It was 1962 when a german priest, Alois Eichenlaub, came to Perú. He was just 30 years old and probably did not expect to spend next 50 years of his life in the Andes. Living in Perú, Alois quickly realized how hard the life of an average family was. It was not unusual that the children had to work, they were, however, usually expoited, treated unjustly and made unfairly little amount of money. “I met the boys washing the cars and I remember asking myself the question: why don’t they join together and set fixed prices?” – tells Padre, now grey haired, 81 year-old man. Together with already existing JOC (Juventud Obrera Cristiana), he set himself the goal of creating an organization that would support those kids, that had not known the support of anybody. That is how MANTHOC started.
Today MANTHOC unites over 3000 kids from almost all the provinces in Perú. The name stands for Movimiento de Adolescentes Niños Trabajadores Hijos de Obreros Cristianos, which can be translated as the Movement of the Working Youth, Children of the Christian Working Class (it sounds old fashioned also in Spanish!). Most of the children and teenagers that belong to MANTHOC work on a daily basis: they collect tickets in the microbuses, work in a bakery, help to carry the luggage or shopping in the market, work on the street with their parents or grandparents. MANTHOC is not against the work of children in general – on the contrary, it promotes working with dignity and responsability, in fair conditions. It take care that the kids know their rights and give them possibility to develop new skills, gain education and finally become independent.
In Cajamarca MANTHOC unites around 300 kids in the poor areas of the city. They are divided in the groups, who meet on sundays or afternoons during the week. Since many of the children are not allowed or cannot afford to go to the public school, the organisation created its own primary school, with educational system adjusted to the needs of the kids. This school will become my working place for the next 5 months.
Padre Alois, the initiator and for many years the main organizer of MANTHOC activities, still lives in Cajamarca. Sitting in his library, full of the traces of peruvian culture and history, in the slow pace tells stories from his life and talks about his passion for the culture of Cajamarca. On the walls hang great pieces of the pre-inca cloth, on the shelves the ceramics from the Wari culture. Protecting and spreading the local culture was, next to creating MANTHOC, another focus of his life.
In fact, Alois is not a priest anymore. His adopted peruvian daughter recently got married in Germany. Being over 80 years old, he does not participate in the activities of his organisation any more. But he still remains the soul of MANTHOC.