CUDA News: September

Our work here can be hard sometimes; and not for the reasons you might think.  Sure being away from family and friends is hard.  Learning a new language and culture (and learning how to survive in it!) is very difficult.  Adjusting your thinking and work habits to be completely self-starting and constantly motivated is tough to be sure but all these things can be overcome with time and dedication to a vision.  The part of working here that I have found hard lately is that I am constantly in contact with desperate people.  People with little to no hope, people who have been hurt before, people can’t (or don’t want to) trust anymore.  This isn’t the desperation of watching your children die while being unable to help - that is happening as I type this article and as you read it - but it is still desperation and I can feel its effect on me.
The lives of the people we work with have been hard.  Unless their parents were able to afford a decent private school, they were educated in a system that is underfunded, understaffed, and underperforming.  Bending or breaking rules is the norm.  The police can be bribed at any and every opportunity which only helps to reinforce the generally vague feelings about the laws the government enacts.  I mean, when your government passes laws in direct contradiction to each other, it is hard to tell legal right from wrong so why bother, right?  Machismo still holds some sway in the lower classes so while a husband may spend his afternoon watching the soccer game, drinking with his buddies, his wife spends the day taking care of the kids, house and her side business with little thanks and no voice in her own home.  This side business is the only income the wife will see as generally incomes are kept separate with each spouse taking individual  responsibility of the various needs of the household.  And when either one needs capital to help their business the banks are ready to step in and charge 50% interest (or more) per year, but that sounds pretty good because the money lenders down the street start out around 100% and go up from there.  When that loan becomes too much to bear the individual, or family, will simply not pay because they know that, usually, the banks won’t actually take away their collateral and instead will just write the loan off.  That’s good, but bad also because the next time they’ll have to borrow from friends, family, or that moneylender with his 100% interest.  
I’ve only listed a handful of the situations we find ourselves facing and working in.  When all of that comes together in a person I can’t help but see them as desperate.  Desperately hoping that we will provide a small loan to keep their business going, or add that one little thing they never can save up enough to purchase on their own.  Desperately waiting for someone to give them the time of day and listen to their words, to give their voice a place.  They are desperate to receive a small solar panel in their home so that their kids can do homework with good lighting and not get candle drippings all over the homework (not to mention the damage being done to their eyes).  Desperate and in need of friends that will build them up instead of tearing them down.  This is what we do and I don’t mind admitting that it is hard.  It is hard to connect that often and that deeply with desperate people because once they realize that we are willing to connect with them, and once they feel safe, they are all in.  Filling in those gaps, sharing our beliefs, building up, encouraging, teaching, lending, learning.  That is what we aim to do in Arequipa, to see desperate people and (acknowledging our own desperation) live in community with them.