Letter from Denis & Liane Bruneau

March, 1998

Dear Friends,

Mid January we were in the midst of preparing for the National Conference for Billings Method Instructors, in Huaraz which is located among the highest mountains (over 6700m) of Peru. The Centre's course preparing new Billings Instructors had just started, so we needed to plan so it could continue, despite the fact that over half the staff would be away. The Centre was busy with its regular work load of crisis pregnancy counseling, obstetric care and family planning sessions. John Ludwick, a journalist from Alberta arrived and patiently followed us around with a thousand questions, hoping to go away with a clearer sense of our work, difficulties and aspiration.

Luz and Liane took John out to one of the campesino communities to visit a-couple that we had trained in Ilave in 1993. To get there required a bus ride to Ilave (52 km), then a collectivo (10 km), followed by a half hour walk across fields of the Altiplano. The couple we visited told us how happy they were to have learned the Billings Method of Natural Family Planning. Their youngest child is now eight years old. Two women from their community have died from complications of tubal ligations. This couple taught the health professionals at the local family planning centre how the Billings Method works. When the health professionals superiors came down from Lima they asked to meet the people who use "this natural method". They had to go out to the fields to find them.

Getting back to Puno was a challenge as there were no buses. Finally a truck came by. John, without complaint rode on top of a full load of manure, along with other locals. With the demolition of exterior walls, Denis needed to make the construction site secure before our departure. Fortunately a young man (Juan David) we knew from our previous stay in Ilave showed up, and became a valuable worker and resource. Later, another friend, Vicente joined him.

In Lima, we spent a day doing Paul's (our Peruvian born son) Canadian passport and citizenship papers. From there, the bus trip to Huaraz was a long, hot, eight hours and an elevation gain of 3,500 metres up a windy mountain road in about 4 hours. A few of us got ill.

The National Conference for Billings Method Instructors, was two days long. The Mary Bloom Centre's delegation gave a presentation on breastfeeding. We learned more about the politics of  population control in Peru, and met many dedicated people who work through out Peru.

We also accepted an  invitation, from Alfonso, a Deacon, who was participating in the conference to visit a small community 2 ˝ hours from the last populated centre of Caraz. This bus trip took us into the heart of the Cordiera Negra. We spent a few days there and were able to meet some of the mountain people and give a short presentation. It was interesting to be in a Quechua zone and hear about their struggles with terrorism and earth quakes. We were able to visit several communities completely destroyed by the earth quake in 1970 in which over 60,000 Peruvians have lost their lives.  We were invited to return here after our term in Puno by the local Parish Priest and Bishop.   

The Bishops of Peru have asked the priests to keep records of  those in their parish who have suffered because of the governments tubal ligation campaign. Fr. Gregorio in Huaraz  has been interviewed by German, French and Italian radio regarding the testimonies he has collected. We have heard of so many deaths. The closest to home is a couple we have taught in Ilave. Jose Luis took his wife to the hospital for the birth of their fourth child. A healthy baby born normal  vaginal delivery. The doctor told him it was time for him to stop having kids. He explained that he was using a natural method and happy with the results. He said he was not prepared to be sterilized, nor would he make his wife get sterilized.

The next day when he arrived at the hospital, the other patients told him his wife was in the operating room. The doctor told his wife that Jose Luis had consented to the operation. She was then sent home, and within a couple of days she was dead from complications from the surgery. The other doctors told him he had a right to sue, but he did not have the money, and was afraid.

Thanks to the government's "family planning" he now struggles alone to raise his children. Peruvian newspapers are starting to print more and more of these tragic stories. Two congressmen are helping pay legal costs for poor people, who wish to sue for damages done during tubal liqations. The church is also trying to help. We tire trying to collect data but people in Puno are afraid to talk. The government continues to throw "tubal ligation parties". This consists of hiring a band for music, taking a team of doctors into a village, and converting their health clinic into an operating room for a day. As many women as possible are sterilized, then the doctors leave.

Returning to Lima from Huaraz in early February, we met Fr. Gary and Shirley from Chilliwack. We traveled with them to Cusco, Machu Pichu and to Puno mostly by train. We were happy to show them some of our favourite spots of the Altiplano. The parish of St. Mary's Chilliwack has donated doplers (heart beat devices) and other needed medical apparatus for the Centre. They also donated religious articles that the Sisters could sell in their small store.  The Centre, and Sisters and orphans in their care and the people of Peru are very thankful for this cooperation.

Over the past 6 months many people have sent money via St. Mary's Parish. All of it has arrived in Peru, and is much appreciated for the work here. Fr. Gary and Shirley helped in the Centre and in the construction of the new location. Plans are to move in at the end of March.  

We live across the street from a small public outhouse and a long adobe wall forming the perimeter of a school yard.   At times when we look around, perhaps we think things are not so bad. The wall helps keep things in perspective.   The wall is used as a public washroom for those who do not wish to spend the ten cents for the little stall. Men and women feel quite free to use the one metre wide dirt track spanning from the wall to the streets pavement.

Images such as a family; father pushing the wheelbarrow, mother, teenage daughter and younger son are slowly making their way up the dirt track collecting rocks for a construction project. An old women stops to examine an empty tin can. The teenage girl that works the public outhouse washes her cloths with water from the steel cylinder later to  be used for flushing. Another women collecting rain water as it falls from our broken rain water leader. Slowly these types of everyday events help us realize all that they do not have.

    Denis and Liane   

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Article from Peruvian newspaper denouncing the deceptive practices and pressure used in performing Tubal Ligations.

Coercive Sterilization Campaign Denounced in Washington, D.C.

Newspaper Article about Denis & Liane by John Ludwick.