Religion in Peru

“Imagine our surprise when Willie McPherson, the CEO of the Vine Trust, phoned us up and asked if we’d like to go to Peru. “Once we realised it was a genuine offer, we were right on board with the idea. “In 2004 we took the first medical team out there to work with the indigent Indians along the Amazon. All the volunteers were from the Kirkcaldy area supported by the local churches. There were three doctors, two dentists, one nurse, a teacher – and a pharmacist! “We were very aware of the aims of the trip. The Vine Trust would like the locals to stay in their villages and keep the river alive, but there is a huge draw to the towns for them, looking for a better life with jobs and healthcare for their children. Unfortunately that often – usually – means they wind up in the slums of the cities and their lives are worse than ever. “When we came back from Peru, it’s fair to say our world view had changed. “I gave up my GP work and took on the role of volunteer medical director for the Vine Trust.

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“The work I did there began to really open up my eyes to the life of the street children. I just wasn’t prepared for the complete lack of care that street children around the world experience; the abuse; the danger and the exploitation they suffer from. “It really affected me and I desperately wanted to do something to help them. “I met Paul Clark, the director of Scripture Union Peru. He was a great raconteur who had been working with the street boys for over 25 years. He told us some harrowing stories from his experiences. He spoke of the cruelty meted out to street children from shopkeepers, abusers and the authorities. “Many of the children are abandoned due to poverty and lose their families when their mother takes a new partner. In Peru, and some other countries, a man won’t raise another man’s children – so youngsters find themselves in the streets. The mothers seem to hope that they will just run with the other street children, but the truth is their lives are horrible, full of fear and cruelty, being pursued by the police, the authorities and preyed on by predators of every type. “They may be abandoned, orphaned, fall victim to diseases like ebola, malaria, natural disasters and even war. Many are runaways from violent households. “The numbers are huge according to UNICEF.

“Over 100 million children are thought to be living on the streets. In India, children can be born on the street, live in the street and die on the street. “They are forced to work on the rubbish tips of Iquitos, Mumbai, Delhi raking through toxic waste, or be maimed by either a parent or abuser to make them better beggars. “I knew what medical problems I would find, but it was the plight of these children that really touched me. The way they had to live affected me most. “I wanted to get the word out to as many people as possible – especially youngsters – so when I retired from the Vine Trust I wrote a book called The Dead Don’t Hurt Us. It’s basically about the adventures of a young girl – Katie and a boy, Tim, who escape a plane crash in the Amazon jungle. They Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/lifeandwork are rescued by Amazonian Indians but end up on the streets of the jungle city of Iquitos where they are forced to live on the streets with the other street children. They often hide in cemeteries and sleep there because, as one young boy said to us, ‘the dead don’t hurt us’. Imagine only feeling safe in a cemetery where you can hide in the dark. “I am a keen member of the Soroptimists and began giving talks about the plight of the street children, to them, to community groups and schools as well as Guilds. “I saw the film Amazing Grace about the great Christian abolitionist William Wilberforce and I realised that sadly there are more slaves today than ever before in history and that street children are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. “I represent Scottish Soroptimists on anti-human trafficking cross-party groups at the Scottish Parliament and gave evidence to the Justice Committee prior to the publication of the Human Trafficking

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