From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LWF FEATURE: Chile - Sowing Seeds of Hope

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Thu, 20 Jun 2002 13:36:23 -0500

Lutheran Families Involve Congregations in Community Life

SANTIAGO DE CHILE, Chile/GENEVA, 20 June 2002 (LWI) - Maria
Soledad Puebla runs from one building to the other assessing
damage caused by the rain, a typical winter day for the Chilean
capital, Santiago. "I am doing everything to keep the kindergarten
going," she says. But the rain is washing away the Lutheran
kindergarten gravel floor, like it has done to other shelters in
the settlement.

Actually there should not be a kindergarten or building here at
all. Some 1,800 families live as squatters on this piece of fallow
land. "These are people who used to stay with relatives and were
not able to pay for a place of their own," says Soledad, the
kindergarten manager. The 24 hectares east of Santiago belong to
an entrepreneur who used to rent out soccer grounds.

The district residents cannot afford the most basic necessities.
One of Norma's four children goes to the kindergarten, but she
says, "I don't know how I can pay for diapers." She is expecting
twins any time. Her husband helps out on building sites but has
not been paid for months.

"Our greatest problem here is work," says Ana Puebla, chairperson
of a local committee. Many share a similar fate to Pablo Gomez,
often rejected by prospective employers because of his residential
address. "I have applied for a job as an assistant carpenter but
when I gave my address they refused me right away." He earns some
money selling waste paper. "How are people to pay for power and
water?" Puebla asks, adding: "It is a never-ending cycle."

When the families settled here three years ago they first tapped
the power lines. Now there is an agreement on electricity and
water supply, and residents are working on the plumbing. Until
then they make do with what they have, for example, a shared
chemical toilet for 12 families, with irregular waste disposal.

Although the hygienic conditions leave much to be desired, most
people do not have access to adequate health care. Monica, a
domestic worker, lives with her four children and one grandchild
in three rooms. Her husband relies on casual jobs. "When he was
working for a company we had health insurance. Now we are not
insured any more," she says.

Monica is one of the ten Lutheran families here. These families
try to ensure that the nearest Lutheran congregation gets involved
in the community's life. "El Sembrador," the name of the
kindergarten, means "the sower." Soledad hopes to provide programs
for young people as well soon, pointing out that many of them turn
to drugs or alcohol from sheer boredom. "The young people here are
completely left to themselves and have no place to meet and talk,"
Soledad observes.

But there are doubts that these plans would be realized soon. The
property owners have taken the squatters to court. The lawsuit is
not aimed at evicting the illegal residents but selling the land
to the state. The government is concerned about legalizing the
situation, then the residents could gradually acquire their own
homes. In a few years the land would become an ordinary urban

(Contributed by LWI correspondent Alexandra Jaenicke, currently
assisting with the public relations work of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Chile.)

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 133 member churches in 73 countries representing over 60.5
million of the 64.3 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the information service of
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted,
material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the
LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article
contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced
with acknowledgment.]

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