The students at the Home Incarnate Word boarding homes in Cotahuasi, Peru, gave us an enthusiastic welcome with lots of music and home-made signs. We were serenaded in the afternoon and later that evening with songs in both Spanish and Quechua – the local indigenous language. Then as we departed with Fr. Jose Paz, the kids ran outside in the rain to wish us a final farewell.
Why so much excitement? Because the kids know that our Cross International Catholic Outreach donors are providing their daily meals. The meals enable them to stay at Home Incarnate Word, where they have the opportunity to go to school and get a high school diploma that will help them find jobs.
These students are living proof that life is changing in the rural mountains of Peru, where indigenous farming communities have long been isolated from the modern world. When I say isolated, I mean the children live as far as a 10-hour walk from the nearest high school, in villages so remote they don’t have a priest to say Mass more than two days a year. Most of the adults have little or no formal education, and until recent times, they didn’t consider it important. But now they want to see their children become something more than subsistence farmers, and they know that can’t happen unless they learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Thanks to Fr. Jose, the children are not only acquiring the academic skills they need – they’re also learning Catholic moral values and developing habits of prayer and devotion to Christ that will benefit them throughout their lives.