Mauro could not go to school from the age of seven. Instead, he had to sing in the streets and restaurants to feed his sisters. Now the four of them are part of NPH Peru, education no longer eludes them. November 3, 2020 - Peru
Mauro playing the piano keyboard, one of his passions.
Mauro is 17-years-old. Next year, he will finish high-school. Although it seems late, it is quite an achievement considering that when he arrived at NPH Peru in July 2014, he was four years behind in his education.
His mother Teresa became pregnant when she was just fourteen years of age. His father abandoned them and continued his life in Brazil. Mauro grew up in stepfather Tomas’ house, a squatter settlement in Imperial, a district in the Cañete province. Mauro had to take care of his sisters Maura, Mariela and Matilde, as Tomas and his mother usually left them by themselves.
"Mauro's family dynamic was dysfunctional and disintegrated with economic deprivation. Both parents used to be negligent and very permissive in the care of their children. They left them alone in their home, exposing their integrity and violating their right to food and education," explains Jenny Peña, NPH Peru's social worker.
Mauro’s neighborhood is called “Las Malvinas - Asunción 8”; it is located 14 km from Casa Santa Rosa, covering an area of 12 km with a population of approximately 11,000 people. It started as an invasion of territory and then turned into a squatter settlement, with a high incidence of crime. According to the Ministerio del Interior, the most frequent crimes are micro commercialization and consumption of drugs, human trafficking and aggravated theft.
"My neighborhood is dangerous. Gunshots are often heard. There were clashes between gangs and every time they fought, you could hear gunfire," says Mauro. "I witnessed many robberies near my home. There were many blackouts and almost no street light," he describes.
When he was 3-years-old, Mauro suffered a burn on his left arm. There was a fireworks store near his home. He remembers playing in the streets with the remains of some firework shells and suddenly something exploded very close to him. "My left arm was the most damaged. Both of my arms were on fire and I saw that my skin looked like yogurt," he remembers.
His parents were hardly ever around to take care of him. His mother Teresa liked to go out to parties, going out with friends and enjoying a more relaxed life. She would forget she was a mother with responsibilities, having children requiring care and attention. “My stepfather also went out at night. I remember seeing him come back drunk after a few days,” he says with remorse.
Mauro lost a lot of his childhood. Out of necessity, he began working when he was 7. “It was out of necessity,” he explains, matter-of-factly. “Seeing my sisters go hungry forced me to go out and look for food on the street. My parents didn’t force me to work, but I felt I had to because they did not feed us very well.”
Mauro began to wander the streets and one day he decided to go into restaurants to sing. He had been enrolled in a school, but he had only attended a few days, so he made the decision to sacrifice his education and make money instead. "On special dates like Mother's Day, I made some money. I could earn up to 50 soles (US$15), which I would give to my mother," he recalls with a smile.
However, he also remembers the dangers he felt exposed to. Mauro says that when he worked on the street, his biggest fear was being abducted. “I remember being in a bar one evening when a man invited me to dinner and then to his home.” The man insisted that Mauro accompany him. Mauro felt scared, but luckily his uncle showed up and took him home.
“It was a lucky escape,” says Mauro, breathing a sigh of relief.
The situation of abandonment and vulnerability of Mauro and his sisters caused the Family Court of Cañete to issue a protection order for the children and transferred them to Casa Santa Rosa, the NPH Peru home. Mauro, who was 10-years-old at the time, and his younger sisters arrived at Casa Santa Rosa on 11 July 2014. Mauro remembers being met by Rafael Arce, who was a caregiver at the time and is now current director of NPH Peru.
"I arrived on a Saturday night and the next day I tried to escape. At first, it was difficult to get used to leaving my mother, but with time, that changed. Then it was my mother who wanted to take me back with her, but I didn't want to live with her anymore. I felt good here, and most of all, safe," says Mauro.
He feels now that he and his sisters are part of a family and that they have a home. It makes him feel secure knowing that his sisters are much better than before, where they can study and have three meals a day. "I still feel responsible for them. I've been doing so since I began to sing in order to feed them. If my parents didn't do it, it was their decision. My sisters know I will always be there to take care of them," he reflects.
What Mauro appreciates most is the education he now receives. He believes that, if he hadn't come to NPH, he wouldn't have even finished elementary school. He arrived with many learning and attention difficulties because he’d had no formal education, but he liked to study and had a very good attitude for learning.
Stefany Cruzado, a special educator at NPH, met Mauro in 2016.
"Mauro is good at studying. We went through the adaptation process with him since he was behind in school. However, he has always excelled. He is responsible, very participative in classes, and usually the leader among his classmates," she adds. "He has always been very concerned about his little sisters, and asks about their performance at school."
Mauro had a comprehensive development thanks to the workshops that NPH gave him. He always liked art, especially music, which was always present throughout his upbringing. He learned to play the piano and read sheet music. In the talent contests held at Casa Santa Rosa, Mauro has always won by playing or singing cumbia songs.
"In the past, I sang to have something to eat. Now, I sing to win contests. There is much less pressure," Mauro jokes. He didn't have a good diet, because he used to eat only fast food in the restaurants where he sang.
"His obesity and parasitic problems have decreased and his overall health has improved remarkably thanks to the balanced diets he now has," says Giovana Fuentes, who is part of the NPH clinic.
Currently, Mauro studies at an alternative basic education center (CEBA): a special high school modality that allows him to finish his studies in fewer years. He knows college life will soon begin and he is already considering some career options. Of course, music appears as an alternative; he also says he would like to study gastronomy.
When Mauro arrived at Casa Santa Rosa, he tried to escape on the first night. Now, it is hard for him to imagine himself outside of NPH. "I would like to stay at NPH. I am used to being here, at my home. I would like to support NPH in some way, as they did to me. If I wouldn't be here, I would probably be working on some farm without knowing how to read or write.”
*Names changed to protect child’s privacy.
Interested in supporting Mauro in his education?. Please visit NPH Peru for more information.
Erick Nery Communications Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson