January 23, 2011

Painting in Pamplona Alta

As the students entered their second week in Peru, we traveled to the part of Lima known as the Cono Sur (“Southern Cone”), just a 50-minute bus ride from our class location in Miraflores but a world apart in many ways. The Cono Sur includes about a dozen districts, most of which are densely populated. Many residents of the Cono Sur are first or second generation Limeños who migrated from the countryside, and unemployment and underemployment rates in this part of the city—as in two other “cones” to the north and east—are exceptionally high.

Shalom House in the Pamplona Alta area of San Juan de Miraflores provides physical, occupational, and speech therapy to children with disabilities and provides support to their parents. Shalom moved into its current location just six months ago, and we had the privilege of painting the front entrance and several rooms while learning about Shalom’s mission, clients, and neighborhood from Pat Blanchard, the Anglican deacon who directs the center.

The children who come to Shalom suffer from various conditions, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, muscular dystrophy, and other disabilities. Part of the challenges they face are social: according to Blanchard, Peruvians with disabilities and their families face a lot of shame, rejection, and misunderstanding through ignorance and lack of integration. Services are also few and often difficult to access. Currently about 40 children receive therapy at Shalom, and more than a dozen are on the waiting list.

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