Peru has many natural treasures, but it also has its problems. One major social problem in Peru is poverty, specifically as it relates to children. The streets of Lima, Cusco, and other cities are filled with homeless children. Some of the children are runaways, while others were abandoned by desperately poor families. All of these children are struggling just to survive from day to day.
While there are about 8 million people in Lima, Peru, an estimated 3.5 million are living in poverty and reside in shantytowns. According to estimates, there may be as many as 300,000 boys living on the street. Other cities in Peru have issues with street children as well. For example, in Belen there are about 40,000 people living in poverty and often there are outbreaks of cholera, making the situation even direr.
Most of Peru’s street children leave their homes when they are between 5-9 years old and rarely survive more than a few years. As a result of living on the street, many end up being hit by cars, shot or beaten to death.
Many of these children are forced to engage in prostitution just to get food to survive. Even so, often they cannot find enough food to eat and end up starving on the street. In some instances, street children make money for food by collecting trash and sorting through it for paper and other scraps to sell.
Fortunately, some charities aid street children by offering them food, shelter and education. One of these organizations is called The Vine Trust, and its main goal is to improve the lives of these children. The Vine Trust operates several homes for boys and is run by a former Church of Scotland minister who goes by Papa Noel.
The Vine Trust also has a medical project, which helps assist families with their various hardships and thereby reduces the incidence of young boys being cast out of or leaving. They have a large boat which functions as a mobile hospital in the upper Peruvian Amazon. It treats approximately 2,000 people every 10 days and is staffed by medical personnel from Scotland.
Although Peru is a country rich in natural resources like silver, copper, gold and oil, vast inequalities exist, in part due to corruption and governmental issues. Hopefully in the future there will be more social and economic equality that will cause a decrease in the number of street children.
If you plan to study Spanish in Peru, be prepared that this is a widespread problem that is quite shocking. However, there are ample opportunities to volunteer to help these street children. You can also donate money at the Vine Trust’s website and encourage your friends and family to do so as well.