Iquitos is the largest city in the world with no road to it, you can only get here by boat or by plane. This contributes to the dark side of this city of 600,000, a refuge for sexual deviants and pedophiles.
On the boulevard less than 100 yards from my front door is a big sign letting men know that having sex with a child is against the law but the dark side is alive and flourishing in this city.
The poverty of the masses contributes to this problem. Some parents utilize their children as props or fodder for the sexual deviants or as a source of income. The value of a child in Iquitos is a few hundred soles ($100) or less. Paul explained to me that any man, if you want to call them that, could come into this city reap some gifts and compliments on a child’s parents and walk away with their 14 or 15 year old daughter with their blessing.
I didn’t understand the full gravity of the situation until it smacked me in the face over the last couple of days. I was talking to a retired expat, Bill (he is one of the good guys), he told me he had adopted two girls from a family of twelve children, five of which had died. He wasn’t sure what happened to the first four but he was here when the last one died from diarrhea. Mainly because the parents were too lazy to go and purchase the simple remedy that would have saved their child’s life. She finished her few short years on this earth on a slab of wood in the slums of Belen. He convinced the parents to let him adopt the two smallest girls who were still alive and he has raised them as his father since then, today they are thriving at 11 and 15 years of age.
Just after telling me that story a young girl in her twenties plopped down beside me. I thought she was a friend of Bill’s one of the other locals I was talking with until she grabbed my hand and started rubbing it. It became abundantly clear that she was a hooker looking for her next trick. In my garbled Spanglish I explained that I was married and not interested.
She was persistent and continued to try to make me her new mark even after repeated attempts to convince her I was not interested. When she finally got the message and left Bill explained that she was one of five daughters who was being pimped out by her FATHER.
I have repeatedly seen mother’s on the boulevard begging for money and using their small children as props. One in particular has two girls, one looks to be about four years old and the other around nine. Paul knows this family and had to threaten to take the girls away from the mother if she did not put the older child in school. She relented and Adrianna is now in school and making spectacular grades. In fact she has done so well in school Paul promised to get her a new bed, to reward her for the high marks.
We delivered that bed yesterday. It was a lesson in humility as we walked towards the one room tenement apartment. They got their drinking water from a hole in the floor with a bucket attached to a rope that was dropped into the hole and pulled up. The hall smelt like a urinal, the walls and room were filthy with one bed stuffed with straw for the mom and two kids to sleep on.
There was one louvered window with only two glass slats remaining and a dirty piece of cloth covering the opening. No ability to lock out anyone or mosquitoes carrying Dengue fever wanting to do the family harm.
The bathroom reminded me of the mop room from a two bit diner, just a tile floor with a drain and a pipe protruding from the wall, shampoo and toothbrushes just sitting on the dirty wall. When we moved the disgusting mattress roaches scattered like a box of brown balls dropped on the floor. No air flow in the room in a subtropical climate.
The new bunk bed took about 45 minutes to assemble but it was worth the sweat and the grime and the overpowering feeling to jump in a shower and scrub down your body as we left and Adrianna and her sister were sitting on their new bed. The results of her good school work showed on her little face, the glow lit up the room.
Dear God please help these children, as they are just the product of a conception and an environment where nobody cares, in many case where their own parents sell them out. Thank you for people like Paul and the People of Peru Project. Another day in Iquitos, another lesson, another confirmation why I am here.