When a little girl in Peru was killed in their community, a Compassion church partner in San Juan de Lurigancho refused to sit by and watch the children in their community be subjected to violence. Read how they have committed to teaching children how to protect themselves through a program called “Little Advocates.”
Pastor Agapito Bueno still remembers the day he read the headline in the paper.
The body of little Jimena was found in a landfill after two days of intense searching by the police department …
Eight-year-old Jimena wasn’t a part of the Compassion center at Pastor Agapito’s church, La Primitiva. But she could have been.
Agapito reached out to the other Compassion church partners in San Juan de Lurigancho. Each pastor he spoke with echoed the same mindset.
We need to do more.
“Evil is multiplying, and it is something we cannot deny or overlook any longer,” says Pastor Agapito. “The church is the strongest weapon God has given us to fight back. Most of my colleague pastors understand that our children are in danger, and just like us, they are working to overcome this battle.”
Through the leadership of Pastor Agapito and Sister Rosa, a tutor at the Compassion center, La Primitiva Church decided to take a step forward and go beyond what is expected from them in terms of child advocacy. They’ve implemented a program called “Little Advocates,” in which children watch over and protect each other. This initiative, though quite simple, has had a profound impact on each one of the participants, empowering children from a very early age.
Piero and Jheremy are the leaders of a small group of Little Advocates and are in charge of watching over their classmates.
“Now, I understand that this is a great responsibility. Thanks to the workshops provided by Sister Rosa … I feel I’m more prepared to defend them.”
“When Sister Rosa told me I had been selected to be one of the Little Advocates, I was very excited to know I would be able to help my friends,” says 11-year-old Jheremy. “Now, I understand that this is a great responsibility. Thanks to the workshops provided by Sister Rosa … I feel I’m more prepared to defend them.”
The community of San Juan de Lurigancho has the highest rate of crime and violence in Lima, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics. Living in a place like this constitutes a persistent danger for sponsored children and the entire population.
“A few months ago, I had to go to my father’s work, which is only two blocks from my house, to deliver his lunch,” says Piero. “My mom had to stay home to look after my sick baby brother, so she couldn’t go with me. I had only walked a couple of steps when a man driving a mototaxi approached me and offered me a ride. At that moment, I was very scared and my heart started racing very fast, but I remembered all the advice Sister Rosa gave us, and I told the man I wasn’t interested. I was running very quickly and screaming at the same time. My mom heard me and went out to look for me. The man in the mototaxi vanished. I was so grateful, because thanks to the center, I know how to face these types of situations.”
In addition to the Little Advocates program, La Primitiva Church has also launched the “I don’t talk to strangers” campaign, teaching children how to be on the lookout for dangers on the streets, in their schools and even in their homes. Because of its success the campaign has spread to 250 more churches and communities in Peru.
“Every time we hear that one of our children is or has been in danger, my heart aches,” says Sister Rosa. “Many times, other people do not understand our relationship and the love we have for them. For me, each one of these little ones is like my own child. So, I fight every day to give them better protection and a better future.”