As our time in Peru draws to an end, we look back on our experience so far.
We were greeted at the airport by the lovely Eli and Elena, members of the Teresian Association here in Peru. They run the Centro Cultural Guadix in Villa El Salvador, which provides an after school and summer camps for children. Eli and Elena have looked after us during our whole stay and we can´t thank them enough for everything they have done for us.
We spent our first three days in Lima, the capital of Peru. While in Lima we visited the Teresian School called Colegio Isabelle Flores de Oliva. Three members of the student council gave us a tour around the school and made us feel very welcome. We were given a historical tour of the city by Leo, a history teacher from the school, who could answer any question you could have about the history of Lima. We also visited the anthropology museum and a Peruvian restaurant where we got to watch the different styles of Peruvian dancing. This gave us a great insight into the Peruvian culture. On the Saturday evening we went to a magic water fountain park, where we watched many water fountain displays. Our highlight was a fountain designed as a game to avoid getting wet but after a while we gave up and ended up getting soaked!
On Sunday evening we made our way to Villa El Salvador. This was an eye opening experience that we were not expecting. This year we got the opportunity to stay in Eli and Elena’s house which gave us the opportunity to experience a traditional Peruvian household. We never expected Villa El Salvador to be as big and populated as it is, with a population of over 600,000 people. It is a world away from what we are used to back in Dublin, with many unfinished houses, dirty roads and dogs everywhere.
This year, due to small numbers, the group was split between two schools for the two weeks of volunteering work. Rachel and Matet were in one school, Maria Clotilde, and the three of us in Vida y Esperanza, a daycare centre. It was very clear that the teachers needed our help, especially when all the children needed to be fed at the same time, with only one teacher per class. On the first day we started to notice that we were making a difference especially when the kids cried as we were leaving the school. In the afternoons we spent our time in the Centro Cultural Guadix, playing with children in the after school programme. We thoroughly enjoyed the warm welcome we recieved by all the volunteers and students on the the first day. The days are quite long and require a lot of energy but are extremely rewarding.
To top off this amazing experience we were lucky to get the opportunity to spend our weekend away in Lunahuana, Paracas and Ica. While we were in Lunahuana we went white water rafting where many memories were made. The following day we travelled two hours to Paracas where we went on a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands, where we saw penguins, sea lions and a wide range of birds and visited a natural reserve, where we saw some incredible panoramic views. We ended our weekend in Ica on a good note, sand duning and sand boarding in the dessert with the Andes in the background.
We can all agree that this trip has been a life changing and eye-opening experience. We have come to see how lucky we are and how much we take for granted at home and that even the smallest things can bring a smile to our faces, which we learned from the kids. The kids have taught us a lot of things, which was unexpected and greatly admired. We have created a lot of memories and formed many bonds with these children. We hope to take this experience with us for life.
Kate Brown, Sophie Smith and Nikita McGovern.