Ministry program in Peru breaking family cycles of abuse

By May 15, 2018

Peru (MNN) — This week is chock-full of family celebration. First it was Mother’s Day, and now today is International Day of Families! Food for the Hungry works to support families around the world and they saw a big need in Peru for family violence prevention.

“One of the things Food for the Hungry does, we go into communities and we meet with leaders and ask them, ‘What are your priorities for this community? What are some things that you think are broken and need fixing?’ explains Beth Allen with Food for the Hungry.

“The number one thing we were hearing from families, particularly families and leaders in the Lima area was there is too much violence going on in the families.”

A significant portion of family violence came from mothers abusing their children. Many families were trapped in a cycle of abuse that spanned from generation to generation. Moms would use violence to discipline their kids because that is what they grew up with.

“It was mothers who were hitting children out of anger and because they really didn’t have any alternative ways to parent their children. They had been brought up to beat their kids.”

(Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry)

Food for the Hungry decided to address this concern by getting in front of the problem and developing a family violence prevention curriculum. They then identified mothers who are looked up to as leaders in their community.

Allen explains, “Those are the mothers we gathered together and we taught them this curriculum which they can teach with very brightly colored boards. It’s like a flip chart where they flip the pictures so that people who can’t read are still able to follow along in the curriculum.”

A staff member with FH would teach the curriculum to 10 mothers in a small group. Then each of those mothers would go on to share what they learned with a group of 10 other mothers and so on.

“That creates a support community to be able to prevent violence on the front end. And again, for most of these mothers, it was a matter of, ‘I don’t know another way to parent other than to hit my kid,’ and they were just begging us for help in that.”

Lita’s Story

Allen shares the story of a Peruvian mother named Lita. Her own grandmother was abusive to her mother, and so Lita’s mother also abused her as a child.

Lita, a mother who benefited from FH’s trainings on prevention of family violence. (Photo, caption courtesy of Food for the Hungry)

“Her grandmother punished her mother and her mother’s brothers and sisters in the morning. The way her grandmother used to get them up out of bed when she thought they were too lazy was to throw cold water on them to get them up and she would hit them with belts and with sticks when she was angry. Lita said, ‘My mother did the same thing to me when I was growing up.’”

Now, Lita has a five-year-old son named Miguel Angel. Lita attended FH’s program and learned how to show affection and care for her son. FH brings in professional Peruvian psychologists to talk with the mothers and share lessons on family interactions.

“Lita said that during the training, the psychologist brought up, ‘Hey, it’s really important to hug your children. It’s really important to touch your children in love.’ The phrase that really stuck with Lita was the psychologist said, ‘It costs nothing and it’s easy to do and it brings a lot of blessing to the people who receive it.’”

From this lesson, Lita was convicted to show more affection to her son through simple gestures like hugs. But there was another woman in the group as well during this lesson: Lita’s mother.

Allen shares, “[Lita] looked across the circle at the women sitting there and her mother was crying hearing this. Her mother’s heart was just broken and changed at hearing this. She said, ‘I realized that through this training, not only was I changing, but my mother was changing a lot as well.’”

God’s Love in Family Care

What’s incredible about FH’s family violence prevention program is seeing how the local Church gets involved.

“Many times the local churches in these communities are coming alongside the families as well. I did hear some stories from some of the women about how their children participating in our programs have access to churches and are also hearing the Gospel as part of our program. And you will start to see parents — mothers and fathers — coming toward the Lord because of seeing changes in their children!”

(Photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry)

Ultimately, family care is a tangible way for FH staff to show God’s love for families. Allen shares, “It’s one way of saying, ‘God sees who you are, God values you, and God values your children.”

FH is looking to take their family violence prevention curriculum into other countries as well. But to expand, they have a few support needs.

“The kind of support that we need is to get the appropriate people into the community — people like the psychologists, people like the trainers that we use to help train the mothers.”

Please pray for FH to find the right people to come speak to mothers about family violence prevention and for local churches to continue coming alongside the program.

Also, Allen asks, “If people could pray for that day-to-day support for these moms who are learning how to parent over again, that would be so helpful, and the mothers do feel the prayers.”

You can also help tangibly support family violence prevention with FH by becoming a child sponsor for just $38 a month.

“By sponsoring a child with Food for the Hungry, that gives us then the financial resources to be able to hire the people we need and to be able to do simple things like pay for the gas to get into the communities and be able to have this program make the difference that it has in the lives of the children and in the lives of the mothers.”

Click here to sponsor a child with Food for the Hungry!

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