Nearly 20 years ago Delia, and her husband Michael, were invited by their friend Brother Paul to visit Peru.
It was certainly not a sight-seeing trip. It was to a desert community some 40 miles from Lima, where several hundred families had fled the terrorism and despair of the city and settled in mud huts and tents.
Zapallal it was called, and it may have offered relative safety but nothing else. No rain had fallen for years. There were no basic facilities of any description. No medicines, no schooling, precious little food. Oh yes – there was a football pitch crudely marked out in the sand, though.
Brother Paul had a vision to create a model for all such communities, one based on self-help and the indomitable spirit of the people themselves. Somehow he found some money and the villagers got to work. When we arrived there they – the parents - had built one storey of a school and a rudimentary clinic, water was delivered to the village once a week by tanker (though it had to be paid for) and there was a free kitchen for pregnant mums.
The problem was more and more families kept arriving, seeing this as their only beacon of hope. The next stages of development became even more pressing: a hydroponics scheme to grow food in the wilderness, a woodwork shop, and a van to take their produce to the city to sell.
Help was urgently needed, so on our return to Britain we established a charity, Zapallal – Sharing the Struggle, to try to help the village. Since then it has funded projects directly (out of reach of corrupt officials!) and it has begun to bear fruit. For example, a number of the children have got to university, graduated and returned to work in Zapallal, infant mortality has dropped, and power has reached the village.
Why just one village, and why Peru? Because the need was there – still is. If and when it succeeds it can pave the way for other communities, in whatever country, to help themselves. If you are interested in helping us to fulfil this vision and bridge the gap between us and the third world, a donation however small, can work wonders. You can also read all the up-to-date developments in our quarterly newsletter onsite.