Village of San Andres, Iquitos, Peru

Published January 7, 2012 – by Selim Iltus

Nysha who lives in the village of San Andres frequently takes her bait and tackle and goes fishing next to the river. It is dangerous work since the riverfront is muddy and not developed at all. Daniel helps his family by sitting in front of the small boat used to carry passengers from one side of the river to the other. As the boat approaches to the shabby docks, he guides it by grabbing the edge of the dock while risking crushing his fingers. Nysha is three and Daniel is four years old. While presenting their research findings to us, children from this community repeatedly stressed their right to work in order to contribute to the livelihood of their families.

Life is not easy in this community with 150 families which is built next to the Italya river, one of the narrow branches that eventually join the mighty Amazon. As children say, river is everything. It gives like and takes it away. During the wet months, the river rises almost 30 meters, covering up all the roads, play fields, farms and paths. It floods the first floors of every home. That is why the homes in this community are built on slits. During the season when the water level is high (which lasts for 5 months), families are trapped on the second floors of these homes. For children, the only way to access school is by a boat. Mostly, they stay home together in a crowded single room, that they also share with their animals, chickens, dogs and pigs, which would otherwise drown.

This was the kind of environment, where our partner organisation INFANT, engaged children in a research project where children collected data about their community and its issues. They have drawn maps, generated drawings and produced census data on the residents. They documented many of the issues, using disposable cameras. The findings were eye opening and documented the poor health conditions, lack of hygiene and sanitation and the huge economic challenges facing these families.

On the other hand, it gave us hope seeing how much can be achieved when children collaborate with adults in a meaningful and productive fashion. Increased exposure of this community, has led to government’s interest in the developments and changes within the village. For instance, recently the president and the first lady paid a courtesy visit to this community.

Selim Iltus