“‘Lima doesnÕt deserve these boys,Õ said one of the thirteen guys on our 2003 Spring Break trip after day one in the overcrowded, crime-ridden Peruvian capital. He was talking about LimaÕs Òhuman trash,Ó or Òpiranhas,Ó the orphans that make up a large part of the cityÕs exploding population. Most of the boys come from homes in which a divorced mother who, unable to land one of the limited jobs available to women, marries a man unwilling to support children from her previous marriages. Unable to feed her children, she is forced to turn out one of the oldest boys, who may be as young as four.
“On the streets, the youngest boys sell their bodies for food. Once they become faster on their feet, they steal. If caught by their targets, they are sometimes beaten to death by mobs, their bodies abandoned on the street. If caught by police, they may be killed but are more often tortured, branded and released as a wasted example to the other boys. They live from meal to meal, trick to trick, hand to mouth in a city that would rather see them dead.
ÒIn less than a week, I fell in love with a group of these boys who have found refuge at Centro Girasoles, a church-run orphanage. It hurt. A lot. Because to fall in love with fatherless, futureless children like Jos and Josu and Juan Carlos and Willy means never being able to live as a comfortable American again. Never being able to eat a Chiquita banana without thinking about where it came from. Living with a constant ache for friends who may be dead before my next ‘service trip’ to their neighborhood, an ache which I am grateful to bear.”
–written after my first trip to Peru in the spring of 2003. To see more pictures and read more about my Spring 2004 Peru trip, click here: http://mark.excogito.org/peru. The site is still a little ragid, but it should be readable soon enough, as soon as my people get back from Christmas break.