I am writing to you from Lima with the sad news of the death of Andrea Álvarez.
She was the severely disabled girl in Peru that I wrote about in my article, ‘A Life for Andrea’, which was published in the May/June 2020 issue of the Far East magazine, and which elicited a very generous response from readers in Britain and Ireland.
Andrea was taken ill and died in hospital on Monday 13th July, appropriately on the feast day of one of the South America saints, Santa Teresita de Los Andes.
The family said the cause of death was “respiratory problems”, often a euphemism for Covid-19. (People are increasingly wary of admitting to coronavirus infection for fear of being stigmatised.) The pandemic is taking many lives in the area where Andrea lived. Her grandma, Juanita, is also reported to be sick.
I now have to decide what to do with the monies that flowed in. I will leave a fund in trust to be used by the Álvarez family for the purchase of medicines for Juanita, and to cover any medical costs incurred by the family as a result of the pandemic.
However, I think the bulk of the donations could be diverted to similar deserving causes.
A possible candidate is the work of Fr Ed O’Connell is supervising (and to which I have already been contributing) our ‘Manuel Duato’ Special Needs School in Peru.
Not only is it something where I can guarantee that the cash will be used to good effect, but it also has the advantage of being directly helpful to children suffering from cerebral palsy.
This was one of the ailments afflicting Andrea. Also, some of my previous mini-schemes have been used to benefit the cerebral palsy department in the school.
As the public health and economic crises in Peru deepen, Fr Ed O’Connell is organising emergency food handouts to the parents of the children at ‘Manuel Duato’ Special Needs School.
These are likely to continue for as long as the school is closed, probably up to next Easter at least.
Meanwhile, he wants to roof an outside patio which can be used to serve hot meals to the children once classes re-commence (assuming many will be malnourished due to the emergency).
Thirdly, he’d like to extend the office of the social worker to allow parents with the relevant experience to assist her on a voluntary basis. Her workload is likely to be much greater from now on.
I would like to thank readers once again for their generous donations and will keep them informed as to how I intend to employ their donations in Andrea’s memory.
If you would like to support Fr John Boles’ fundraising efforts on behalf of Fr Ed O’Connell in Peru, please send your donations to the Far East Office, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co Meath C15 AY2Y. Mark it for Fr Ed O’Connell. Alternatively, you can donate online at www.columbans.ie/donate or Tel: 00353 46 909 8275.