Lima (Fides Service) - HOGAR SAN CAMILO, the first home for HIV+ persons in Peru was inaugurated on 30 September 1995 by Camillan Father General, Father Angelo Brusco. It was opened at a moment when there were no structures for HIV+ persons and those people were strongly rejected.
Alfredo used to say “Tell people we are humans, we feel, we walk...” it is for him that with the power of love we bringing the world of HIV+ nearer to the world of the healthy and to the families in particular. With the therapy of love we are improving their health and we see in this experience the miracles of Jesus “ Go in peace your faith has healed you”.
Life at Hogar is a normal family life; the same daily actions, easy and difficult. Everyone like in a family takes an active part everything: clean the house, wash the dishes, lay the table, water the flowers in the garden, welcome visitors to Hogar, organise therapeutic meetings, recreation etc. ask whether a person has taken their medicine or seen the doctor, if the family came to visit him, or is he ahs personal problems which make him seek isolation etc.if he is eating enough or refuses food etc. if he practices the bio-security norms specially if he washes himself... if he is able to forgive himself and his family. And most important of all, it he is able to pray and receive God’s forgiveness and to build a friendship with the Lord.
If we think that many people have nothing to eat for two of three days every week, or they have nowhere to sleep, to wash, to find a place at Hogar is like winning a lottery. Not only are the troubles suffered at home, a thing of the past, they receive the necessary peace and tranquillity, food, and all sorts of activities and the encounter with the Lord which makes Hogar a place where people gradually develop “integral health”. A week at Hogar is enough to see the first effects: weight gain, appetite, smile, security and peace.
Lima (Fides Service) - “To understand Hogar you have to live there, Father Zeffirino explains: it is a lovely colonial style home which has an air of peace and tranquillity and something magic which attracts people. It is nice to walk under those ochre yellow columns whose colour is enhanced by the sunset with the reflection of pink clouds.
We are in central Lima, the old part of the city once the home of the nobility today a district of poor people drug addicts, criminals. One of the most dangerous places in the city, if you ask a taxi driver to take you to Barrios Altos he will usually refuse. The Home is surrounded by busy streets with the noise of traffic, fumes, dust but inside Hogar is different, very different
A large front door, number 300 tells us that we have come to Hogar San Camilo; we enter, a black gate says we must wait for the doorman to open, and then we enter what was once a convent and is now a Family Home for HIV/AIDS patients.
Hogar is a home full of life: the patients like it, they feel it is their home, HIV+ groups ask to come here for meetings at the national and local level, once a month we meet with a group of Religious who work with HIV+ people, high schools, parish groups come to be with the patients to learn what they must do to avoid being infected.
This abandoned convent and marginalisation and isolation have given rise thanks to the Camillian charisma a miracle which only love can achieve. Many who visit us ask where the patients are and are surprised when a member of the staff, the doorman etc. says “I am HIV+, here we are”. They are incredulous because they think people with HIV/AIDS must be in bed, but the beds are still made and so they realise that... it cannot be an illness, which takes away desire to live and walk, work, sing and why not dance. They realise that they are still alive and from their misadventure they have learned to love life and they want to let the whole world know.
We must not forget the 14 people who make home visits and at 9.30 am with the bag full of medicines and personal medical reports they visit more than 300 patients in their homes. They make their way to the homes, inhospitable, uncomfortable, up and down steps, hills, along dirt tracks in the blazing Summer sun, to make 20 to 30 visits every day. They come back at about 2 or 3 for something to eat and then sit down to put information collected into the PC and prepare the visits for the next day. The patients, family members, helpers, personnel canteen for HIV+, meetings, groups activities, manual work, meetings in schools and parishes, with the ministry, with associations and NGOs, retreats etc., are the signs of life with which we are able to make life loved and lived.
Hogar is a Home which is a haven, a point of reference for all who want to understand how to help those with HIV/AIDS and how to avoid being infected and to prevent others from being infected, but it is also a centre of life, where death is present but not the fear of death because hope, stemming from love is open to the resurrection. We have triumphed! (ZM/AP) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)
AMERICA/PERU - “Camilos-Vida”, first centre in Peru to give artificial milk instead of mother’s milk to babies born to HIV+ mothers. Father Montin says that since 1997 they have cared for 650 babies, 400 are healthy
Lima (Fides Service) - “The “Camilos-Vida” programme was started after a visit by the Vida Association which imports health material donations from the United States”, Father Montin told Fides. “The directress asked me to accompany her to distribute powdered milk to poor children in Lima. I saw a heap of tins and I thought that it could also serve for babies born to HIV+ mothers, and I asked if the milk could be given to them to save their lives. The answer was yes and that was the beginning of the ‘Camilos-Vida’ programme.
In early January 1997, after meeting with social workers in the city we started our programme. I knew there were many HIV+ mothers but I never dreamed they were so many. By May we had 35 babies, by December we had 67 and up to today we have cared for 650, of whom 400 are healthy.
A HIV+ mother must be assisted during pregnancy, at birth to make sure the baby is born healthy. We encourage all mothers to follow the “having a healthy baby!” campaign. Providing preventative information we help prevent infection: mothers must be tested for HIV+, they should take AZT medicine in the last two months of pregnancy, have a caesarean birth and the baby should not be breastfed. If this advice is taken mother/child infection can be reduced from 25% al 5%, but the most important thing is to ensure that the child is born HIV negative.
