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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Small workers

Lutherans provide school, meals and care for Peru's street children

"Missus, I saw you first! Why you not buy from me?”

She was about 11, selling wares on the street. I had just bought some llama finger puppets—from a different girl.

She tugged my sleeve.

“It’s not fair, Missus,” she wailed. “It’s not fair.”

Cuzco, Peru, boasts an elegant main square, picturesque cobblestone streets and a thriving tourist trade. But children selling trinkets are a stark reminder that not everyone is prospering. Instead of going to school or playing with friends, they try to earn enough soles for an evening meal.

About 3,000 of Cuzco’s children are considered at risk. Some are easy to spot, like the girls selling puppets. Harder to see are the ones farmed out to other families as domestic workers. “Because they are invisible, they are exploited, mistreated and abused,” Clara Silva says.

Silva coordinates Huch’uy Runa, a holistic program that cares for 200 of Cuzco’s at-risk children. “These children suffer moral and material abandonment,” she says. “Some are orphans, and some come from families that have been destroyed. Many are abandoned and live alone on the street—the hardest thing they can suffer.”


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December issue

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