Matt Hodges ’19 – It is easy to let a sense of hopelessness creep in standing between the dilapidated houses and garbage piles of Pamplona. Clean water is scarce or nonexistent, feral dogs prowl the streets carrying disease, and looking out away from Lima it appears to go on ad infinitum, the population numbering well into the millions. To complicate matters, the developed regions of Lima (Google ‘Larcomar, Miraflores’ to get a glimpse of what I’m talking about) continue to thrive just a stone’s throw away.
Despite virtually every set back in the book, Casa Huertas stands out as a stronghold of hope and vision. Through education, instruction, consistency, and love, local volunteers and the Global Health Initiative have established a foundation to support and orient the next generation as they grow up in this deserted and barren environment. Through fun lessons and projects dealing with recycling, plant growth, hygiene, and many more, the children in the “Growing Together” program are learning to live sustainable, conscientious lives in a safe and consistent environment.
The message of sustainability and resource management isn’t only for the children, either. Through programs like SUMI (a microbusiness producing baskets and other goods from recycled newspaper) and the community kitchen, women in the area are given opportunities to exercise their independence and provide for their families. With a flower bed, herb garden, and dirt soccer field, Casa Huertas and its associated programs are making the surrounding region brighter and brighter, little by little, day by day.
The example set by Casa Huertas is a massive call to action, especially to those in the Global Health community. I realized standing there between the junk and the dogs that this small group of people, with no electricity and one hour of running water per week, creates more direct positive change in two little rooms during any given week than I have managed to during my 19-year privileged life.
I am not saying we should shun our culture and upbringing due to the existence of inequalities in the global economy. I am simply saying that we should strive to improve the future both globally and on a community level just as much as the dedicated individuals at Casa Huertas, especially since we belong to a community that doesn’t have to deal with many of the setbacks and challenges faced by the residents of Pamplona. No individual can fix the poverty in Lima, just like no individual can fix the refugee crisis or the AIDS outbreak in Scott County. But what each person can do is put their drop in the bucket and use their unique background to make an effort towards a better future.