In 1958, a 38 year-old widow from Manchester arrived in Peru to visit her brother. This trip was destined to change not only Anita Goulden’s life, but the lives of many, many others.
While travelling about Peru, Goulden decided that she wanted to visit the desert. Arriving in Piura in the north, she witnessed something shocking: Abandoned children, suffering from horrific diseases such as meningitis and tuberculosis, often lying in pools of their own blood.
“In all my wildest dreams, I had never thought of human beings in such shocking conditions,” Goulden stated, “The appalling poverty; indifference of those around. I can only liken it to visiting a store and finding all the goods priced wrongly. Precious goods worthless. Worthless goods precious.”
Instead simply shaking her head in sorrow and moving on, Goulden decided to address what she saw in a different way: She stayed. She earned money by teaching the English language and translating, and immediately used her money to serve the children she found on the streets of Piura. For the first six years, she lived with Anita Mollet, who worked at the children’s hospital. After that, she managed to rent her own house.
According to The Telegraph: “In 1982 Goulden left Mollet’s haven to rent a basic house in Calle Junin. She had started to look after disabled children and was anxious to live with them. Many of the children were blind.”
One blind girl named Fedi desperately wanted to be a teacher, but the teacher’s college would not accept her due to her handicap. Goulden set off to Lima, Peru to rectify this wrong. She tried to get into the presidential palace, but was denied access. Anita found a solution: She climbed through a window, found President Belaunde, and informed him that she was here to speak for a blind girl who was being denied the opportunity to become a teacher. The president promised to take care of it. Several weeks later, Fedi was accepted to teacher’s college.
She had twenty disabled and abandoned children living with her, and every three months she drove about, handing out supplies if she had them, searching for abandoned children that she could take home with her. According to one woman who knew her, her routine was often the same: “On entering a village, she would first search the pigsties, where physically and mentally disabled babies were often consigned. She once found a boy crawling in the desert at two in the morning, his mouth filled with sand.”
She was relentless. “I think I’ve quarrelled with everyone,” she confessed to a benefactor. When asked what about, she replied, “Justice.”
After her death in 2002, her work continued through the charity that bears her name, started by people who discovered her work and supplied her with the money to do more. Because for Anita, there was always more to do. Always more children to save. Always more she could do for others.
Truly, we can all take inspiration from someone who did something extraordinary, but yet so simple: She saw an injustice, and she went to work.