A mandate in Iquitos, a city inaccessible by land

The author, Christine Richard, is currently deployed in Peru as a volunteer social work adviser in the project “Protection of Children, Women and Other Vulnerable Communities (PRODEF)”, implemented by the International Bureau for Children’s Rights and Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC), with the financial support of the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.

Just under a month ago, I began my mandate as a social work counsellor in Peru with the organisation Capital Social Humano Alternativo (CHS-Alternativo). This organisation has its head office in Lima, the Peruvian capital, as well as offices in remote areas where many situations of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents take place.

As soon as I arrived in Peru, I was welcomed by the dynamic and very welcoming team at the head office in Lima, who took great care to explain to me how they work and the country’s contextual situation with regard to sexual exploitation, child labour and human trafficking.

A few days after my arrival in the capital, I flew to my final destination, Iquitos, a city in the heart of the Amazon, where I will deliver on my mandate. The shock was greater. The climate is constantly very hot and humid, a climate that we characterise in Quebec as a “heat wave”. Motorcycles and motor cars are the main (and almost exclusive) modes of transportation in this city where transit standards differ greatly from those in Quebec. Forget about wearing motorcycle helmets, respecting traffic lights and the safe distance between vehicles (and even with pedestrians). Despite what seems to me to be chaos on the roads, accidents are rare and local people can easily find their way around.

In addition to these two and three-wheel transport modes, the Iquitos region also offers a great experience in river transport. Since the city is surrounded by 3 major rivers, including the Amazon River, some communities in Iquitos are accessible only by small watercraft with exotic and artisanal features.

The few weeks I spent in this Amazonian city have already allowed me to learn a lot about the local culture and the social issues involved. I hope to be able to contribute to the implementation of many effective measures to prevent the sexual exploitation of young people and to reintegrate victims into society. I am only at the beginning of the adventure and the mutual enrichment is undeniable.