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July 07, 2006

Getting Started Activism

Lucy Borja is executive director of GeneraciĆ³n, an organization that helps street kids in Lima, Peru. Here's how she got started. It's a beautiful and inspiring story. Sojourners:

One day back in 1992 Lucy simply felt compassion for two boys — neither older than twelve 12 — who feared to spend the night on the rugged streets of Lima. Lucy only recently had learned of the existence of a subculture of street kids in Lima. Parents sometimes abandon these children — in some cases selling them into servitude — while other young boys and girls flee severe abuse at home. [...]

[W]hen Lucy encountered two young boys who expressed a deep fear for passing the night on the streets, she invited them to use her office as a safe haven. She told them to extend the invitation to any other child who shared their concerns. Since Lucy already had plans to attend a family party that evening, she informed the office custodian to give entry to any child who arrived in search of refuge.

After the party, Lucy decided to check in with her young guests. She hoped that the custodian, upon meeting the ragged vagrants, had not balked at her instructions. She half expected to find the boys sitting on the curb in front of her office, locked out. [...]

Lucy had a puzzle awaiting her that evening at the office. The key unlocked the front door but, try as she might, she could not shove it open. It felt like someone had lodged a rolled-up carpet behind the door to block the entry. With the help of her sons, Lucy finally moved the door to create enough space to squeeze through and pass inside the building.

As she reached blindly in the dark in search of the light switch, Lucy tripped over the "carpet roll." She caught her balance and leaned her body against the wall. Holding her pose, her fingers continued to work the wall until they eventually found the light switch and flicked it upward.

Lucy initially looked down at her feet and discovered several young kids curled up on the floor, sleeping, their bodies jammed against the door. She then cast her vision around the room, though it was hard to register at first what she saw. Every nook and cranny of the office was covered with sleeping children. "I even found young kids snuggled tightly inside the cupboards where we stored our office supplies," Lucy said.

Lucy counted more than 600 children who slept in her office that night. The word had passed like wildfire on the streets of Lima. Found: a shelter from the storm.

At that moment, Lucy did not know all the details that caused these boys and girls to run scared. But she clearly sensed that her life would never be the same. "Those children, stacked one against the other asleep on the floor of my office, looked so defenseless and vulnerable," Lucy said in a slow, soft voice. "They had no one to be their advocate, to defend their rights," she added. "I knew then what path I had to take."

It started with one small act of instinctive kindness.

You start from where you are. You take one small step towards the world. If it's the right step, and if you're open to going where it leads you, you find the world takes ten steps toward you. You don't have to know where the journey will end. You just have to take the next step. Your reward: a life worth living.

Posted by Jonathan at July 7, 2006 05:36 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

Thats a great little story - especially coming from a place like Lima, which is one of the most benighted cities I've ever visited (and I've seen a lot of the third world).

Posted by: Big Gav at July 9, 2006 08:29 AM