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Alastair 'shocked' by level of poverty in Peru

Alastair White with Nicole, the Peruvian child sponsored by his family.

Alastair White with Nicole, the Peruvian child sponsored by his family.

A LISBURN man who devotes his spare time to raising awareness of child poverty has spoken of his shock at some of his experiences during a visit to Peru.

Alastair White, a Voluntary Advocate with the child development charity 'Compassion' travelled to the South American country to encourage the organisation's work in the area.

He was horrified by the depth of poverty in which some of the country's citizens exist.

"When we think of poverty it is most often Africa of his experiences during a visit to Peru.

Alastairn countries that come to mind, probably because of the television coverage they receive," he continued.

"But my visit to Peru has given me a whole new perspective on the awful deprivation in this part of the world."

He explained while Peru is a popular destination known for ancient Inca civilisations, breathtaking scenery and the stunning lost city of Macchu Picchu, more than 50 per cent of its people live below the poverty line.

"Poverty and war have led to an increased number of children forced to live on the streets," he said.

A little girl stands at the door of her home. Peruvian families trapped by poverty often have to live in dwellings such as these.

Alastair, whose family sponsors a Peruvian child called Nicole, saw how Compassion works with local churches to link individual sponsors in the developed world to a child in one of 24 of the globe's poorest countries.

Through this programme the charity supports more than one million children ensuring they receive education, nutrition, and health care as well as social and emotional support. He was also moved by the happiness of the children in the midst of the poverty: "They don't realise how poor they are. They are just children comfortable in their own surroundings," he explained.

"Many live in homes no bigger than garden sheds with no electricity, water or sanitation."

The Lisburn man was very impressed by the work of Cindi, one of Compassion's Leadership Development Programme students working in Peru.

He explained she is currently studying to be an educational psychologist and wants to establish why some children cannot learn in a bid to address the problem.

"She also wants to help 'teach the teachers' to try and develop change from within the educational system," he added.

"Cindi, like the others we met with their own visions for the future and their desires to improve the lives of others, was a real encouragement to me."

Compassion's Executive Director Ian Hamilton said he had 'nothing but respect' for his charity's Advocates such as Alastair.

"In the midst of their own busy lives they make time to help more children escape from poverty," he added.

Mr. Hamilton also said it was easy to feel 'overwhelmed' by the tremendous needs of children in the developing world.

"Compassion offers a very practical and meaningful way for people to make a difference by sponsoring a child for just 18 per month," he said.

The Compassion website can 'be found at www.compassionuk.org.

Ulster Star
28/03/2008