You can see the worst face of poverty by looking to those who live amid landfills. Many families live in the waste of others or more accurately, merely survive, by collecting plastic and cardboard in the garbage.

In these times of quarantine due to Covid-19, they were the most forgotten but not by the Salesians of Piura, Peru. In fact, Fr Angel Carbajal and Fr Pedro Da Silva went to them to provide care.

Piura is located on the coast in nothern Peru and the Salesians have been working there since 1906, serving two large presences and a large parish that encourages devotion to Mary Help of Christians.

During this pandemic period, schools have been closed but the Salesians have continued to think about the poorest and made their choice to serve non-stop, even in a time of fear and uncertainty.

Piura has the second highest COVID-19 infection rate, after the capital Lima. The simple fact is that in addition to the forgetfulness of the State regarding almost all the regional provinces that are far from Lima, the same local culture has its rules of coexistence that meant attempting to enforce quarantine and social distancing would be a losing battle. Hospitals in this city already collapsed under the weight of COVID patients a month ago, with fatal consequences and the lack of care for those who need it.

"My father, people are dying. Oxygen is lacking, food is lacking ..." was the stark call from some of the people living amongst the landfills, their pain forever etched in the minds of the Salesians who brought to the area. The outreach begun when person after person after person came through the doors of the Don Bosco School in Piura begging for something to eat or for help in another way. Led by Fr Carbajal, Director, and with Fr Da Silva, Pastoral Animator, they hit the emergency button and invited workers, parents, past pupils, friends and suppliers: with the rallying call "We must do something now, for the poor."

When the Salesians heard about the plight of those living off the Castile landfill, they refused to abandon them as well.

The aid operation began in the oratories with the families of the hundreds of children who endured, in addition to the city heat, the lockdown and quarantine. Long before COVID-19, the Castile landfill was a place where nobody went out of fear, out of precaution, out of their refusal. Yet, the Salesians did; as they remembered their calling is to help the poorest and most forgotten; the inhabitants of the Castile landfill, on the outskirts of the city.

When the people living amongst the landfill saw Fr Carbajall, they were suprised to see someone of such importance. They asked him why he took this risk, why go there himself, why not send others and his answer touched their hearts “I did the same thing that Don Bosco would have done. It is pastoral charity in all its splendor, it's the apostolic impulse that moves us to go towards those who need us!"

ANS logo
Republished from ANS