IQUITOS, PERU – For more than ten years, single mother Catalina has focused on one thing: working to feed her children. She works twenty-four hour shifts every two days as a security guard for her small community, Terrazas del Valle in rural Peru.
Catalina’s days off begin at five a.m. when she cooks healthy breakfast and lunch food for her children, Corali, 12, and Franco, 7. “The most important thing to me is to see my children eat healthy,” Catalina said. “I don’t want them to get sick.”
Corali and Franco are often home alone during Catalina’s shifts. Corali has learned light homecare skills, such as cooking and mild cleaning, as well as basic childcare so she can help take care of her younger brother. Catalina trusts her daughter to help, but has always worried for the children’s safety, as their stove was so old that it emitted toxic fumes and seemed to be near its expiration.
“Once I had to stop cooking,” Catalina said. “One of the burners on the stove had exploded again.”
Both Corali and Franco have experienced ill health due to the family’s poverty. Corali suffers from asthma due to the toxic fumes, and Franco has become ill from poor quality drinking water. Even with working as hard as she does, Catalina could not prevent the byproducts of their environment from negatively impacting her children.
Then in March 2017, Terrazas del Valle experienced significant flooding and mudslides. The devastation impacted the entire area, making worse an already strained situation for the poverty-stricken region. Home and community wells that had been the area’s water sources were buried, causing some residents to go seven days without access to water.
Operation Blessing provided disaster relief for residents of Terrazas del Valle with individual Kohler water filters. Catalina and her children, along with their neighbors, were able to enjoy safe drinking water even as their area remained in a state of disaster. Long treks to fill buckets with semi-safe water were no longer necessary; they could easily tip a spout and access safe water in their own home.
Operation Blessing visited some of the households in Catalina’s community to register additional needs. The team noticed Catalina’s dangerous stove, and quickly replaced it so the family would have a clean and safe means to cook.
“I cook faster now, and I’m not afraid to turn on the stove,” Corali said.
Catalina remains on her twenty-four hour shifts. However, with a safe, working stove and safe water at their disposal, Catalina has less to worry about as she continues to raise her children to the best of her ability.