For the last 21 years Health Bridges International (HBI) has partnered with the Missionary Society of St. Paul (MSSP) and Father Alex Busuttil in Alto Cayma, Arequipa, Perú. Our partnership has been blessed by many trials, tribulations, and victories while helping marginalized populations improve their own health and wellbeing. The reason for our longstanding collaboration is that we have done it all – together.
One of the opportunities we provide together are service learning trips for volunteers of all ages and nationalities. We call them Team Perú, and we just completed our 21st year alongside Father Alex. Here’s a list of what we accomplished – together.
We arrived on Friday and were oriented to our surroundings by Father Alex. He lead a description and discussion on his recent efforts and what the reality of community development entails.
Saturday was a full day of outreach and we were all exhausted. We spent the day pouring a foundation for a home improvement in a settlement community called Mujeres de Esperanza (Women of Hope). The community is a part of Father Alex's parish and includes some 18,000 people. Many of the people living in Mujeres de Esperanza are building new lives for themselves. They are working and saving - they are steadily putting the pieces together for a more solid future.
For these people - Father Alex has started a Compassion Fund. It is a program that is facilitated by a social worker and helps to find resources (including money) to support people with their most critical needs. It is a "bridge program" that serves people by filling a gap or addressing a challenge - so they can move into a new place in their lives.
On Sunday we toured the city of Arequipa and bought gifts for our families and friends back home.
On Monday a group of volunteers spent the day the working on construction of a new chapel while another group participated in home visits with the social worker from Father Alex's parish. In groups of 4, they visited homes and talked with people about their needs and ways the mission can support them. The home visits are for many volunteers the highlight of their time in Arequipa.
Many of the people who are receiving support are single mothers who are struggling to find the resources to care for their families. One such person was the woman who's home we built an extra room. She is a single mother and has little resources. The extra room (she will soon have a two-room house) will provide needed space for her children to sleep and play.
On Tuesday our volunteers had the opportunity to work in the “soup kitchen” chopping vegetables for the 200 meals that will be served at lunch. As well as having taught hand washing, oral hygiene, and physical education to the kindergarten next door.
On Wednesday our volunteers helped to hand out clothing to individuals enrolled in the Compassion Fund and finish the week of work by painting the roof of the new chapel. And on Thursday the volunteers returned to the states or continued on to cultural activities in Cusco, the Colca Canyon, and the Amazon Jungle.
HBI is blessed to have a partner in the Missionary Society of St. Paul and Father Alex. We look forward to all future opportunities to work together, especially under the newly formed Vida y Compasión program whose mission is:
Inspired by the Word of God
We build community in Alto Cayma
Through the formation of dedicated local leaders
Who promote human dignity
By serving God and His people