Fr. Ed O’Connell thanks supporters for donations

Fr. Ed O'Connell in Peru has sent another letter to the region, giving an update on the covid19 situation and explains how, with help of benefactors here in Britain, the Columbans have been able to continue supporting many families with financial help and food this year.

The total number of cases of coronavirus on the 18th April was 1,704,757 (51.6% in Lima Department and Province of Callao.) The number of deaths was reported to be 57,230 (49.3% in Lima Department and Province of Callao). The number of new cases each day is unpredictable, but the figure is around 8,500, 40% of which are the Brazilian variant. The number of deaths per day is about 350 but some papers report that these Ministry of Health figures are not the full story, and that the number of deaths per day is nearer 500.

The Registery of Deaths (Sinadef) said two months ago that there was in excess of 102,000 deaths, now probably nearer 120,000, due to covid19, as opposed to the official number of 53,900. This sounds much more like the truth when listening to people about the spread of the virus. Many believe there are many deaths that have gone uncounted.

The vaccine that arrived from China has so far been used on front line workers here in Peru, but is now being offered to the elderly. More vaccines are arriving but it is not clear how they will be distributed and to whom. The general population will most probably have to wait until later in the year and/or the first three months of next year. There is little transparency about both the number of vaccines that have arrived and also the number of people vaccinated. Recent reports suggest 2% of the population have received one vaccine and 1% have received the full dosage in the form of both vaccines.

The teachers at the Manuel Duato Special Needs School have been in virtual contact through the summer of 2020 (January to mid-March), with the parents of the schools’ students, almost 400 of them. The attendance of parents in virtual sessions during 2020 was outstanding, with better percentages than most local primary schools here.

The new school year, 2021, is well underway with teachers back to work, albeit virtually. I have just received the latest figures for March which show the impact of the pandemic, especially due to the Brazil variant. 56 of the 400 students have, or have had the virus up to and including March this year. Of their parents, 116 fathers and 106 mothers have, or have had the virus, and sadly 7 fathers and 1 mother have died.  Of the teachers, 28 out of the 70 staff have, or have had the virus with two in a critical condition. 46 of their close relatives have, or have had the virus, including 7 who have passed. At present 69% of the parents are out of work or have occasional temporary work. This means no safety net for their families.

We helped 55 families on five occasions during 2020, giving them financial support, £25 each time. At Christmas we gave the families £50 each. This year we have given out larger amounts to eight families who either have a special needs child with covid19, or are families with a one of more members with covid19 or other serious illnesses and are in dire financial difficulties. We have distributed support to the 40 hardest hit families and will need to do so again soon.

The Warmi Huasi project, accompanying children at risk in both San Benito, in the Lima districts of Carabayllo and San Martin de Porres, and in the Province of Paucar de Sara Sara, high up in the Andes Mountains in the department of Ayacucho, is producing amazing results. Our Warmi Huasi teams continue to be in touch constantly with the parents and teachers about the welfare of the children. We have given out all the books from the reading clubs so that the children can read whilst at home. We also have radio programs with the children in Ayacucho, with bio-security advice and storytelling. We encourage children to send in their stories.

Warmi Huasi 2020 Video Report of work in Ayacucho.

From February through March this year, 2021, we arranged for teachers to visit the homes of children from the primary school in Lampa, Ayacucho. They did so carefully, respecting regulation and bio-security and safeguarding protocols. These children had dropped behind so we are hoping a little intervention might help get them back on track. Likewise in San Benito, help is being given to those children who have also dropped behind.

In San Benito the mothers who established the five communal kitchens have continues their tremendous work into 2021. The figures on the 1st April 2021 show that 185 families have been helped. With an average of 5 persons per family, a total of 925 people have received a meal each day, not forgetting a further 74 social cases who have also been fed. We have been helping each communal kitchen with the purchase of food stocks, especially vegetables, chicken and fish besides bio-security equipment.

Warmi Huasi 2020 Video Report of work in San Benito, Carabayllo.

The communal kitchen in Misiones parish, where I used to work, has been set up by those parishioners who have worked for years to protect women from violence. They are presently serving 30 meals a day Monday to Friday and hope to increase this to 50 meals a day. It serves mostly migrant families from Venezuela and some local families and social cases. I am delighted that this has begun as we have been trying to get this communal kitchen off the ground for a couple of months now. A Venezuelan woman, Ingrid, is a member of the team responsible for organising this project. She is a social worker, and has proved pivotal in getting this set up.

A huge thank you to those who have supported our ‘family solidarity program’ which has enabled us to provide practical support to many families in Peru.

May the Risen Lord be near to us all.

Love and blessings, Ed.

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