Hands across the ocean

The story of this Youth and Family Project, and the connection with Inagh, my home parish in Ireland, go back a long time. Since I came to Huaycan, south of Lima, Peru, in 1997, there has been great interest and support for the people here and for my involvement with them.

Uprooted from their homes in the mountains of Peru, during the years of political violence in the 80s and 90s, thousands of families settled in the sandy, rocky hills of Huaycan, about 25 miles from the capital, Lima. It was a huge and painful upheaval for the them.

To help the people adjust to their new setting and in an effort to empower them in moving forward, I began the Women’s Development Centre, Warmi Wasi with the support from the parish of Inagh, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Here, the women found a meeting place as well as opportunities for human development and the learning of new skills. They told their stories and shared their hopes and dreams for a better future. Concerns for their children, and for the teening youth population were always to the fore.

Hands across the Ocean
So, with the help of local professionals including a psychologist, social worker and teachers, we explored some possible ways in which we might be able to contribute. We saw that the needs were greatest in those areas further away from the centre of the town.

At first, we were happy to be offered the use of a room in a local health centre, but with the growing interest and increased need, we soon found that the space was too small. Our next move was to a vacant old chapel of the parish in the same area. Here we developed a project entitled, I am a Valuable Person offering courses on self-awareness, human rights, communication and citizenship.

Now, three years later, the needs have increased as more and more people here in Peru are out of work. Our old chapel is in bad repair and we simply must enlarge it. So, not having any Government support, I looked again to my home parish of Inagh and found, as always, an overwhelmingly supportive response. Great credit and gratitude are due to the initiatives and work of the local committee - and indeed to the many people in the parish of Inagh and beyond - who so generously contributed.

Soon, please God, the new building will become a reality and greater opportunities will be available to the youth and families of Huaycan. The final results of the magnificent effort to fundraise for the Youth and Family Project in Huaycan, Peru, were received enthusiastically at a function in Dillon’s Bar, Inagh, Co. Clare, Ireland on July 19, 2014.

I was very happy to be there and felt overwhelmed with the wonderful support from my home parish in Ireland. A wide range of fundraising activities had been organised by the local committee during the previous months, all resulting in the extraordinary sum of 12,800 euros.

This happens to be the year of my Golden Jubilee as a Columban Missionary Sister. I thank the Lord for His many, many blessings and most especially for the people of Inagh and Huaycan who are surely a sign of God’s presence in our world. Blessings on all!

Columban Sr Mary Neylon SSC served in Ireland, Britain, the Philippines and in Peru for the past 25 years.

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Read more from The Far East, January/February 2015