From Peru to Nelson with love
Yoni Huahuasoncco has always wanted to see other countries.
The 21-year-old Peruvian woman, who lives in a home provided by Nelson's Pura Vida Foundation, was abandoned by her family when she was 12 years old. And now she's eager to thank the local community for their support over the years.
"The town I grew up in is very poor. I grew up in a very unhealthy environment, with abuse and alcoholism and low economic resources. Years later my mother died of an unknown disease," Huahuasoncco wrote in a letter to the community.
"I spent some time with my father who drank alcohol and abandoned me. When I turned 12, I travelled by myself to Cusco where I met a wealthy family. There I was exploited and abused mentally and physically for more than three years."
That's when she met Pura Vida founder Nathan Beninger.
"The foundation rescued me from the hell I was living every day. [Beninger's wife] Greta and his family, welcomed me, gave me love, understanding, education, health and safety. Thanks to this foundation my life has changed."
And now that she's getting a chance to experience Canada firsthand, she's struck by the gulf between first and third-world life.
"In Peru there is a lot of disorder starting with education. Those who have money can study in the best universities and the best schools, and the people who live in poverty, which is the majority of Peru, have to accept a very underfunded and broken education system with teachers who have no training or motivation."
Pura Vida has been paying for her education. Without that support, she said her life would be quite different.
"If I had not been rescued I would have escaped and returned to my Andean community where I would have been forced to marry an alcoholic husband.
"I would probably have had given birth to three children by now, and most of the young woman my age from these types of communities are forced into this life of abuse and neglect."
Her future's brighter, and that's thanks to Pura Vida and the people of Nelson. She can't wait to show up and thank her benefactors.
"Canada is the opposite of Peru. It is safer and I like its people, it is multicultural, they have an inexplicable brightness and are always carrying a smile that when you see it makes your day. Thanks, I love this country."
Huahuasoncco will speak at a Civic Theatre screening of multiple documentaries that explore Pura Vida's work and impact in Peru. The event will start at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1.