Last night Brad and I stopped in a local restaurant that I have eaten in many times before. Ordered a burger and had what we thought was a nice meal, until about 1am. That was when the burger started talking back to me. Obviously some bad meat as I sat hugging the porcelain throne the rest of the night.
This morning after no sleep I went over to People of Peru’s office and set up a “Come to Jesus” meeting with the mother of the family Lou and I have been supporting for over a year. A year ago we sat down with Rita and made a deal, we would pay her rent, to enroll her four kids in school, pay for a tutor for Ruth and Maria so they could catch up on years of missed school and I bought all the equipment she needed to cook food that she could sell on the boulevard. On her side she was supposed to make sure the kids attended school, went to tutor, save some of the money she took in from food sales to keep her enterprise going and “NO MORE CHILDREN”.
Already she has a son who is grown and out of the house, an 18 year old daughter with a 2 year old, Ruth 13, Maria 11, Jeremias 8, Helena 5 and a new baby Ruth 2. They live in a room that is 10’x13’, no toilet, no running water and sewage all around the home. You can get a glimpse of their life in a video I did about a year ago called Living in Iquitos – Saving Ruth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6CAZVAcAKc.
I thought I had come up with an ingenious plan that would give this family a chance to break the poverty cycle, financial support, education for the children and a start with her own small business. Both Lou and I believe in giving a hand up and not a handout.
Here in Iquitos and many other parts of the world kids are born into this world to be bread winners for the family, begging on the streets, working in sweat shops or watching parked motorcycles for a few cents. The kids going to school means less money in the door and Mom can’t sit on her butt while the kids are out working.
Lou and I lived up to our end of the bargain and have been supporting this family for over a year. In July I found out that Rita was pregnant again, the kids were skipping school and tutor. Maria was the only one who has stepped up and attended regularly and come home with straight A’s. So the financial support stopped in July.
When I arrived in Iquitos the first thing I did was stop by to see how Ruth and Maria were doing. I got a less than frosty reception so I set up a meeting this afternoon. I got my People of Peru team together, a translator, the person in charge of education and the nurse I have been working with to help this family and we headed for Rita’s.
Rita started out indignant, when I brought up our agreement she said she wasn’t going to have me “throw that in her face” she went on to deflect the subject at hand and starting talking about how all the neighbors had been talking about her. We dragged her back on topic.
I told her how much I loved her kids and I wanted to do what was best for them. Obviously she had more mouths to feed then she could handle, would she be willing to send the two older girls to Poppy’s House (a crisis center People of Peru runs for young girls). She would be able to visit the girls anytime she wanted and I would put them both in private school but I could not go on and support her and her kid’s education since she had not or could not live up to our agreement.
She started going on about how her grown son did not want us to split up the family and he would send money. I asked, “How much money has he sent so far?” She said he had sent S/300 ($100). I asked her if she would be willing to have her tubes tied if I paid for it when this child was born. She said she had heard that would make her uncomfortable and she would not be able to work parking motorcycles.
I knew that I was talking to someone who was not going to give up her bread winners and was going to say anything she need to deflect, lie or change the subject. I sat down and looked her right in her eyes and asked her to do what was the best for her daughters but she didn’t budge. It was a sad day for me. I know that Maria and possibly Ruth have a chance to get out of the poverty cycle but Rita is going to do whatever makes her own life easier.
Lou and I are going to walk away from this family broken hearted knowing that Ruth, Maria, Helena and this new baby are all subject work the streets for the rest of their lives, become pregnant and start the cycle all over again. I will begin my search for another family who can grasp the opportunity we are offering. It’s been a tough 24 hours. Another Bread Winner is due on Oct 10th.