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A Safe Place to Call Home

Field Report by Elisa Preston

IQUITOS, Peru – On the floodplains of Peru’s Itaya River, houses are built on stilts or floating logs to protect against the dramatic seasonal flooding. The vulnerable families that live here deal with a culture of addiction, high unemployment, domestic violence, health risks like malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and more.

In the midst of these struggles, 32-year-old Margot is a single mother of four children, Andy, 14, Roberto, 9, Harinson, 7, and Angela, 3. Margot’s first husband abandoned the family, leaving Margot as a single mother. Shortly thereafter, Margot was cleaning houses and washing clothes for a living when she fell ill with tuberculosis. For six months, Margot couldn’t work. She had already lost her house to flooding, and therefore relied on her brother for shelter and other basic needs. Margot found another partner, but he was physically abusive. When one of her sons got involved in an altercation, Margot made the decision to leave.

With nothing to her name, Margot and her kids moved in with her brother and his family again. It wasn’t easy, but Margot had no other option. “I was embarrassed to live with my brother and his wife. Our children were growing, and the house felt smaller with time,” she said. After three crowded years, she moved to the bottom part of a neighbor’s house.

Margot and her four children lived in an unsafe home. They were vulnerable to flooding, and serious illness from animal bites and unsafe water.

The lower floors of houses built on stilts are especially dangerous, as they can flood without warning. Along with floodwaters and illness, families risk attacks from snakes, rats and poisonous insects. Margot built a structure out of wooden boards and plastic, with a blanket for a door, as a temporary solution. She knew she would have to move once the rainy season came in February, but she also knew an immediate fix was necessary to protect her children.

Operation Blessing International learned of Margot’s family and their needs. The family of five received a newly built home in an area safe from flooding, eliminating their fear of serious illness, home loss or worse. Their new residence contains a full kitchen, living space and bedrooms for Margot and her children.

Margot’s four children, standing in their new bedroom, can feel safe in their new home.

“I always dreamed of a safe house for my children,” Margot said. “I never thought I would have my own house.”

For Margot and her children, having a safe place to come home to every day, after working or going to school, means better health, more security and hope for a thriving future.

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