Tacna is a desert city and a commercial area with many immigrants from the Puno area. The poverty rate of Peru is at 30% with many poor children who temporarily or permanently drop out of school to help support their families. About a quarter to a third of Peruvian children aged 6 to 14 work.
All three of the sisters, Yolanda Arribasplata, Rosa Luz Condo, and Gloria Zapata work in two different schools in Tacna. One of them is a ‘Fe y Alegria’ school, begun by the Jesuits to serve the poorest children in Peru and also those children who had to work and otherwise not be able to attend a school. While there I had an opportunity to see the schools and meet these enthusiastic students who appreciated the opportunity to be in school, from the youngest to the high school students. In the high school, students received regular classes in subjects but also had the opportunity to learn a trade, such as sewing, carpentry, technology and electronics. They were so proud of the things they had been able to make with their own hands. The sisters are making a huge difference in the lives of these children who otherwise would not be able to attend school.
Working alongside the sisters are the Jesuit Volunteers who dedicate two years of their lives and live in a community not far from the house of the sisters. Each day at lunch time, one of the volunteers would come to have lunch. She felt a part of that community and loved spending time with the sisters who welcomed her into their house. The insight that I received here in Tacna was that spirit of ‘hospitality’ and ‘joy’ which permeated everything, from washing dishes to playing ‘Runicube’ each night to teaching in poor schools.