Peru's First Lady Sows Seed to Poor

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You're just as likely see the first lady of Peru on a struggling farm handing out shovels as in the presidential palace sipping tea.

Pilar De Garcia is on a campaign to help her countrymen defeat their worst enemies including poverty and malnutrition. And she has discovered some powerful allies.

Thousands of Peruvians live forgotten high in the Andes Mountains. They are vulnerable to disease and malnutrition in areas that have no running water, sewage systems, or electricity.

"Almost a million Peruvian families that live in extreme poverty where the infant mortality rate is almost 50 percent," Robert Barriguer, Way of Life Church said.

The plight of these mountain dwellers has touched the conscience of Peru's Evangelicals as well as First Lady Pilar Nores De Garcia. Together they're now making a difference through a project called "Sembrando" or seed-sowing. And the first lady says the goals are ambitious.

"Reduce extreme poverty, reduce infant mortality, improve the health of mothers, diminish chronic malnutrition, and preserve the environment," Garcia said.

The first lady's program promotes better kitchens with vents for cooking fires because less smoke in the house means less throat and lung disease. Projects include latrines, reducing dengue-spreading mosquitos, providing deparasiting pills, family gardens for better nutrition, and improved irrigation systems for larger crops in the arid Andean soil.

"The Albendazol pills, which are for deparasiting, are given by the church directly to my program. But at the same time there's a direct financial contribution by the faithful," Garcia added.

Mexican gospel singer, Marcos Witt, gave the first lady's program more visibility by donating all the proceeds of a recent concert in Lima.

"It's really a privilege when we can touch needy people. That's the heart of Christ, so it's a privilege to be able to do it," Witt said.

The joint venture points to a growing social conscience of Peru's churches.

"I believe the evangelical church is always alert to any call. The work of the church in Peru can be seen everywhere. In the remotest areas, there's the presence of the evangelical church," Garcia said.

"It's time to bring together the church part and the world of influence that God has given us, with the influence God has given her, to create a greater benefit for Peruvian society," Barriguer said.

Both the church and the first lady hope that by working together they will bring an end to the poverty and disease that afflict Peru's forgotten people.

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