Raising a family in an illegal mining camp has a way of shrinking dreams
As a young man, Leandro was trying to build a life with his wife Amelia and 2-year-old-daughter at an illegal mining camp in the jungle. These camps are a war zone, a no man’s land—where people disappear and no one asks questions. The young family faced constant attacks by both the military and local gangs, whose mission is to wipe out the entire camp and make quick money in the forbidden territories. They prey upon these camps, especially right after government bombings when workers are most vulnerable.
One night when a gang invaded the camp, Amelia grabbed their daughter and ran into the lake. They survived by hiding under water, coming up for air in quick breaths. They knew that if the attackers found them, they’d be killed instantly. After an hour, Amelia’s daughter was so cold that they took a chance and snuck out of the water and hid by the side of the lake under an old sack. They stayed there all night long, listening to the screams of people getting slaughtered one by one, not knowing if Leandro was safe or if they would survive the attack.
Leandro walked away alive, but with PTSD
Everything they owned was burned to the ground and many they had worked with, killed. Amelia and her daughter found a way back to her hometown and moved into her family’s house, but Leandro stayed to work, desperate to provide for his family. He developed PTSD from the bombings, gang attacks, and nonstop fear. He turned to drinking to cope.
Soon after, their daughter had a terrible accident and fell. Years prior, Amelia had been caring for her younger siblings, and her brother had fallen from the same ledge at the same house. He died the next day. She had carried the guilt of her whole family’s blame—and now her own daughter’s life was at risk. Leandro moved back to help take care of their daughter, but he couldn’t find work. He drank more. His dream of being a good papá seemed more distant than ever.
Still hope is hard to kill
In 2018, Leandro and Amelia found the Nuevo Camino program.
Fast forward a year and their lives are moving in a new direction. Amelia finished her institute classes and is working in tourism. Leandro has stopped drinking and is fighting every day to be a father and husband who cares for his family. He is so grateful for opportunities to work in construction, but he doesn’t waste the time he has between jobs, either. A few months ago he couldn’t find steady work, so he used that time to rebuild their house from the ground up—including a balcony that is fully safe for their daughter to play. He also is the first to volunteer to care for other kids when their moms are working or have an appointment. When his daughter calls him papá or other kids call him tío (uncle), it’s all the motivation he needs to keep going.
“Quiero ser un buen papá.” I want to be a good dad.
Leandro is un buen papá—but he continues to hope for more. He wants to go to college and be a civil engineer. And he and Amelia want to pursue a new beginning in Lima. On paper, that’s impossible.
But hope is bigger than the impossible. We can be a part of that hope. Together, we can send Leandro to college. Together, we can give his family a new start in a new city where there are more opportunities. Together, we can show them that hope changes everything.