Lesson number one of volunteering: Flexibility is key! Expand Peru is in a period of transition right now. They are moving their CASA project from Pucara to Sano, which means that many of the volunteers are painting and cleaning rooms instead of teaching children.
I will not be able to start the youth group/microenterprise project until at least Monday because of a citywide festival taking place right outside our house. All the businesses and many of the volunteer programs shut down early this week to prepare for the festivities. Thankfully, I was able to still work with kids at an orphanage and the Casa de Bebes program in Chupaca.
The Casa de Bebes (or Wawa Wasi in Quechau) is a government-funded program that allows mothers living in poverty to leave children ages six months to three years with designated caretakers, so that they can work during the day. The kids are mostly two and three and have an unbelievable amount of energy. From playing dolls to pushing kids on swings and throwing them in the air, volunteering at the Casa de Bebes for any length of time is exhausting.
The orphanage is located within walking distance of my host family. The children range in ages from five to around sixteen or seventeen. Erin, another volunteer, and I have been helping the younger kids with their homework and playing volleyball with the older ones during our time off. Tutoring in Spanish is a challenge, but it is a great opportunity to practice basic phrases and verbs in an accepting environment. Of all the children I have worked with in my life, these kids are by far the most affectionate and nonjudgmental. When we come and go, we are always bombarded with hugs and kisses. The kids were particularly intrigued by my camera and loved taking photos of each other.
I often travel back and forth between Huancayo and Sano in order to obtain more convenient Internet access at the volunteer house. It is amazing how different the city and the country are. The city is filled with vendors and shops, while the only noise around my house comes from the barking of dogs. I am getting used to seeing cows, chickens, and sheep wandering the streets unattended during my afternoon strolls in Sano.
So far, I am in love with Peru and the hospitality of its people. I look forward to starting my work with the teenagers and further immersing myself in the South American culture in the weeks to come!
With Erin, another volunteer, and some of the sweet girls at the orphanage: