When locals from the jungle want to start a life in the city of Iquitos, they start by living in Belen. It is here that they can find shelter, and try to acclimatize to city life.
Unfortunately, most Peruvians keep these people at the lowest of statuses, and it is very difficult for them to find employment, so the elders work at daily survival with the hope of making a better life for their children….
As Daniel spoke, my mind drifted back to a true story I heard some years ago…
“A man comes across another man sitting in the street, barefoot and hungry. The man does not beg for money or food, only looks up to the man standing above him with a pleading in his eyes.
“My friend, do you have a pair of shoes?”
By luck, the man does have an extra pair with him, and without a second thought, gives them to the man in the street. The man thanks him and they part ways.
Several months later, the two men cross paths again, but the first man doesn’t recognize the second, as he is comfortably dressed, fed, clean, with a woman at his side.
“You do not know me, my friend, but I am happy to see you, and thank you for the shoes. Because I had shoes, I was able to get work, as no one would hire me with no shoes. Because I could work, I could afford food to eat, shelter to stay in. With the shoes you gave me, I was able to find me a woman, and we have fallen in love, and we soon will be married. All of this because of your shoes.”
Daniel continued to speak about how he and others in Iquitos need to continue to educate the people here, as they currently bathe, wash food, clean dishes, go to the bathroom, and drink, all from the river surrounding their houses. As he is speaking, I witness what he is saying right before my eyes.
As we are passing up and down the canal like streets, I mention to Daniel that I have some items with me to give to the community. His face lights up, and like Santa on Christmas, he pulls the items one by one, joyfully tossing them to the children of Belen : socks for young girls, shirts for others, a young boy in only underwear receives a good pair of shorts, another a sturdy pair of shoes that are a perfect fit, and adjustable so that he may wear them for years to come…..
A local selling food from her canoe pulls up to us, and we buy some beans, noodles and rice, all wrapped in a leaf. Later, Daniel gives this to an elderly women and her family. His compassion and love for his people warms my heart. As we leave, I hear the others on the skiff talking, wishing that they had brought more to give. For me though, just knowing that they have had their eyes widened and may open their hearts a little more in the future to help others is enough.