CUSCO, Peru — Bringing light to the darkness. For Chilean couple Eliana Medina and Ricardo Ibaceta, that is what their childhood sexual abuse prevention nonprofit, Niños Caminando en Victoria (Children Walking in Victory), is all about. As the value of their ministry has become apparent to the Chilean government, Niños Caminando en Victoria has won grants enabling its message to spread further.
This past October, that message crossed the border from Chile into Peru. Medina and Ibaceta had the opportunity to partner with two Peruvian Anabaptist initiatives also designed to shed light in the darkness: PROSIM, a rural health and hygiene ministry, and PROMESA, a Christian school.
Partnering with PROSIM required a journey into the Andes Mountains. Medina and Ibaceta were grateful to travel with PROSIM coordinator Gloria Mamani Nina, who makes routine trips into the mountains to bring health education to far-flung villages.
“A person such as Gloria is able to understand the culture and teach in such a way as to bring freedom rather than pain,” said Medina.
In the tiny Andean village of Chuyllullo, Medina performed as her character, Motita the Clown, for an audience of two dozen children.
Medina created the character Motita in order to present age-appropriate workshops that teach children concepts of self-worth, managing emotions, and recognizing and protecting private areas of their bodies. This last concept is supported by a coloring page distributed to children.
“With the coloring page activity ... it is sometimes possible to spot abnormal behaviors in the children present,” explained Nancy Hostetter, an EMM worker who has been involved in Medina and Ibaceta’s spiritual formation and who volunteers with Niños Caminando en Victoria.
Along with the four workshops for children, titled “My DNA,” “Emotions,” “The Importance of Our Names,” and “While Playing, I Learn,” Medina and Ibaceta routinely include a workshop for parents only. This workshop presents sexual abuse statistics, information on how to treat young victims of abuse, and ways to protect children. Team members are prepared to provide immediate support to any parents in attendance.
Each child present at the Chuyllullo workshops received “Cuentos que no son cuentos” (“Stories that aren’t stories”), a picture book which aims to improve family dialogue and boost self-esteem. EMM funds were used to purchase the books. Authors Jose Luis and Silvia Cinalli, an Argentinian couple who work in Christian sexual restoration, say on their website (www.placeresperfectos.com.ar) that “proper sex education at an early age and good communication between parents and their children reduces the likelihood of sexual abuse by 80%.”
Later, Medina and Ibaceta met with those who serve as PROSIM health promoters, equipping them with information to help prevent the sexual abuse of children.
The health promoters were eager to add the new information to their supply of health and wellness knowledge. Some of them were dealing with related situations, and Medina and Ibaceta were able to provide counsel on the spot.
In Cusco, Medina and Ibaceta spent an afternoon at PROMESA teaching elementary students through the workshop called “While Playing, I Learn.” PROMESA, a school of 300 students, was founded in 2005 by the Peruvian Mennonite Church and EMM. Almost 200 PROMESA students attended the workshop.
PROMESA Director Pamela Guevara Gutierrez was quick to invite the couple to come back. “We felt her support during our time together,” said Medina.
Medina and Ibaceta are open to a return trip to Peru. Medina said that on future trips there, she would like to focus on equipping educators, such as PROSIM health promoters, who bring the gospel and education to remote areas.
“We feel that our short-term mission will be more effective if we share with the leaders that are taking the gospel to the outlying areas,” she said. “We have wisdom and information to share with them, but they are the ones with the grace, and call, to share within their own culture.”