PERU: New boat helps Salesian missionaries travel to hard to reach communities in the Amazon
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Father Luigi Bolla has traveled thousands of kilometers in the Amazon jungle between Peru and Ecuador, often sailing aboard a small boat known as “Pekepeke.” Fr. Bolla first arrived in Peru in 1984 and settled in Kuyuntsa, a city located in the district of Barranca, province of Datem del Marañon, Loreto region.
“Yankuam Jintia,” or twilight, is how the Amazon natives refer to the Salesian missionaries who travel from one place to another, walking in the rain and mud of the forest or on the river. Their only vehicle was the small boat capable of carrying only a few people throughout their journey. The Salesians of Peru, who continue the missionary work of Fr. Bolla in that region, with the help of the Don Bosco Foundation of Peru, have succeeded in acquiring a new boat.
“The boat we have inaugurated and blessed is called María Auxiliadora and will be destined for long journeys on the river. It is our only means of transport to reach some otherwise inaccessible places in the Amazon,” explains Salesian Father Román Olesinski.
Thanks to the new boat, Salesian missionaries will be able to reach more than 120 communities. These are visits that last for three weeks and are an opportunity to visit schools to meet and educate young people and their families.
“The María Auxiliadora is also a house,” says Fr. Olesinski. “We navigate from one community to the next. On the boat we sleep, we cook. It is a floating and missionary house. Now we will no longer hear the ‘peke-peke-peke-peke’ sound for hours and hours that the last smaller boat made because we have this new larger more accommodating boat for our travels.”
Salesian missionaries in Peru provide education and social development services for poor youth and their families. Through education and vocational and technical skills training, Salesian missionaries provide youth the opportunity to gain the skills they need to find and retain long-term, stable employment. Missionaries also provide health clinics, feeding programs, shelter and other basic necessities to families in need.
Peru faces high levels of income inequality and has more than a quarter of its population living in poverty, according to the World Bank. Poverty levels are significantly higher in rural areas but urban areas struggle most with inequality, most notably metropolitan Lima. Poverty in the country is made worse by a shortage of productive farmland and a lack of job skills among women entering the workforce, as well as a lack of adequate housing, nutrition and education.
Peru has also been plagued by hunger and disaster. According to the World Bank, close to 25 percent of children in the country are chronically malnourished. Communities continue to rebuild after an 8.0 earthquake in August 2007 which killed more than 500 people in the central coastal cities of Chincha, Pisco and Ica and injured hundreds more. The quake destroyed close to 60,000 residential and commercial buildings, leveled hundreds of acres of farmland and left countless Peruvians without means of livelihood.
World Bank – Peru