I know that since I was there many groups have gone and the program continues to grow and help more people due to the generosity of our Parish members.
I’ve had the fortune to go to Chimbote three times. There is nothing like seeing the living conditions and poverty first hand. The photos give you a idea, but their reality is quite stark.
There also was great beauty everywhere. The beauty I remember is in the Chimbote person’s eyes. The window to the heart and soul. Love and hope and desire for a good life, just like we want for our children and our families. The support we give our sister parish lightens the burdens of their daily lives and it gives them a connection to us, to people who care about them.
Never has it been so clear to me that the Beatitudes are right…Blessed are the poor. I was almost jealous of them for the place they put the church, their families, each other in their lives. There was nothing else to distract them. Their joy came from their faith, from sharing what they had. I have seen poverty and am clearer now that it is not part of God’s will and that we are all called to share our gifts to get rid of it.