Children of La Oroya, Peru, Advocate for Environment Rights

Speaking up for themselves

Presbyterian News Service
by Bethany Furkin

INDIANAPOLIS – Two of the scheduled speakers for World Mission Matters’ Friday (July 1) plenary at Big Tent here were missing.

Sherly Echevarria and Pamela Cinta Arzapaolo Terrel, who work to bring awareness about environmental pollution in the Peruvian mountain town of La Oroya, were denied visas because they’re single, poor women.

“This is how poverty affects women around the world,” said Lis Valle, World Mission’s associate director for global discipleship.

In their place was Esther Hinostroza, Echevarria’s mother and a mentor to CAMBIALO, a children’s group in La Oroya. Founded in 2010, CAMBIALO is a group of about 20 children who use radio, film, art and communication like Skype to fight for the environmental protection and decontamination of La Oroya.

The central Peruvian town (pop. 35,000) is known as one of the 10 most contaminated cities in the world. It’s home to the Doe Run Peru smelter, which emitted 2 million pounds of toxic emissions a day until it shut down in 2009. The soil and water remain contaminated, and more than 97 percent of the town’s children have levels of lead in their blood that exceed the World Health Organization’s limits.

CAMBIALO members are learning about the environment and their rights and are using Skype to communicate with students in the United States and Germany. They want to build friendships and make sure that the voices of those most affected by pollution are heard, Hinostroza said.

She spoke about Mark 10: 14-15, when Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.” Jesus blessed the children and considered them, Hinostroza said.

The fight to clean up La Oroya is ongoing, said the Rev. Jed Koball, a mission co-worker in Peru.

Recently, a group of town activists and U.S. college students on a mission trip were attacked by alleged Doe Run Peru employees while trying to paint an environmentally themed mural in the town.

It’s important to carry on in a spirit of power, love and self-discipline while making sure the voices of children are heard, he said.



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