2011- Big Tent: Speaking up: Peruvian children push for environmental rights

INDIANAPOLIS (PNS) 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 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

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.