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urban rural mission

URM work with the elderly in Peru

There is always much excitement about going on a picnic in Lima, Peru. To escape from the crowded apartment and the noisy streets, even for a few hours, is something very precious. No one was happier to have a picnic than eighty-six year old Carmen Fluentes. She happily helped prepare the food and drinks for her son Juan, his wife and 5 children. Carmen was in high spirits.

But a rude shock awaited her. As they piled into the family car Juan stopped her.
"You're not coming. Who else will look after the apartment while we're gone? Anyway the car is full already." It was sad and long day for Carmen, in the apartment alone. She felt deeply rejected - though it was not the first time. Only the previous week Juan had almost demanded she give him her small monthly pension. "The children need the money. Please give it to me. You have no real need for it". Despite the fact that Carmen helped with the housework, cooked all the meals, helped look after the children in the afternoons and did most of the local shopping, Carmen felt she was being taken for granted, exploited even. But this was her only home - there was nowhere else to go.

Catalina Romero Carlos - of the local
of elderly people in Pampiona,

She had become silent.

The politicians acted the same towards people of her age. They saw no point in paying attention to the elderly, most of who did not vote at election time. After fifty years of hard work and family care Carmen, and thousands like her, feel abandoned. They are not even considered as citizens, merely a problem because of their increasing numbers.

But things are changing for the elderly in Callao, the seaport city near Lima. Around eighty groups of elderly people have formed an association. To the politicians they say, " You need us; you need our vote. We don't need you." To their children they say, " We are an economic part of the family - and that should be respected".

The government's social programmes for the elderly do not go far enough for the Central Provincial de Asociaciones de la Tercera Edad de Callao (CEPRATEC). They are only assistance programmes and the elderly want something much more in touch with their reality.

CEPRATEC, supported by the Urban Rural Mission (URM) of the World Council of Churches, began as a meeting place for the elderly, to share their stories and speak of their sadness. But they have moved from there. They started a campaign for the establishment of small clinics staffed by doctors who specialise in preventative health and care of old people. They had a campaign for free attendance at the cinema and for free bus passes.

They have petitioned the government to enact specific laws protecting old people, not to be grouped together with sick or handicapped people, but to be recognised as a specialised group with their own strengths and gifts to offer the community. They have asked the local school for training lawyers to support them and provide them with the legal help they need to get the legislation passed and enacted.

They want to use their vote at election time, use it carefully and strategically. They want their votes to count.

URM volunteers began working with the small groups which have spread so rapidly that in November 2000 a national association of old people was formed.

Carmen Fuentes is busy again. She has her "mesa de travalho". She is still active in her home but they have to respect her now - she is also needed elsewhere; she has her own interests and he campaigns. She is no longer invisible.

URM volunteers continue to work with groups of older adults. With other organisations they are forming a new network, "Mesa de Trabajo de ONGs y Afines sobre Personas Adultas Mayores-Peru" to improve even further their impact on social politics.

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© copyright 2003 World Council of Churches. Remarks to: webeditor