The Little Girl

The Little Girl The little Street Girl by Dr. Jerry Simons
On the equator the sun comes up and goes down at the same time every 6a.m. and 6p.m. By the time I got dressed and had laced up my running shoes it was 5:20a.m. and the horizon was changing from dark blue to yellow. The air was thin and brisk as I walked outside and down the front steps of the Hotel. My small pack in which I carried water, a digital camera and sun glasses provided little warmth from Cusco’s chilly air at 12,500 feet elevation.
My running route started at the Don Carlos III Hotel, through the heart of the main plaza, then up a steep three-mile climb to the famous Inca ruin “Sacsayhuaman “. As I passed the cathedral “Del Sol” I noticed a small child huddled in a ball fast asleep against one of the large stones of the ancient Inca wall. She was only 8 or 9 years old and her hair and clothing where dirty and tattered. Quietly, I removed my camera from my pack, took her picture, and quietly continued my run up the cobbled stone streets, but the image of the little girl cycled through my mind as I ran. I recalled there was a distinct odor that came from this tiny little one; it was a familiar smell I had remembered from Africa in people close to death from starvation and dysentery. I resolved that on the way back down the hill I would stop and see if I could help.
My pace quickened as I returned to the spot where the little girl had been sleeping. As I approached my noisy size 14 EE running shoes awakened her. Struggling, she raised her shaggy head and looked at me with fright. I could see she was in the final stages of starvation, and death was not far away. She needed help quickly. Scanning in every direction, I looked for someone who could watch the little girl while I went for help. I could see no one and I had no money. Trying to calm her, I told her I would go to my hotel, call for help, and get some money. She didn’t understand a word, of course.

From her style of dress I knew that she was from one of the Inca villages in the high country and spoke only Quechua, an ancient Inca language. Her expression was still filled with surprise and fear. Seeing a large man hovering over her and saying something in a strange language would frighten any little girl, but especially one so small and sick. Not knowing how to comfort her, I gave her my water bottle and hurried as fast as I could back to the hotel.
I beat on the door of my room since I hadn’t carried a key. When the door opened and I pushed pass my wife Ella and went straight to my money clip and then ran out as abruptly as I entered. The surprised look on Ella’s face was similar to the one look I had received from the little street girl.
I ran down the stairs taking two steps at a time, and raced through the lobby to the front desk. After a quick summary of the little girl’s need to the on-duty desk clerk, I asked if he would please call an ambulance. He asked what was the address and my mind went numb. I didn’t know any of the street names. I had run the route dozens of times, but I had never paid attention to the street names. I told the desk clerk I would find out. Off again I went, through the front door, out on to the street and up the hill to the little girl. My heart was pounded, my lungs burned, and I sucked hard for more of the thin air at the 12,000’ mountain altitude. Arriving at the spot where I left the little girl, my heart sank. She was gone.
I saw a trail of bloody spots on the sidewalk and followed them for about 50 yards. The spots started to fade and then disappeared completely. Frantically, I searched in all directions. It was as if she had disappeared. By this time Cusco, Peru, was coming alive with a few cars honking, venders pushing their bread carts, and people rushing to work. Where had my little friend gone? After about an hour of looking everywhere I could possible think, I gave up the search. Disappointed and self accusing, I started asking myself painful questions: Why hadn’t I done this? Why hadn’t I thought to do that? I mentally kicked myself all the way back to the hotel, running the event through my mind over and over.
Later that evening as I was transferring my photos of the day onto my computer, the heart ache started all over as I saw the tiny girl huddled on those steps trying to survive in an uncaring world. The questions began once again. Why hadn’t I taken any money withy me? Why did I leave her? As I looked at her picture in beautiful color and fine detail, I saw a dying little girl that I could have helped. Tears began to run down my cheeks, but I wiped them away so my wife wouldn’t see what I was feeling. “It wasn’t my fault “, I rationalized, but it was my fault. Why had I waited so long in life to try to help these helpless people of the high Andes? Why had I done too little too late?
I resolved in my mind that it was my fault and that I was going to do everything in my power to provide hope and encouragement to those the poor people high in the Andes, and help them avoid the attraction of coming to the large cities. After all, the villages in the Andes are beautiful. But the people have filthy water, no medical services, no schools, no relief from starvation, no way to earn money, and no hope for any change in the future. I knew I needed to help encourage these Inca highlanders to stay in their own villages, but I needed to give them assistance and know-how to build better lives.
I have talked to many people who have left their villages to come down to the big cities. They all would have preferred to stay home, but the lure of a better, easier life, caused them to give the city a try. They had watched so many of their friends in the high Andes villages leave to seek a better way. If the big city wasn’t better, why were so many of their friends going there?
All of our projects are centered on building HOPE for a better life for the poor villagers without leaving their home areas. With a few materials and with some encouragement, people in the villages can build schools, clean water systems, medical clinics, green houses, and they can develop handicrafts, and better animal farms. The people of the Andes are very hard working and committed to bettering themselves. They are poor, but they are not stupid. With just a little help and encouragement they can transform despair into hope. Presently HOPE PROJECTS has over 48 village projects underway in villages of the high Andes. Over 91,000 people are being helped to stay in their own villages and not be attracted by the lure of the big city.
The image of that little girl is permanently burned into my memory; I have a hope that our projects will prevent another children from starving, suffering, and dying in the streets as my little friend perhaps did.
What the Simons Says Foundation: HOPE PROJECTS is doing is just a drop in the bucket of what can be done if more people would get involved helping the poorest of the poor help themselves. For more information log on to or call
(800) 348-3994 or (435) 657-0521.

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