At the Don Bosco Mission in Pucallpa

When we landed in Pucallpa, we were treated by Charito and her family, as well as missionaries, volunteers, and employees of the Don Bosco Community. In my last post, I wrote about meeting some of the missionaries on Zoom, but this was our first time meeting any of them in person.

Getting the Lay of the Land at the Don Bosco Mission

The Don Bosco Mission covers over 100,000 square feet. The compound includes a shrine, several functional buildings, and group residences.

A white chapel with a dark roof on a field with goats grazing out front.
The Don Bosco Mission Church.

The Orphanage

One of the buildings houses children and adolescents from broken or dysfunctional families. That includes orphaned and abandoned children, as well as those escaping abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.

This building is currently home to three girls between the ages of 13 and 15. One is currently pregnant and the other two already have young children.

In future posts, we will write more about this community, called “Arca Iris.” Every day, we spend a few hours with these young people and they have already made quite an impression on us.

Young girls at the Don Bosco Mission. In addition to many escaping abuse or neglect, many became mothers before they were ready.

Common Buildings

A second wooden building contains a kitchen, dining area, and personal rooms. These are home to permanent staff including Fr. Massimo Mattarucchi, an Italian missionary priest and head of the Don Bosco Mission.

Next door, another building holds more living quarters. These are for guests who usually only need to stay for a night or two. It reminded us of a similar building that we saw at the mission in Atalaya where people from remote communities sometimes went for medicine or basic medical care.

The mission is built around a large soccer field – a common feature in Peru. There is also a barn. Pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens graze freely on the mission grounds, ensuring that the grass is always perfectly “mowed.”

The Workshop

Next to the living quarters is the building where Silva and I stay. It also houses a carpentry workshop run by “Artesanos Don Bosco Pecullpa” – The Artisans of Don Bosco Pecullpa.

Visiting Pecullpa’s largest port with Gabriel Bovi, a local artisan.

The Artesanos are a separate organization – a kind of social enterprise. Gabriel Bovi leads the group of young people who get regular orders for furniture and other products. Proceeds help to fund the mission’s social products.

Life at Don Bosco Pecullpa

We have had to get used to our room. We are still getting used to it.

There is no glass in the windows – just mosquito nets. That’s not a problem in the hot, dry season as it allows a constant cross-draft – a breeze from the side of the room overlooking the street to the side of the room facing the mission or vice-versa.

Sheep and goats “mow” the mission’s soccer field.

The room is noisy. On one side, the mosquito netting allows us to listen to the bleating of the goats and sheep or the clucking of chickens. On the other side, the mosquito net lets in the sounds of barking dogs, loud music, and other sounds from the street.

Celebrations, parties, and other festivities take place almost every night. These mean music and singing that sometimes last until the early hours of the morning.

Earplugs still come in handy, but by now we can usually fall asleep without them – we just have to get tired enough during the day. This way, our bodies can “switch off” in the evening, despite the noise.

Another thing we have to get used to is the dust. The streets are mostly unpaved. This allows water to drain into the ground faster during the rainy season. But, during the dry season, the streets (and the air) fill with dust, grit, and sand.

Since all that separates our room from outside are mosquito nets, dust accumulates in the room. We always have a broom and rag handy. Regular cleaning of the wood floor is essential.

Our room above the workshop.

We have a gas stove in our room so that we can make coffee every morning, and we arranged to have a refrigerator because we eat a lot of fruit. Most days, fruit is all we eat.

It’s regularly 95 degrees Fahrenheit here, and the humidity makes it feel even hotter. Sometimes, we skip lunch and dinner because our bodies can’t handle heavier food in such heat.

Counting Blessings

We are happy and grateful that this community has opened its doors to us and we have the opportunity to share the lives that they live here. We are grateful to God for bringing us once again from the known to the unknown.

It is here that, day by day, God reveals His plan to us. We recognize it in the people we meet, the needs of the people of Pecullpa, and the needs of the mission itself.

Helping God’s Children

The young girls here need the most care and attention. Early on, in our first days here, we decided to devote time each day to these girls. Mostly, we help them study, as most of them are far behind their peers in school.

While their classmates were learning to read, write, add, and subtract, these children were hiding under their beds to escape from violence and abuse. Instead of learning these skills in a safe and supportive environment, they feared for their lives or that they would be left uncared for. For many, those fears have since come true.

Now that they live in safety, that have to make up for what they missed at school. Volunteers, each little-by-little and each in their own way, help them to progress in their studies to get back into the normal rhythm of life for children their age.

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