In a small Amazon settlement yesterday, a young boy walked up to Gladys Gonzales during a game and tugged on her arm to announce his dad had died.
He cried, and she hugged him until he cried no more.
Kids in peril, she says, need love.
She meets them every day in Lima, Peru, where she is a social worker who helps young children who have been abused or sexually assaulted or are neglected.
I met her outside the Ayapua, a historic rubber boom boat I was on in 2006 turned museum.
She and her friend, Lillian, were taking a photo.
Here on the Amazon, in the poor neighborhood of Belen, often kids are malnourished and families sleep in one bed. There's a lot of prostitution… often involving kids. There are signs all over Iquitos reminding perpetrators that engaging a kid in sex is a crime.
What has she learned about humanity in her job?
“That we all deserve respect. We all have the same rights.”
What do those kids in danger need most?
“Love. They need love.”
I told her so many people say that. I always thought there was a more complex answer. But maybe there isn't. Maybe it is that simple.
But no matter what, some people refuse to give it.
—in Iquitos, Peru
To learn more about how everyday people make a difference in their communities and beyond, visit The Friends Project for more profiles and to see what we do. Shine the light.