Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A passing

Yesterday afternoon, Wilmer Vargas, a 7 year-old resident of Loma Pampa, was trying to cross a busy highway with his older brother when he was struck by a speeding taxi. He died instantly.

Wilmer was a constant presence in the community center in Loma Pampa. All our students knew him, in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He was a regular participant in all of our activities in the barrio, joining our classes and trying to help out in the construction projects in his own small way. On our first Sunday in the barrio this year, he participated in group games with other children and a few of our students. One student remembered fondly how Wilmer just couldn't grasp the subtleties of duck duck goose - he would just keep running around the circle, unaware that he was supposed to sit down once he returned to his spot. Eventually someone had to grab him and force him to sit so that the game could proceed.

Wilmer came from one of the poorest families in Loma Pampa. He lived in a single adobe room, bare of furniture, sleeping on the dirt floor with his four brothers and sisters. His mother speaks only Quechua, his father is prone to drink, and they struggled to provide him with the kind of care that a young kid needs. But things seemed to be improving. The first year we came to Loma Pampa, Wilmer was covered in warts - on his face, but especially his hands, which were thick with them. I had never seen anything like it, and would hesitate when he would beg to use my camera. By this year, though, he seemed to be improving. The warts were mostly gone, and he seemed happy and cleaner than in the past.

But Wilmer was from a poor family, and like so many other poor kids was encouraged, even at a young age, to go out and try to make some money to support his family. When he was killed, Wilmer was down on the main road with his brother selling frozen popsicles from a small styrofoam container that hung from a strap across his chest. It is not uncommon to see young boys doing this and other kinds of work, to be able to bring a few pesos home to their families.

It is the poorest, here and elsewhere, that are the most vulnerable. Poor children like Wilmer stand very little chance of making it out of poverty. More likely they wind up like him, with nothing but a blog posting for an obituary. It is a tragedy beyond measure.

2 comments:

Amrita said...
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amyet said...

this is really heartbreaking. this is the type of accident i see and hear about most in china and, as professor goldstein said, it usually affects those who are forced to find work in dangerous places as a means to get by. this is really too sad for words, my thoughts are with all of you and especially bismar's family.