As in a Family Home also at “Camilos Vida” a family style of life is important. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays when mothers come with their babies to get the milk, from the moment they arrive to the last goodbye, we offer them service and solidarity. To help mothers make friends we put them into groups of 12 or 13 with one of them as a supervisor and they share experience and concerns and hopes.
We have a team of a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social assistance, lawyer, priest and voluntary helper at their disposal. We also provide spiritual assistance, Mass time to speak with the priest. A few hours at Hogar are enough to give them energy for the whole week. Some of our mothers are now advisors in hospitals or health centres; others are members of leaders of experience sharing groups.
Life at Hogar strengthens them and helps them realise that isolation and separation only leads to depression and death. At Christmas we invite all the children we have assisted with our programme since 1997 and it is good to see them run and smile and play and to see their mothers happy and smiling remembering the day they came to knock at the door of Hogar certain that they would have never seen the day when their child would go to school. One of the mothers gave me a prayer which she recites every day: ‘Lord all I ask is that you help me and give me the strength to make my child a happy child. May he grow with his mother and father in a united family. Give me the grace of seeing him grow and go to school...’
Many have found that concern for their child, the family, the sickness, had become reasons to fight for life and they began to desire not many years of life, but the things which make life happy.” (ZM/AP) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)
“They make homes visits, they come to your house!» first experience of home visitation in Peru
Lima (Fides Service) - “If you are sick you have to go to a hospital or a health centre to see a doctor: home visits by doctors are very rare. In 1999 things changed when Hogar formed a group of a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist and a social assistant, gave them a mini van and started a new adventure, like Saint Camillo in 1600, going out in search of the sick in their homes.
The first patients we visited were known to us but impatience made tension increase. We opted not to war white coats so as not to cause a stir among the neighbours and to remove the Hogar San Camilo sign and to park some distance from the home; to say we were friends on a visit; we were almost more worried about taking precautions than with the condition of the sick.
If on the one hand we had the enthusiasm of pioneers all these precautions made us uneasy. But things soon began to change, and determination, expertise, solidarity and love began to work. More and more people telephoned and called for home visits for their family members. We began to fear that we would never be able to meet all the requests…and then what it more we were a religious institute with a charism to help the sick; we could not fail. Thanks to the patience and perseverance of our personnel we came to the end of the first year and people were saying about the Hogar: ‘They do home visits, they come to your house!’
There was so much talk that the Health Ministry became curious and in May 2002 it sent a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist and a social assistant to accompany us on our home visits to find out what was happening. There is nothing like curiosity for getting people to move. Anyway we had achieved something: because we kept it all secret the number of requests for home visits to patients had increased.
Compared to the often cold and hasty visit by sate medical staff they discovered that the famous secret was love. We realised that one team could not meet all the requests and so the next step was for the state to assume responsibility for assisting in this way HIV/AIDS. The opportunity came on 27 November 2002 when Hogar and the Health Ministry signed a Home Visit agreement.
Everything we see in homes where there is a patient shakes our human certainties one after the other, but we are enriched. The doctor’s proscription is often too expensive; the absence of food and family suggest other important medicines, which cure: solidarity, love, dialogue, forgiveness, a family atmosphere.
We visit more than 300 whom we put into three groups: critical, the terminally ill; precarious, those who are limited but have some strength to help themselves; potential, for those in a condition to recuperate normal daily life.
Most of the patients are in bed, if they have a bed and many are in a pitiful state. But even the visit has miraculous effects, which gives them new courage, and strength, which surprises the doctors themselves. Doctors were convinced that only medicine can help these people and they have had to think again. The patients help us to help him and to make his dreams come true. (AP/ZM) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)
School of life and hope: testimony of life at Hogar
Lima (Fides Service) - Sickness is always a school of life and it is true that we appreciate things more when we lose them. How often I have heard this said and the sick are teachers of life for those of us who think we are healthy and for those volunteers who say “We are going to help them”.
Mario - at the Family Home said - “I used to be choosy about my food, no9w I love food because it is an important friend which I must put in my stomach to help my body work well.” Fredy, another HIV+ boy, now that I have water to wash my hands before meals and for a shower many of my illnesses have gone.” Miguel: “ At home I was unbearable here I am learning that the most important things in life are not money and work which I lost in a moment. I was losing my family, my wife and two children, and now I do not want to lose them; I want to find them again because they are all I have left and they are my reason for living”. Maria, comes every Wednesday to get milk for her baby, “I wanted to commit suicide but because of the baby I didn’t. You helped me to love him when at those meetings you asked us mothers to kiss and caress our children”. Alex, who has spent some years in prison, says: “My life was hell and everything bad a person can do I think i did it.
I didn’t know the meaning of respect but here at Hogar I learned to love the Lord and I am happy to learn from him to respect people and love them like to Good Samaritan in the Gospel.” Often on Sunday he offers his testimony after Mass and for youth groups, sometimes three or four Masses and to think he has a broken heart.
It is good to be a witness of these lives, rejected and abandoned by society alone with medicine, re-live because of love. The same happened at the time of Jesus, many he cured had been rejected and this proves the saving power of His healing. (AP/ZM) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)