Arequpa - Part 2!

Arequipa Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 34 › view all entries
Home alone - the first family we visited with Far Giovanni

Friday - we didnt´entirely know what to expect as we waited to meet Fr Giovanni.  We expected that he might show us aroudn his project that we had read about over the last year or so, but had no real clues as to the places that we would visit or what we would see.

Fr Giovanni is clearly a very outgoing and friendly person - he greeted us very warmly and seemed overjoyed to meet us as he picked us up from our Hotel (La Casa de mi Arbuela) in the morning.  We drove the 20 minutes or so across Arequipa to his parish Tomilla, an area that some fairly well-off (by Peruvian standards) and, as we were to find-out, some of the poorest and poverty-struck people that we are ever likely to meet.

We were both astonished as we reached the Mission centre.

Mission in Tomilla, Arequipa
  It had a simply decorated but very large and clean church, along with facilities like a dentist, a small pharmacy, a small area of people to visit a General Practicioner, a kitchen to give children (who would otherwise go hungry) a decent meal, an area for children to study, an internet centre and a schoolroom to help people get computer skills that would give them a better chance of getting  a job (remember that 60% of Peru is unemployed) and a community hall used for weddings, funerals, public meetings and the like.    Not only was this facility created pretty-much from scratch since the arrival of Fr Giovanni, a whole new building was in the stages of completion next door to give them purpose-built facilities - and help create new services to allow the mission to help people in different ways - better medical and recuperation facilities, a battered-women´s refuge, better kitchen facilities (the current "Comida" is housed in a former garage) and more facilities to help children at school get a better chance of an education.
The new building in the Tomilla Mission

We joined Fr Giovanni as he gave mass at a the local waterplant for employees there- for the procession of the "El Divino Nino" (The devine child).  Like every member of staff at the Mission, he was greeted so warmley by the people and obviously held in such high regard.  Up until this poiint, it was easy to forget that he was a priest - he had the role of a business manager, a project manager, a social worker, a parent and someone that made the people that had otherwise very little to feel good about smile.

After lunch, we went-out with Fr Giovanni on his "round" that he undertakes.   we visited first the nursery, which is staffed by some of the mothers of the children there (although it seemed that they were paid in food) - the conditions were so basic, although the children beamed with smiles as they saw Fr G come into the place - he had such a rapport with the mothers as well.

Internet Centre, Tomilla Mission

The next place we visited was, however, very different.  We went into an area with two small mud huts with corregated metal roofs, no running water or sewerage or electricity.  Basically, it was absolute squalor, although even more disturbingly, the parents of the 3 very young children had abanonded them without any food or water as they went (possibly to work, although we don´t know) in conditions that are honetly totally unimaginable. This was probably the saddest sight that we had ever seen, even Fr G seemed very downbeat by what he saw  - there is free food and drink to help these children, all that the parents needed to do was drop them at the mission - even that they could not manage, although Fr G said that he couldn´t not condemn or judge the parents for letting this be so - he can only try and help them and show them how things could be better.

Jeremy with El Misti in the background, Buenos Aires district, Arequipa
  They need not even attend church - all they have to do is accept this help.  There is no social services, NSPCC, Childline or any organisation for him to work with, only him and him alone.

The next family we went to see were very different.  They lived in very basic conditions - again without running water or utilites, although the place was much cleaner and tidier and the mother made sure that he 3 beautiful children were clothed, attended school and were fed as well as they could be - these children seemed happy and some even spoke a few words of English.  They welcomed us into their house and were happy to see us, (the previous children were clearly shamed by their place), which left us feeling a whole lot better when we saw what the Mission could do to those that let it reach out to them.

We visited a couple more people, all different, but all DELIGHTED to see Fr Giovanni, someone who brings a lot of light into their life.

Later that afternoon, Fr Giovanni showed another side to him - the "Businessman" (we´re sure he wouldn´t object to this labelling!).  He had made contact with a media organisation that would allow them to set-up a radio station to broadcast to the parish, a medium that they believed could help them communicate well with their parishoners.  It would cost ordinarily $120,000 US just for the license alone, but the media company said that if they could use a parish building to build a transmitter, they would do it for free.

We were quite overawed by the tasks that the Mission and Fr Giovanni had to take-on by the time he dropped us back early in the evening, but know that if anyone can make a difference in the lives of the very poorest people, then he can.

We both recognise that we could change our travel tickets and come back home in the space of 10 days and give our spending money to help the mission, so we wont ask anyone else to help, but it anyone is interested in giving even a couple of pounds or seeing what work they do at the mission, please have a look atthe following website: .  As we were told, despite the work they do, they receive not a penny in funding from the Peruvian governement (not even a bag of cement to help with the building work - although the Mayor would be anxious to cut the ribbon when it is opened!) or the local government, only the people of St Joseph´s Chuch, Port Talbot and another UK organisation called "Hand to Hand" made a lot of the work possible - along with Fr Giovanni´s familes & friends and contacts around the world and friends in business at companies like Bank Nacional Peru.  We did say that we would show people that we know what they are doing, so even any awareness or interest is gratefully received.


samrichards says:
Jeremy, thank you! I have just used this part of your blog as a basis for a Year 11 lesson on Liberation Theology -this was perfect and my kids thought it was awesome!
Posted on: Jan 09, 2008
CassPat says:
Hi both,
I have to admit that I was nearly in tears reading this last blog and am really proud of you both for helping out! Count me in for some fundraising when you get back. In the meantime, I'll check out the link you posted. Take care of yourselves and keep the blogs coming.

Cass (&Pat) xxx
Posted on: Oct 17, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Home alone - the first family we v…
Home alone - the first family we …
Mission in Tomilla, Arequipa
Mission in Tomilla, Arequipa
The new building in the Tomilla Mi…
The new building in the Tomilla M…
Internet Centre, Tomilla Mission
Internet Centre, Tomilla Mission
Jeremy with El Misti in the backgr…
Jeremy with El Misti in the backg…
photo by: halilee