Are we entitled to hope?

In 1971, the coastal desert crept up to the southern outskirts of Lima, Peru. The old colonial city faced, along with most other Latin American…

In 1971, the coastal desert crept up to the southern outskirts of Lima, Peru.

The old colonial city faced, along with most other Latin American metropolises, a veritable invasion of the poor from their destitute rural hinterlands.

That year, municipal authorities in Lima had to deal with an organized land invasion of thousands of these internal refugees of land slated for an upscale residential development.

In a non-violent effort to resolve the crisis, government officials gave the squatters a barren strip of sand about 20 kilometres south of Lima.

Villa El Salvador was born.

A decade and a half later, when I first visited this community, it had grown to a quarter of a million citizens.

Guided by an organization called CUAVES, the Self-managing Urban Community of Villa El Salvador, they had literally ‘greened’ the desert by planting pasture lands for a community-managed dairy herd and tens of thousands of shade and fruit trees.

The cows provided the milk for their ‘vaso de leche’ or glass of milk program designed to guarantee all their children a hunger-free youth.

Self-help projects addressed most of the community’s basic needs

Today, the largely indigenous and mestizo community has grown to about 350,000. It has not escaped poverty, but through co-operative labour the neighbourhoods are supplied with electricity, water and sewage.

International sponsors, like our Development and Peace, support efforts of key local groups like the Popular Federation of Women of the Villa El Salvador (Fepomuves).

Activities such as community kitchens, local health clinics, popular libraries and host of other projects have allowed the desperately low-income families of Villa El Salvador not only to survive, but to thrive with dignity.

Somehow that same spirit has to spread across our global community.

“Mobilizing to save civilization means restructuring the economy, restoring the economy’s natural support systems, eradicating poverty and stabilizing population,” said Lester R. Brown of the Earth Policy Institute in an Information Clearing House news item last week,

Brown catalogues the costs of righting what is wrong on the planet from eradicating adult illiteracy and providing basic health care planet wide to reforesting the earth and restoring depleted fisheries.

He calculates the cost at $161 billion a year. The current annual world military expenditure is $975 billion.

“The challenge is not to provide a high-tech military response to terrorism, but to build a global society that is environmentally sustainable and equitable — one that restores hope for everyone.”

It was elbow room only in the basement at Maryhouse last Wednesday night.

Volunteers quickly unpacked bag after bag of groceries gathered from around Whitehorse in the annual “In the spirit of caring” ecumenical spring food drive.

Signs on the walls surrounding the sorting tables guided workers to the proper stack of milk crates in the flurry of sorting.

Rapidly filled crates were hauled off to proper storage rooms.

Over at the Salvation Army, the organized mêlée was probably repeated.

For those who didn’t have the chance to help restock the shelves of our two emergency food programs and still wish to help, I am sure they both the Maryhouse and the Salvation Army would be happy to accept your cash or kind donations.

Yukoners of every social strata pitched in on this effort.

Church members who often have difficulty being in the same room with one another because of doctrinal or ideological differences, worked together.

Young and old joined in common cause.

All recognized a problem: people in our community for a wide variety of reasons go hungry. The response? Feed them.

Are we entitled to hope? Can we collectively find ways out of the host of problems afflicting us from down on the street level here in the Yukon on up to the heights of planet-wide issues?

From ‘vaso de leche’ centres of Villa El Salvador, Peru, to the basement of Maryhouse global and local neighbours are showing us that we do have reasons for optimism.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read