Louie and I (Eamonn) travelled to see the Warmi Huasi (Women’s House); a project set up in a really poor area and from what we saw, the poorest area we’ve seen so far.
Warmi Huasi was set up by Fr. Ed O’Connell ten years ago as a resource of care and support in San Benito. It primarily provides educational and medical services for this extremely poor community on the outskirts of Lima. In the last few years there has been a more specific focus on child nutrition and domestic violence.
Warmi Huasi as a place is centred in the middle of San Benito and rises in the poor township as a large, multi-storey building. We arrived here and at first went into a room dedicated to very young children and their mothers which allows for a safe place for play and relationship-building between mother and child, as well as allowing mothers to bond with mothers.
Afterwards we were shown around the various rooms in Warmi Huasi before going to explore the township, seeing the extent of Warmi Huasi outreach programmes which most notably includes a homework club and play area or ‘Ludotech’.
The homework club provides an essential forum for improvement on reading, writing and maths outside the classroom, as normal classes can vary quality.
For lunch we were invited to Isabella’s home, a resident in the township. Isabella is a mother of two and kindly cooked us a generous lunch of rice, chicken and vegetables. She is just one of the many women that Warmi Huasi supports.
After an enjoyable lunch we went back to the centre where we saw a group of 20 women knitting with their teacher. Donnarder, a woman in this knitting group said: “I didn’t know anything until I came here and learned important skills. Now I am able to contribute to my family. This has also been a safe place for me to make friends as well as learn new skills – Thank you for making this possible”. These women gather twice a week for 3 hours, producing high quality clothing, which are sold in Lima and in Europe.
After seeing this wonderful group of women in the Warmi Huasi building, we then travelled to another zone in the same area of Lima. This building was much smaller, but the joy and enthusiasm was just as high as the first group we saw. Each of these groups insisted on sharing some food with us – by this point we were feeling rather full!
After seeing the two knitting groups we then journeyed a couple of miles down the road where Warmi Huasi supports and teaches women how to buy ingredients, cook high quality product, which they then sell whilst their children are at school. One lady said “Thank you to all who support us – you have changed our lives”. At this small, but successful cooking operation, we were treated to a lavish feast of all their produce – which was incredibly filling on an already full stomach. We felt like the vicar of Dibley during the Christmas episode, accepting generous amounts of food at each place. We were almost ‘loved to death’.
We have seen how Warmi Huasi, supported by CAFOD, provides so much support for women and their families. These women now are able to create an income for themselves, improving their self-confidence, self-respect, and self-worth, whilst being safe to form friendship with other women. During the visits to these wonderful people we were able to pray together: keeping Christ at the heart of everything. All that came to mind during this day was: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” (Mt 25:35)