A blind community saves the wetlands in Peru

09 Jul 2009

A massive earthquake in 2007 hit Peru's Pisco district, home of San Andrés wetlands pictured above.
(Photo: Asociacion de Invidentes Los Ojos del Alma)
At 28, Joana Manrique now has a lot of vitality and strength.  But this wasn’t always the case.

A victim of severe domestic violence, Joana lost her eyesight and was left alone with a small daughter to take care of in San Andrés, located in the Pisco district of Peru.  But the resilient accountant – along with two engineers – decided to create an organization called “Los Ojos del Alma” (“The eyes of the soul”). The organization has developed a proposal to save its local wetlands from garbage and piles of debris dumped in the area following a massive earthquake that hit Pisco in 2007. 

“I remember how the wetlands looked – a type of environment considered [to be] the planet’s kidneys,” recalled Joana of her memories of the seven-hectare bird sanctuary.
 
As a result of Joana and her colleagues’ efforts, “Los Ojos del Alma” was granted GEF/UNDP funding as part of UNDP’s post-earthquake reconstruction project. With the support of volunteers, the organization is now ready to advocate for the protection and reforestation of native plant species, such as junco and totora, which have been used for thousands of years as weaving material for roofs, baskets, hats and even flotation devices. 

The San Andrés wetlands are also home to hundreds of birds and serves as a destination for birds migrating south. The project aims to establish the area as part of a wider tourist route, which currently includes the Nazca lines, while also resuming the creation of junco and totora products once clean water replenishes the wetlands and waste is removed. 

“Contributing to society” is very much a part of Joana’s discourse, and although she cannot see, she knows that “Los Ojos del Alma” will provide a sustainable way to do so.

The hard work of Joana Manrique (pictured) and her colleagues was rewarded when UNDP gave their organisation, “Los Ojos del Alma,” funding as part of UNDP’s post-earthquake reconstruction project.
(Photo: Vera Lauer/UNDP Peru)