With Love, from Lancashire Hill to Lima

4th July 2017 - by Stephen Awre

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Who says that little people can’t make a difference?  Fr. John Boles shares the story of how an 11-year old girl from Stockport responded to the devastating flash floods that affected thousands of people in March 2017. 

Milly Hampson is eleven years old. She lives with her parents, Darren and Beatriz, in a tower block of flats overlooking the River Mersey in Stockport, called Lancashire Hill. I have known her parents for over twenty years, and celebrated their wedding. Stockport is my home town. Beatriz is Peruvian, and at the time of their marriage she lived in a Columban parish very near my own.

In March, Milly was very upset to see how a series of massive flash floods had wreaked havoc in parts of her mother’s homeland. These had been caused by an unusual fluctuation in the offshore currents of the Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon known as the “Niño Costero”, or, “The Child of the Coast”.

She decided to do something about it. Milly got permission from her Primary School to hold a “pyjama party” and raised £197. Inspired by her example, Beatriz organised a tea party for neighbours that brought in £235. They got in touch with me in Lima and thanks to my benefactors I was able to double the amount to £864 (US$1100). Darren then offered to pay for Milly and Beatriz to fly to Peru to buy what was needed and give it in person to victims of the floods.

The Columban Fathers in Peru have been working closely with the Manchester-based Loreto Sisters. They have “adopted” a small community on the edge of Lima called “Las Riberas de Cajamarquilla”. Of its 23 families, 11 had seen their homes completely destroyed and the other 12 had been severely damaged. Roads and service lines had been washed away.

The Loretos and Columbans provided food and medical supplies as a first response. The government set up tents for the homeless and installed temporary access bridges. The Sisters secured financing for 11 pre-fabricated bungalows. What was needed next was a supply of water tanks for the new houses, as with no running water they were reliant on tankers filling makeshift cisterns.

The Sisters wanted to buy 11 purpose-built 1,000-litre household tanks with filters to provide access to clean drinking water. “How much does a tank cost?” we asked Sister Miros, who was co-ordinating the relief effort. “Some $100 each,” she replied, “making a total of $1,100”. How much did we have? Exactly $1,100. Perfect!

Milly, Beatriz and I made the trip to Cajamarquilla, a real adventure as many roads and bridges were still out of action, but our driver Enrique finally got us there. The community, led by Señor Zenobio, were there to meet us, and we then presented the tanks to each family during a ceremony in which Milly played a starring role.

Work goes on to find funding for other needs in the community, but we’d taken a great step forward, and all due to the inspiration of an eleven-year-old schoolgirl.

Donations can be made via the Columban Missionaries and will be sent to support the long-term rehabilitation of communities affected by the floods. 

Donate here and please reference PERU FLOODS 2017 in the Donor Message.