Home Away From Home

It’s great to be back in Iquitos, it’s an unbelievable feeling to walk down the boulevard, the street kids see you their faces light up and they race up to give a hug and a kiss. I hadn’t seen Ruth so I went to search her out.

Before we left for Brazil we put some pressure on her mother, Rita, to get Ruth into school. We had sat in their one room hut and talked to her like a scolded child. None of us felt that she would follow through since Ruth was the bread winner of the family and there is a history of drug abuse in the family. We had been very explicit that Lou and I would sponsor her in school and help the family if Ruth got off the street and into school.

The first step was for Rita to get the proper birth documents which would require a trip to her home town. While we were gone Paul had given her S60 ($20) for this purpose.

I found Rita and Ruth at their usual afternoon spot parking motorcycles. Ruth was her shy coy little self, it was great to see her. I started to have some faith that our plan might be working as her mother started chattering away. I could only pick up a word or two so I dialed Paul and handed my phone to her. She was so excited and had almost completed the documentation process. Bill confirmed later that Ruth had not been back on the boulevard.

I was thrilled so I asked Rita to come with me. About a block away I had seen a street vendor selling fruit so we walked up to his cart and I told her to pick out some fruit. She was tentative and picked out two apples and I added four more and told her to pick out something else. Again cautiously she picked a couple more things.

Then I walked her across the street to a grocery store. I could tell she was tentative again as she paused at the entrance. Street people are not allowed in restaurants or other establishments because the proprietors know they don’t have money and will be begging from their customers. It was obvious that Rita had never been in the grocery store.

We walked over to the aisle with water, as I picked up two large bottles her eyes got wide. I walked her back to the meat counter and asked for a whole chicken and turned and asked what else she needed. A few potatoes, rice, sugar, oil and a few other things and it was off to the check out.

Our grocery shopping trip cost $15 and was enough food for Ruth’s family for a week or more. As I left Rita I could she the joy on her face as the unexpected gift had put her over the moon. I felt comfortable that we will accomplish our goal, Ruth will get an education and I knew I was home away from home.