The HBI office is in the community of Magdalena, in the vast city of Lima. Our office sits just a couple of blocks from the ocean. It's a great location, with cool afternoon sea breeze and a pleasant smell of the ocean. I really like the area. And, it is changing. Only a few years back, this area and the neighborhood directly to the north (San Miguel) were “up-and-coming.” They provided a safe place for middle class families to raise their children. Now, the coastal communities are being overrun with condo developments. It seems every other block has a new construction project. This has brought tremendous change.
One area of San Miguel that has seen much growth and development is around Calle 16. With a direct vista to the ocean and an unobstructed access to a wide green space that runs along the cliffs above the coast, the area around Street 16 is prime for development. However, the area is marked by a large concrete structure that runs a square city block. The facility is the Maranguita Detention Center; and it is one of the most notorious juvenile prisons in Perú. The government officially refers to Maranguita as theCentro Juvenil de Diagnóstico y Rehabilitación de Lima or the Youth Center for Diagnosis and Rehabilitation of Lima. Whatever name it goes by, Maranguita has a notorious reputation for street youth. It is a place that brings shivers of fear when mentioned. And, Maranguita is a facility caught in a challenging situation.
Maranguitasits at the nexus of the change in the city of Lima and a growing recognition to the need for newer approaches to juvenile rehabilitation and justice. It is a place hindered by a history of fear, and pressed by a future of modernization. In many ways, it represents the challenges of Perú. Challenges that Perú faces as it moves further and further from their “developing nation” past and closer and closer to their modern image as a leader in Latin America and one of the top travel destinations in the world. Perú is in the midst of a number of changes – and Calle 16 is a part of this evolving new story. But it is not the only story that demonstrates the massive changes.
The changes are everywhere, but what’s most challenging to understand is the increasing difficulty many communities and people are experiencing in the face of the changes. This morning I went for a run. Most mornings I run south along the coast - today, I ran north. I’ve wanted to run to the community of La Punta (the point) for years. The challenge, to get to La Punta from our office, you need to go through a very dangerous neighborhood - La Perla District.
La Perla is a community stuck in a time warp. It reminds me of Lima 20 years ago. Broken windows and crumbling buildings are the norm. The density is a bit overwhelming - with people literally stacked on top of one another in makeshift housing projects. Certain neighborhoods in La Perla are so dangerous that while running, I was instructed by more than one person toward other routes. In fact, a woman literally stopped me while I was running and walked me for a good 5 blocks out of the neighborhood.
Yet, La Perla is only a few kilometers from the wealthy neighborhood of San Miguel. La Perla sits on the same coast and has similar views of the Pacific Ocean. And, there are no condominium projects. There are no widespread efforts to repair the crumbling sidewalks and potholed streets. Rather, the children of La Perla that live in the neighborhood of San Judas Tadeo, suffer disproportionately from malnutrition, anemia, communicable diseases. Unemployment is so much higher than the sister neighborhood of La Punta (only 2 kilometers further north along the coast). And the people who make their lives in the community of La Perla die on average 15-20 years earlier than Lima citizens living in more affluent neighborhoods.
So much is changing in Perú. And, yet, so many Peruvians are unable to feel the impacts of this economic wave of development and prosperity. One thing my morning run showed me, the work of HBI is only just beginning. HBI focuses on advancing the health of communities of need – recognizing the challenges that exist now and will exist well into the future. We know that sustainability is one of the most important – and incredibly challenging – goals of our work. And as Perú and Lima changes, pockets of disparity exist. This means our work must continue. Must grow.
This morning I went for a run. I ran through one of the wealthiest waterfront development districts in Lima and through one of the poorest. I went for a run this morning and I realized how incredibly important our work is - today . . . and well into the future.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.