After seven weeks in a Spanish speaking country, nobody should be proud of the fact that their skills don’t extend much further than “Panchadas. Especial oferta. Solo un sole. Muy delicioso”. But, fortunately, this was all the Spanish we needed to help fundraise for those affected by the recent fire at the Villa El Sur market.
Three weeks ago, an accidental fire devastated the market in which many of the young people at MANTHOC work. Though nobody was reported injured, the livelihoods of several families had been ruined as a result.
The stalls in the market provide a much-needed source of income for the young people and their families and could have left many struggling to survive. But rather than sit around and wait for help from the government, the young people of MANTHOC took it upon themselves to begin fundraising for their peers, neighbours and friends, conveying the resilience, solidarity and initiative that typifies the people of Villa El Salvador.
The first event organised was a Panchada - a hot dog sale. The young people shared the responsibility of creating posters, buying ingredients, preparing the food and most importantly, selling. Over 30 youths sacrificed their Saturday afternoon in the sunshine to get involved and after months of volunteering at MANTHOC it is easy to see why. MANTHOC is often described as a family and it is at a time like this, when tragedy strikes, that the entire ‘family’ comes together.
MANTHOC supports working children and young adults aged 5 to 19. At just 7 years old, Jimena had the courage to approach people with a plate of hot dogs and make a pitch for why they should buy them. Her approach was far more effective than shouting “Hot-dogs. Special offer. Only 1 sole. Very delicious,” that’s for sure. The response from the locals was very encouraging as the hot dogs flew off the grill as the plight of the young people hit home.
The children of MANTHOC could have been content with their efforts at the panchada, but the fundraising didn’t stop there. The following Monday, MANTHOC held a tombola with over 150 prizes donated. The afternoon got off to a tremendous start with the youngsters themselves bidding for prizes, a further act of their generosity. When they ran out of money to donate, the remaining prizes were taken to the streets to be sold as the tombola continued drawing in members of the public.
The children’s ability to sell continued to astonish me. It is easy to forget that they do this for a living when you only see them studying, playing and just being regular children in the confines of MANTHOC. But their skills were impressive, reminiscent of budding entrepreneurs taking part in The Junior Apprentice. The work these young people do however is without a cash prize or lucrative job offer at the end.
I believe that working at such a young age makes the children behave with remarkable maturity. They value the importance of what they have, show responsibility far beyond their years and have initiative to make things happen. The Panchada and Tombola managed to raise over 200 soles [the Peruvian currency] of much-needed funds for rebuilding the market.
Villa El Salvador is renowned for solidarity, compassion and spirit amongst its people and the children of MANTHOC are a fine example of this. The community was reeling after the fire and their fundraising efforts were a source of hope and inspiration. We can all make changes to the world we live in.
By ICS Progressio volunteer Meryl Noronha.