I have lived in Lima for almost four years. I finished my studies last year and I was about to process my degree in Network and Communications Administration, I was planning to study Public Management. When the first case of coronavirus arrived in Peru, I was calm. When the Government decreed the quarantine, I was still in my quiet room, I live with my girlfriend, everything was fine, I had savings of 500 soles (about $ 146) to support myself.
That lasted about 20 days, until a close friend was contacted on April 13. He called me crying, he explained that with other colleagues they were suffering too much and, since they did not have to rent, they were throwing them away and they were totally worried. I supported from my own pocket, I gave them 50 soles (about 15 dollars), with that it was enough for them for three or four days and they called me again. I said, yes, I continue to support… I thought there are more than 500 Awajún brothers in Lima: they will be experiencing the same situation. I asked myself: why are the local authorities of Condorcanqui, of our districts, not supporting those in Lima, depositing something?
Those colleagues had already asked the mayor for help, they called and they did not support them. After time they were desperate, they stopped eating for two days, three days, there are people who have children. I contacted them on WhatsApp, they told me they were totally suffering. One day I was resting in bed, and I said: I’d better do something, if I don’t worry about my countrymen, who else will? The authorities have the opportunity and have the obligation to take care of my brothers, but if they don’t do it and we look, they won’t. We know what the State is like.
I said: “I am going to write a document addressed to an NGO called Peru Ecuador Binational Plan, which works in the area, in [el distrito de] Snows”. That institution knows us (the Awajún). In that document I had a list of 82 colleagues who needed help, I presented it by mail to a person from that institution, but three days passed and they did not assist us. I spoke with Iñigo Maneiro, who is from that entity and he tells me: “You can’t, but you have to do something.”
He created a closed Facebook group and asked for support, but it was not enough for 82 people, so I asked Carlos Diharce, a Jesuit priest who worked for 50 years in the area for help. He now lives in Lima, he gave me money.
With that amount, we thought to distribute food baskets, but I said: “I am going to have to deliver and if I do that I am in danger [de contagio]”. I thought: not a good idea. So the solution was to deposit them (money) in their account number or deposit them in their ID, so that they could withdraw it at the Banco de la Nación, and with that they could buy food. For control of those who collaborated with us, I demanded photos of the grocery shopping. So we have been working for several weeks.
Then I got in touch with others who are suffering and I got back to 79 other colleagues. Of the first 82 people we have assisted, who live in Lima, we do not publish photos.
In the second help we collaborate not only with brothers from Lima, also from Ica, Trujillo and other regions of the country. They are scattered and in the same condition, but it is not enough for us. We deliver according to the number of people: if six live together, we give them 200 soles (59 dollars); if they are two people we give them 100 soles. Most are students who worked, others who have come to work in Lima and lost their job.
Until Friday, May 22, we have sent aid to 884 citizens of the Awajún and Wampís ethnic groups in 16 cities in Peru. Some live alone, but the figure can also be expressed as 274 families. We have distributed just over $ 13,000 in total.
One of the most difficult cases has been that of a woman with five children who was crying, had not eaten for three days, and wanted to throw them out of the room. We paid 500 soles for rent and gave him 200 soles (about $ 58): we saved that person. There is a lady with cancer who came to Lima for health reasons and was stranded and had no support, we have supported her too. Four other people have been evicted for not being able to pay, a man took them in so that they are not on the street, but then he threatened them a lot, they left there and had nowhere to go. We paid for their room and gave them food. Another lady with two daughters was thrown out for not paying, and we hit her, too.
They are trying to kick out several of my countrymen for lack of payment, they are going through very difficult times, they send me messages. We are thinking with Iñigo in renting places to help them and that they are housed separately, so that they do not get infected.
About 30 people have supported us with money, a lady donated 1,500 soles (445 dollars), that was the largest amount. Before, I had contact with about 60 Awajún brothers; yes: we were talking on Facebook, now there are more than 300 contacts already. On WhatsApp we talk, too.
I am afraid of catching coronavirus because, to deposit, I queue at the bank, I am standing in the sun, there are crowds. That is why I asked them to get their interbank account number, but several brothers do not know how to get the CCI, and that forces me to go out. The bank I go to always has a long queue because people go to collect pensions or subsidies.
I was able to save a little before quarantine because I was working supporting an older-adult Jesuit friend, with his mail, his communications with his friends, uploading photos on his page.
What I do is not the product of study or the advice of friends. I am an orphan of a mother and I was abandoned by my father too. My mother passed away when I was six months old, I did not know her. I grew up with my grandmother on my mother’s side, I have no siblings, I grew up suffering a lot, I worked from a very young age in my community selling anything to buy my notebooks, and it is very difficult to endure hunger, it is very unfortunate.
For that reason it hurts me a lot, because I know the need of my brothers. When I hear that they have nothing to eat, that actually worries me a lot and sometimes makes me want to cry. I see my brothers live from day to day; that forces me.
Sometimes my girlfriend tells me not to go out, but if I don’t go out to deposit my brothers, who else will? There will be no other someone who will deposit friends worrying, standing in the street. I don’t get a single sun. My friend Iñigo controls me a lot, I am afraid of stealing because I have grown up honest thanks to my grandmother – may she rest in peace.
I suffered a lot, that’s why I do it simply for the love of my brothers, no one forces me, I do not represent any organization, no one is behind pushing me. This was born to me and I am good. For love I just do it.
I sympathize with the people who have lost their families. We have no other way than to stand firm and fight, and win against this disease that attacks us.
Information about the coronavirus
– Here you can follow the last hour on the evolution of the pandemic
– The coronavirus map: this is how cases grow day by day and country by country
– Questions and answers about the coronavirus
– Guide to action against the disease
– In case of symptoms, these are the phones that have been enabled in each Latin American country.