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2007 CODALC Meeting, Lima

2005 Meeting
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Special Report

In the First Person: Report from Lima

Shelter is one of the most pressing needs of survivors-- thousands sleep outside

LIMA, PERU -- An earthquake that destroyed much of Ica, Pisco, and Chincha, towns nestled amongst the rich vineyards of Peru, left devastation in its wake a week ago today.  Sister Janet Guretz and I returned yesterday and found that life here in Peru continues to center around the victims and survivors.  There is constant news coverage of suffering and courage, compassion and generosity, along side of accounts of looting and the apparent ineffectiveness of the governmental response.  Smaller quivers, some lasting three and a half minutes, are still happening.  Cemeteries now have exposed graves, so fear of disease is compounded by old and recent cadavers.   Post traumatic stress victimas abound.  One memorial service was held for 100 victims from just two families.

In collaboration with CONFER (Religious Leadership Conference) our Sisters sorted and delivered boxes of clothes to the Stadium, one of the sites amassing supplies.  Our own Student House is filled with dozens of boxes and bags of heavier clothes destined for Jarpa.  The national and international response has been wonderful.  The Government’s ability to organize, delegate, and give approbation to the distribution has been unbelieveablely slow. (Shades of Katrina) Anger, frustration, and hunger have fueled some aggression. The constant media images of the faces of the most vulnerable, the elderly and the children, are disturbing.  The news last night highlighted the courage of the Peruvian women.  We saw 13 children wrapped in blankets, surviving in a makeshift tent.  No one could say if they were orphans or an extended family, but the woman in charge was trying to acquire food and other necessities for them all.
Mostly, Janet and I have listened to the stories and heard the pain and fear.  While Lima apparently has no victims there is plenty of structural damage.  One five storied apartment building in Lima is now only three storied.  The first and second floors are now submerged under ground.  Two hundred thirty schools in Lima were found with construction damage.  Private and parochial schools will soon have their infrastructure repaired, but the numerous poor schools will of necessity repair little by little while students attend classes in unsafe environments.
Last night, Joao Xerri, OP, whom many of you met during Albert Nolan’s retreat, came over to the Student House and our conversation centered on the present emergencies and our Dominican response.  With this discussion in mind, I called the Leadership at Fe y Alegrìa today.  You might remember that our Community served in this Jesuit network of schools for eight years in Canto Grande.  There is a Fe y Alegría school in Chincha.  Happily no one was in the school when the earthquake began.  They lost one of their three sections, which mean that sixteen classrooms need new columns and windows.  Eight students from the school were killed in their own homes and various parents were amongst the 150 persons killed in Chincha. 
Of course people from the main office of Fe y Alegría went immediately to see the site.  Now they are planning to send a team, a combination of Jesuits, Fe y Alegría personnel, and people from Catholic Charities to Chincha.  Sister Elizabeth Castro and I are motivated to join the volunteers.  Fe y Alegría has never ceased to be a great portion of my passion for Peru.  The Sisters from the Phillippines continue to direct this school.  My friend, Sister M. John, is no longer there, but this is something I can do in remembrance of her.  We ask for your prayers and suppport during this difficult time.
S. Judith Hilbing, OP (Springfield)
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