Peru: Young lives through the lens

Published: 27 August 2008 0:00 CET

Winnie Romeril, American Red Cross in Peru

“We can show how we suffered during the earthquake and how we are building new lives,” says 13-year-old Ernesto Tayasco, one of 16 students at a school in Peru’s Chincha province who have taken part in a creative psychosocial project run by the Red Cross.

Ernesto and his classmates from the Colegio Mariscal Andres Aurelio in Chincha were given ten disposable cameras each, and asked to capture how their lives changed when an earthquake hit the province on 15 August 2007.

The disaster killed hundreds of people and left nearly 700,000 homeless. Those living in the outlying and poorest areas of Chincha province were among the worst affected.


While the reconstruction of their homes is underway, boards, hammers and nails cannot fix all the damage. To help heal the psychological impact of the disaster, the Red Cross supports community activities to help those affected.

To mark the first anniversary of the earthquake, Peruvian Red Cross communications director Felix Alvarez Torres gave photography tips to the young people, and then sent them out to show what the earthquake means through their eyes.

The results are astonishing, and many of the photographs have been displayed in an exhibition at Chincha's Plaza de Armas to mark the first anniversary.


The title for each photograph each starts with a letter from the word “terremoto” (Spanish for earthquake). “T” de Tragedia by 13-year-old Mery Pacheco is a startling photo of an injured girl lying on a row of boxes with a Red Cross first aid kit by her bloodied head. Several photos reflect destruction: piles of rubble, “caution, danger” graffiti on unstable structures, or homes with missing walls.

However, the resilience of youth shines in the majority of the photos. “O” de Ombligo (bellybutton) shows two boys, wet from swimming, proudly showing off their stomachs. Others depict birthday cakes, uniformed school girls, laughter in the midst of chores, and children building sandcastles at the beach.

“It was beautiful and interesting for me,” beams 13-year-old Kiara Torres, whose “T” de Tierra (land) is also on display. “This Red Cross project helped us unravel our emotions and fears because we had the chance to express ourselves with these pictures.”


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