Covid-19 Update: Peru

As of 2nd April 2020

A grateful greeting from the province of Peru to the whole family of the Sacred Heart. We are well, thanks be to God.

March 16th began with the declaration of a “state of emergency in the whole country.” Initially, it was until March 30; but that has now been extended until April 13. The state of emergency includes closing the borders, suspending flights, ceasing commercial activities, and paralyzing civil movement during the day and a curfew at night. As in different countries, movement is allowed for that which is strictly essential. These measures took us somewhat by surprise, but seeing how the epidemic was advancing, we began to comply as a country. Otherwise, it would be impossible to contain the pandemic, given that our health system has many deficiencies.

It is a great help that every day, at noon, the president and the ministers share with the people the process that we are experiencing, from the number of cases of infection that arise every day to the measures that are being taken in the different arenas of the country's life: health, education, vulnerable populations, security, economy and others. Keeping the population informed has allowed us to take part in the action taken.

Our concern is for the most impoverished, most of whom belong to the informal work sector, who live day-by-day, as well as the migrant population. And in many well-populated sectors of the big cities, they still don't have drinking water at home. They have to buy it, so it becomes a paradox that to avoid contagion, one of the recommendations at a global level is to "wash our hands constantly with soap and water."

A virus that is so small and invisible has brought to light how precarious the systems are in our country. Economically speaking, we know that the future will be critical, and for that matter will have a strong impact on everything and in everyone’s life.

In spite of this dramatic and difficult moment for the great majority, creative acts of solidarity are emerging. The youth, especially, continue to be the life-force, taking initiative and bringing life to those most vulnerable: from helping to prepare boxes of food, to being in touch with senior citizens who live alone, or to donating blood. Soup kitchens in areas on the periferies have regained strength and those in the church or religious life are always supporting these iniciatives.

As a Province, we began this time of "social isolation" with the serious illness of Milagros Valdeavellano who, after many years of fragile but not declining health, was able to embrace the Lord and so many beloved people who preceded us. Living the Easter of Milagros, in the context of confinement and immobility, helped us to see that everything happens in "God's time." The way she gave herself in simplicity could only be the testimony of her profound way of living the option for the poor until the end. We have Mila at home. When everything comes to pass, we can bring her to rest in the GARDEN OF LIFE (columbarium) in Chalet.

Throughout this time of distancing ourselves, virtual communication has been a big help to us. For meetings of the Provincial Team and for spending time with each community of the Province in these circumstances, Zoom, WhatsApp, and the phone are indispensible. Happily, in the communities outside of Lima, in the rural areas (Bambamarca, Jaén, and Layo)no one is infected with the virus. These are the most impoverished zones of the country.

In coordination with parishes, the sisters help to bring food to families who do not have other resources; those who live day-by-day, relying solely on the informal economy that they now can no longer count on.

The two communities of San Genaro connect us directly with the reality of the neighborhoods where there is overpopulation and where, in the most distant areas, they do not have basic services. The last two weeks, a sister from the community of San Genaro presented symptoms very similar to the coronavirus, visited the doctor, asked for isolation and a swab test, the results of which came back after four days. The waiting time was quite tense, both for the sisters who were in that community and for those who had been in contact with her in other communities. Two days ago, they finally sent us the results; happily and with thanks to God, they were negative. It was an experience that made us live in solidarity with thousands of persons and families who are going through this situation.

Our educational institutions have stopped classes until April. Different platforms have begun to be implemented through which thousands of students at all levels will be able to begin their studies this year.

The concern about how to be closest to those who need it most has mobilized those of us in religious life. The Conference of Religious in Peru (CONFER), in coordination with other organizations, have joined together to give all manner of help to families living on the peripheries.

This completely unanticipated situation has gifted us with many learnings. It invites us to reinvent our lifestyle, to put into practice that which adds up to the common good. It is up to us to be creative in trying to "give global answers to a universal virus.”

This virus has told us at every turn that we are all of the same human condition.

We ask the Lord, who has had us experience the strength of his presence in the midst of this global crisis, to give us the conviction that by remaining in him we will become more open, more responsive, to the breath of his Spirit and allow ourselves to be led by him.

Nancy Durand, on behalf of the sisters in Peru