|Johny-clearly thrilled to be the only boy out with a bunch of women.|
This brings us to the Oasis Care Center, the other half of our Kids Alive ministries here in Lima. Our vision at the Oasis remains the same, but within a different context. While at the children's home our goal is to provide family, at the care center we aim to strengthen families.
Here is the story of the Oasis...
The care center started as a response to extreme poverty in an area of Lima nearby the children's home; realizing that there were moms and families there who were desperate.
Our director tells of how in earlier years often women would come to the door of the children's home, pleading with them to take in their children, because they could not afford to care for them.
Can you imagine?! What fear and desperation these women must have been feeling.
Of course, there was a strong desire to help them, but taking in the children was not in the best interest of mother or child, and would not help the problem in the long run. Our director says that the very worst part of his job was telling these women no.
But something needed to be done to help these struggling families, and that is how the Oasis Care Center began.
They began to notice that many of these women came from an area of Lima called Manchay, about 20 minutes away from where the children's home was located at that time.
Manchay is a large, sprawling shanty town. The tall, dusty hills are covered in small, flimsy, wooden houses. I did a little research and learned that Manchay was settled in the 1980's mostly by people from the Andes mountains fleeing the violent Shining Path of that time. (Interesting note: A film was made about the effects of the trauma of this time period on women, called "The Milk of Sorrow", and much of it was filmed in Manchay.) It remains as a transient area for many who are coming to the city from other parts of Peru seeking jobs or education.
There is obvious poverty throughout Manchay. We have heard that the higher up the barren hillside you go, the cheaper the land is. But the higher you go, the more unlikely it becomes that there is electricity, sewer, or running water, and the higher you have to climb to get home. Many homes have only dirt floors and outhouses.
In the twelve years that Kids Alive has been working in Manchay, there has been a good deal of development in the area. The main road is now paved, and there are more businesses and schools in the area. Many parts remain impoverished and transient, but other neighborhoods are developing with the future in mind, replacing their temporary wooden houses with brick houses that they add to as they are able. Even with this development however, its likely to take your breath away if you were ever to drive through, and many pressing needs remain.
The BeginningMotivated to help the struggling moms who came to them for help, in 2002 Kids Alive partnered with a local church in Manchay, renting their building during the week. The Oasis Care Center started with a small group of young kids and their moms. The moms would bring their kids to the care center to be cared for during the day so that they could go to work. The kids ate a big meal while there, and for some it was their only meal for the day. The moms met together regularly to receive support in their parenting efforts and learn about Jesus.
TodayAfter a time, a generous donor bought a plot of land for a permanent Oasis site. God had some big ideas for the care center, and today the care center serves 130 kids and their families on a weekly basis!
Through the care center we can help these children, moms, and families without separating them, while also investing in their lives and sharing with them the hope they have in Jesus.
The Oasis has had an impact on many families. The most lasting impacts have been when a mom or family has connected with a local church. In this way, the support remains even when their time at the Oasis ends, and results in a changed worldview based on hope rather than the despair that they had previously lived in.
More on the Oasis in our next post...!