Peru: rescue operation

Alex’s account of working in the health, safety and environmental department of a road-cleaning company. while striving to care for the planet and every living creature.

Alex works in a road-cleaning company, which uses 5,000 gallon (c.19,000 litre) capacity tanks. They draw their water from salt-water pools to wash down the roads serving a large mining area in the north of Peru. The company embraces values such as: life before everything else, act in the right way, grow and evolve together, give value to all who work in the company, take care of the planet and every living species.

“I’m the health, safety and environmental supervisor,” says Alex. “I’m always attentive to the health of our personnel, aiming for ‘zero accidents’. We’re careful too about the impact our work has on the enviornment. We try to protect our flora and fauna. We’re the ones invading their territory so we should respect their habitat without damaging it.

Unfortunately, quite often animals mistake our salt-water pools for fresh water and sometimes die in it. Goats, cows and foxes approach the steep sides and slip down into the water,. One day we found a small fox struggling in the water and there was no way it could save itself from drowning.

Now there’s an “Emergency Rescue” phoneline run by a different subcontractor, but no-one answered so I decided to take direct action to save the creature. Equipped with a suction tube and rope, I set to work. I threw the rope into the pool for the little fox to claw onto, but it was too weak. So I dropped down into the pool, helped by two colleagues who held onto the rope. And we managed to carry it out. It was frozen, so I covered it with my own sweater and we brought it to the Rescue Office.”

Alex’s account calls to mind Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Sì, when he speaks of Saint Francis entering into communication with the whole of creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them to praise the Lord. Because for him every creature was a sister or brother to him, united to him with ties of real affection. So he felt called to care for everything that exists.

Alex continues, “When the other workers got back and saw the fox, they angrily told me to shift the animal because it was soaking the furniture where I’d settled it. I replied that my clothes were wet through too and I was using my sweater to warm the creature up. Then they started to change their tune, and one of them fetched an exhaust pipe off a truck to help warm the fox.

I later discovered that one of the team leaders put in a complaint about me for having gone too far. But I didn’t let that discourage me.

The little fox never once tried to bite me but seemed to trust me. It recovered well and after just a short while we were able to set the animal free.”

Gustavo E. Clariá

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