Hola from Peru!
Hello from beautiful Peru! It’s been quite the transition since I last updated the blog, but I will do my best to get you caught up on the recent happenings!
This time last week, I was relaxing in Lima, after a marathon two-day trip from Arusha, Tanzania to Lima, Peru, via Amsterdam, Atlanta and Miami. Landing in Lima was comforting in a way, as I was able to finally put my Spanish to good use. At the same time, Peru is a new place to get accustomed to, and it was nice to have the weekend to adjust from life in Tanzania to life here.
After a fun weekend in Lima with Sara, the volunteer coordinator for the organization I’ll be working with for the next two months, I boarded a bus bound for Huánuco. Tuesday night found me with my new host family, Sra. Jesu and her daughter Kati. (Seeing as how I’m going by Kati during my time here as well, the same name has added a layer of fun!) Both of them are very kind, and I’m excited to get to know them during my weekend stays. During the week, I will be at La Casa del Buen Trato Hovde (House of Good Treatment for all you non Spanish speakers out there) working with the children living there. This children’s home is part of the work being done by the human rights advocacy group here in Peru, called Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope). This organization was born out of a desire to stand up against the political violence that rattled Peru from 1980-2000. While today Peru is much more stable politically, the need for justice work is still here. Huánuco has one of the highest rates of child abuse (both sexual and physical) in Peru, and Paz y Esperanza is working to change that statistic. Part of that work is focused on monitoring the judicial system and making sure that victims have access to adequate representation.
La Casa del Buen Trato Hovde fills a much-needed void by providing a safe shelter for victims of abuse as they recover from their abuse and prepare to go back into the world. It is a refuge for child victims, as well as adolescent mothers (whose pregnancies were in some way a result of abuse) and their children. La Casa has a team of psychologists who works with the girls, as well as four house moms who help create a sense of normalcy in day-to-day life. Volunteers like me, as well as the two other girls who are here, are an extra set of hands to get twenty something preteen and teenage girls up and rolling in the morning, help with homework, serve dinner and hang out in the evenings before bed. Thus far, this has been the most hands on volunteering I’ve done. And while I was exhausted when the bus pulled up on Friday night to take us back into Huánuco for the weekend, I am thrilled to have this opportunity. It is truly a privilege to get to know these girls, and my hope and prayer is that I can help them in some way during my short time at La Casa.
As you may or may not remember, the focus of my trip is organizations that work with children in poverty to create sustainable change. With such a focus, it may seem a little odd that I’m dedicating two months of my trip to work in a children’s shelter. While obviously a terrific place, it does seem a little outside the scope of what I’m supposed to be studying. But, here’s the thing, my time at La Casa may be the biggest lesson in sustainable action yet. La Casa is not a permanent home. The kids who come through the front gates eventually have to go back out of them. Sometimes, leaving is wonderful, as they have been happily reunited with a loving family member who can care for them and protect them. Sometimes, it’s not that happy. Regardless of what the situation is, it is the responsibility of La Casa to help prepare the girls for what lies ahead. Many of these kids come from extreme poverty, and a clean bed of their own, three meals a day and a bus ride to school is luxurious in comparison to the life they left behind. And while it seems a little cruel to me that they will eventually have to leave the comforts of La Casa, I have to remember that when they go, they have a new set of skills. They know their self worth. They know that what has happened to them is terrible, but it is not their fault, nor is it their future. They leave with confidence, knowing what resources they can reach out to if they need them. The adolescent mothers learn how to take care of their babies. The house mothers model love and affection that they can learn to emulate. Knowing that the girls won’t always be here, that there is a limited time to love them and teach them, adds a sense of urgency to actions, and also a constant focus on empowering the girls and helping them prepare for what the future holds. These lessons are valuable ones for me to learn, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to do so.