Hola from Peru!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all..
Just thought I’d give you an update on my new life in Peru – to let you know how I’m getting on and to thank you again so much for your very kind donation!
I have been living and working in the Aldea Infantil San Juan, Pucallpa, for almost four months now, and I can’t believe how quickly time has gone past! It is a village-like orphanage for around 70 kids, between the age of 0 to 18 – with the youngest being just 4 weeks old. There are 7 houses here, each which contain 10 or 11 children to make up small families, along with a Mother like figure who runs the house. The kids are all from very varied backgrounds, some of which I now know about due to earning their trust and gaining their respect as a big sister.
Within my project, my main role is to relieve the house mothers – who work 6 days a week – of their stressful full time job. This involves being a role model and carer for the kids, while most importantly giving them that much needed love. I have officially managed to learn everybody’s name here, which was a challenge in itself.. They’re always keen to know what their names are in English, and although “Jorge” is quite simply “George”, I don’t think ” Guadalupe” or “Brookshil” translate quite so well!
Project Trust places every volunteer in pairs and choose them specifically after an intensive Selection week. I was lucky enough to get selected for my first country choice of Peru, and so did my partner, Shannon Kemp – another Scottish girl! It’s great to have somebody to confide in during the tough times, as well as sharing the many amazing experiences we’ve both had here. Together, we have been running homework, art and english clubs within the houses, and hope to start up some sport and dance clubs during the school holidays. Two nights a week, we have a few of the older teens into our house to watch a movie, which they’ve been loving and it’s a great opportunity for us to get to know them better. I think they really appreciate the little things that we do for them, even if it’s just a smile and a hug in the morning!
I’m really loving helping out with physiotherapy for the 14 physically disabled kids here in the aldea. The physiotherapist only works from May til December, so Shannon and I are planning to take over the physio club in January next year, which is very exciting! It gives them an opportunity to get out of the house, and excercise for a few hours, since they are really just left in their wheelchairs for most of the day, and only a few of them get taken to eat with everyone in the “comedor” (dining hall). There is this one little boy called Alonzo, who is pretty new to the aldea, and has just had his first birthday.. Unfortunately, when he came, he was severely malnurished and had absolutely no muscle strength. Luckily, he has now been fed well, and I have been helping with his physiotherapy once a day, so he can now stand up and he’s well on the way to walking! It’s very encouraging.
There are many children here who don’t go to school and are unable to read or write, so are in much need of education. My partner and I have been trying to reverse this problem, and are proud to say we have successfully taught an eleven year old girl how to write her name. She is keen to learn more, whereas just three months ago she didn’t want to learn a thing!
I have learned so many things from being here already; it’s hard to sum it up in one small letter. And I still have 9 months to go! One main thing is that I now know how it feels to be a foreigner. Nobody speaks English here (apart from our Spanish teacher!), so I’ve had to get by with the little Espanol I know, but I feel like I’ve already improved loads since getting here. There have, of course, been many hilarious mistranslations, as well as some very difficult, frustrating times – like when people repeat themselves more loudly each time I say I don’t understand!!
I have realised that backgrounds really do develop what a person is like, especially in childhood. Many of the kids here crave love and attention, due to lack of it from an early age. I’ve also discovered that these children don’t know much about life outside the aldea, since lots of them truly believe that “all gringos (foreigners) are millionaires and all Africans live in poverty”. We have been trying to educate them about the world outside and even managed to teach them where Peru is on a map – lots of which had no clue! Something else that I’ve realised about Peru is that there are definitely not the same childcare rules here as in the UK. There are sometimes over 11 children including babies, toddlers and kids with different disabilities left in one person’s care – sometimes mine, which is pretty stressful!! I’ve just had to use my initiative and get on with things, although it’s sometimes very difficult, since they have next to no toys here and very little resources. So I’ve taught them a lot of new games, including a new favourite – Musical Bumps, along to me singing Jingle Bells or We Wish You A Merry Christmas!!
My experience here, so far, has been completely different from anything I expected. But I didn’t really know what to expect in the first place, and now I definitely wouldn’t change it for the world. Since being here, I feel like I’ve become part of the community and have made a life for myself – with true Pucallpino friends! I really feel like I’m, without a doubt, making the most of my year here in Peru! I now totally know my way around my new hometown, which before coming here I didn’t even know existed. I’ve had so much fun finding my bearings, exploring all the different markets, trying new, strange food (such as cows stomach, chicken feet and lots of different tropical fruit and veg), as well as meeting and getting to know so many incredible people!
I’m also really excited to get travelling round Peru to see a bit more of this amazing country! We’re starting off this Christmas, by spending it in Lima, before travelling up the coast to Trujillo, Mancora (for Hogmany with all 12 of the Project Trust Peru girls) and finishing up in Quito, Ecuador, before heading back to Pucallpa – all very exciting!
As people here in Peru say “Gracias un mil” (a thousand thank you’s) for your sponsorship money, I hope you can see where it has gone. Without your help, I wouldn’t be here having this life-changing year.
Project Trust is a very reputable charity, and I now completely see why – they post us monthly newsletters to keep us updated on news around the world, as well as keeping in touch with all of their volunteers and helping out with their problems along the way. I feel very lucky to be here right now, and it is such an incredible opportunity, which I am so glad I took. All my hard work with fundraising has finally paid off, so thank you!
If you’d like to ask me any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to hear from you!
Have a great Christmas!!