We have experienced so much and felt so much in the past six months of the COVID pandemic. After completing our last scheduled deliveries of relief supplies to communities in Loreto, Peru, I would like to share the voices of a few of our partners who have gone through this process.
The corona virus hit Peru in mid-March around the same time it reached many other parts of the world. We immediately suspended our artisan empowerment program and knew we would have to find a way to respond to our partners’ requests for help to cope with the pandemic. We had little money on hand to do this, so we launched our COVID Community Relief Campaign to send our partners food and medicines.
There was a lot of chaos and feared in the communities along many Amazonian tributaries as many people fell ill or died and their economy disintegrated. The military enforeced strict restrictions on peoples’ mobility in many areas. Some people could not even go to their farms to collect food or go to the river to fish. Villagers took care of themselves as best they could with limited medicines from the outside and plants they got from their gardens and forests. Despair was very high as income disappeared and food became scarce.
Here are stories from a few of our partners:
Francisca who is an artisan leader from Amazonas on the Marañon River said: “We had a hard time in our community. One person died, and many others became ill and struggled to find ways to treat the virus. I also got sick. I lost my taste and smell, had a fever, and sometimes had trouble breathing. I am lucky that I recovered, but I had no way to sell my crafts, and my limited savings were running out. I was becoming desperate, but I knew that things would eventually improve. "
Mariela, an artisan from the community of San José de Piri on the Ampiyacu River told us: “As soon as the quarantine began, the military watched the community which is right next to the town of Pebas. My husband and I have a little house on a farm several hours away. As soon as we saw that the military would not let us go anywhere, we managed to escape and went to that little house with the hope of staying there until the virus passed. We thought we could hold out for months harvesting food from our fields, fishing in a stream, and hunting in the forest. It wasn’t long, though, before my husband started showing symptoms of COVID. His chest began to ache, and he had trouble breathing. We knew he was sick and had to return to the community. I also got sick and with the military watching, everything was horrible. Fortunately, our illness was not too complicated and although we were hungry, we were able to endure. The important thing is that we are still alive.”
Rolando is president of the federation that represents 14 native communities in the Ampiyacu area. He told us: “A lump comes to my throat when I think about what we have been through in the communities. As president, I have been running around, trying to help my indigenous brothers. I felt helpless many times when someone died. So many people couldn’t breathe, and there was no oxygen in the health centers. The pandemic taught us all a very hard lesson. We now have greater care for our health because this challenge is not over yet. I hope my artisan sisters will be able to sell their crafts again soon, because I want them to have an income again. We are all clear that we must take care of ourselves and recover from this blow.”
These and voices of other partners echo in my mind because they have largely sufferred and endured this ordeal out of sight, and they want to be heard. Each of us on the CACE team in Iquitos have been marked with painful experiences and genuine pride for what we have accomplished in this campaign. We remember very well when our Director had tears in his eyes when he told us in June that we had received enough donations to help hundreds of families cope with and survive this pandemic. It meant a lot to me to deliver the last batch of supplies to our partners in the Ampiyacu and receive their thanks.
We offer our sincere thanks to everyone who made this campaign possible. This includes many friends through GlobalGiving, the Sisters of Mercy, and another generous donor. Your gifts did much more than you can imagine.
Bora woman with CACE relief supplies
Rolando - president of FECONA
Mariela with COVID free banner
Delivering food relief package to Bora villager