This is a message sent to us by Fr Peter on April 25th:
“The present phase of the lockdown is due to end on Monday 27th, but we do not yet know what restrictions are going to be eased. The Colombian government has already announced that it intends to reopen some schools in June, but that until that happens, children are not to be allowed out of doors. This will present many of our parents with a dilemma: if they go out to try to earn some money, they will have to leave the children behind alone, at risk of accidents, fire, and abuse by their neighbours; but if they stay inside with their children, they won’t have money for food, rent, light or gas. The Venezuelan refugees and Colombian street-workers live in one-room tenements, and although the landlords are not meant to evict them if they can’t pay the rent, they get round this by turning off the light, water and gas.
The family of the two little Venezuelan refugee boys we have staying with us at Casa Bannatyne are a typical case. They are from a middle-class background, so destitution has hit them even harder than families who have always been very poor. The husband has managed to get himself a job in Peru, and he hopes that his wife and three children will eventually be able to join him there, provided his job survives. The mother asked us to take her two boys in at the beginning of the lockdown, leaving her in a rented room with her youngest child, who is a girl. The conditions there are pretty dreadful, and there has been an outbreak of bedbugs and fleas in the building; but at least she knows that her boys are OK, and she and her daughter have a little more space than if they were all crammed in together. However, she has sometimes had to barricade her door, because when one of her neighbours gets drunk, he has tried to break in to rape her, knowing that she does not have anyone to protect her. Because she is not earning, she is behind with the rent, and the landlord is likely to seize their few possessions, and change the lock on the door if she goes out to work, which would leave them out in the street with nothing more than what they stand up in. We would love to be able to help to rehouse them, but many tenement landlords are now reluctant to rent to families with children at all.
So far, we have distributed 273 food-parcels in 6 distributions. These are benefitting 174 families, comprising 343 children and 480 adults, making a total of 823 people whom the benefactors of Let The Children Live! are helping to keep alive.”