From the commitment of a small Focolare community to the most vulnerable, a Centre for the elderly has been opened in a village in the Peruvian jungle, named after the Movement’s founder.
Four years ago I, Jenny, my husband, Javier, and our three daughters travelled here from Argentina to live in deepest Peru, bringing the Ideal of Unity with us. Shortly after we arrived in Lámud, a town in the middle of Amazonia, hearing that the Bishop of the Diocese was passing through, we ran to greet him and introduced ourselves as members of the Focolare Movement. “How wonderful that the focolare has arrived in Amazonia!”, he said and gave us his blessing, with his wish that we go ahead.
Then we made an agreement with the parish priest who asked us to be responsible for Pastoral Care and Family Catechesis in the villages forming part of the parish. We went to the outskirts of town to understand the social reality in the area, sometimes accompanied by our daughters and discovered a hidden Lámud, one that was full of suffering.
We decided to start with the least and realised that they were the elderly. Some of them did not even have a decent bed to die in. Keeping Chiara Lubich’s meditation entitled “One city is not enough” in mind, we went around the suburbs of the country looking for those who were alone, abandoned, to caress them, bring them a word of hope, food, clothes, and we asked them to pray for us as we were just beginning our adventure in these areas which were completely new to us.
After a while, we began to dream of being able to give the elderly a decent home, a hot meal and, most importantly, that they would feel accompanied and no longer alone. A dream which, on the one hand seemed far away, but on the other seemed almost within reach so much so that we said to ourselves: “Yes, we can! We must do something more concrete than a simple visit.
Together we drew up a plan: just a few lines but each sentence encouraged us to go ahead. We also thought about what we would call the house. We looked into each other’s eyes and decided to call it: “Hogar y Centro de Día para Adultos Mayores, Chiara Lubich” (“The Chiara Lubich Home and Day Centre for Elderly People”).
Gradually, our dream started to take shape. We organised a number of events and made contact with a few people who were really enthusiastic about the project. I, Jenny, already had some experience of volunteering for different projects in Argentina and an opportunity arose for her to be employed by the Lámud District Municipality to work for the elderly! Lastly, we felt encouraged by the words of the Pope who invited us lay people to work in favour of the most vulnerable, especially during this time of pandemic.
In short, there were so many beautiful coincidences that made us think that Jesus would be happy to see the birth of a Work for the least in the Peruvian wilderness, namely a dignified home for the elderly of the third age in this Amazonian province.
In the meantime, we saw how everything was going ahead at a dizzying pace. So, trusting fully in God’s Providence and the power of prayer, we became increasingly aware that Jesus would not leave us on our own, and we were certain that, with our small community, we would never be alone.
During that time, we signed the lease for the house and went through the legal process of setting ourselves up as a non-profit association. A group of people from the community had already joined the project on a voluntary basis. They had responded with a very strong “Yes” to committing to work for the benefit of the most vulnerable people in the village of Lámud and the Province of Luya (Dipartimento Amazonas).
We started preparing the place straight away so that we could start offering the elderly one hot meal a day, provided by the municipality. And now, little by little, we are assessing each step to be taken to reach our goal of offering the elderly, who are at risk of loneliness and abandonment, food but also the possibility of permanent residence in the Centre.
But more than titles, names and statutes, our desire is that the atmosphere of unity, harmony and family that Chiara Lubich left us as her legacy should reign in the house which is why the Centre bears her name.
Jenny and Javier, with the community of Lámud (Dipartimento Amazonas, Peru)
Experience received and translated by Gustavo E. Clariá