Monday, 21 September 2009

Working with the Mapuche community

We were taken back to the rural area in which the Methodist Church project works to meet some of the elders of the Mapuche community. We met with Bernardino, the leader of the local community, and his wife Euristela. Both had attended the Methodist schools and had been involved in the church and community ever since.

They showed us their small farm and described how the whole area had been devastated by a 6 day flood caused by the nearby river bursting its banks. Navy helicopters were needed to help some stranded members of the community and it meant all livestock and seeds had to be renewed. The Church project has helped with this. The Government have also started to fund new housing that could withstand a further flood. Wherever we have been we have seen evidence of new state subsidised housing, evidence of the way the Government have positively invested money received as a result of the rise in copper on the world market, which is one of Chile’s main exports.

Bernardino’s new house is yet to be finished and so we shared food in his current traditional one room ruka-style house. We enjoyed a local favourite, empanadas, which are large tasty pastries with beef, egg and olives inside. These are baked or fried over the fire in the centre of the ruka.

Sister Isobel lives nearby, an elderly lady who lives alone but who still looks after her pigs and hens. She proudly showed us the well that had been dug with the help of an American Volunteers in Mission team a few years ago.

28 km from Neuva Imperial is the village of Molco. It is the site of the newest project the Rural Work is involved with. As with many rural areas, young people have left to find work in the towns or cities and many older members who are left are quite isolated. With the help of the Methodist rural workers, 2 groups have been established, one for older members of the community for fellowship and to help overcome the isolation, and a second for younger people who are coming together to develop skills along the lines of other groups supported by the Rural Work project.

Members of both groups meet in a community hall, and it was here that we were warmly welcomed and shared a feast of traditional stew followed by large plates of steak and potato. It was only lunchtime but we didn’t need to eat again for the rest of the day!

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