Keely Lands on Her Feet in Peru

20 03 2011

Phone call– me and mom:

Me: Good news ma. I am safe and sound in Lima, staying with an amazing family with two adorable little girls.

Mom: Oh good. I was a little worried this time, but it looks like you landed on your feet…again.

Let me fill you in a bit. The short of it is: I left Colombia on said deportation day (March 11th) with basically no idea where I was going to stay when I got to Peru. Well, that is not totally true. That morning, before I left, I started getting a little nervous and thus got online and made a 2 night hostel reservation… just to assure I had somewhere to go. I got here late friday night and headed to the hostel. Next day arranged to have lunch with Giuli (more on her later, my volunteer contact here in Peru) and by the end of the evening Saturday, she had made a few calls a friend of a friend over-heard the convo in the car and before I knew it I was getting a tour of my new home. So here I am, happy and safe.

I have been reflecting a lot on that statement “landing on your feet.” But more, I guess the luxury, the luck, to have the faith that I will land on my feet. But even more… the luxury to jump in the first place. I am referring to the ability to take risks, follow my dreams, travel… to be the modern-day nomad that I am.

My experiences here in Lima have made me keenly aware of just how lucky I am to live my life this way. And most of that resolves around a community of Lima, Pamplona, that I am quickly falling in love with. I first heard about it as Giuli and I sat in her livingroom talking about all the amazing projects of Buckner Peru. Giuli is an art teacher… that now works for Bucker Peru wearing several hats including working with volunteers/mission groups, follow-up and she spends lots of her time “in the field” working with children in several orphanage/institutions and children at-risk in low-income communities. I loved hearing all her stories and projects. But the one that immediately grabbed my attention is an amazing prevention program they have started in a small area of Pamplona. They are working with 80 families in this sector of the city. At its most basic root, it seems to me, they are working to give these families, these children, hope. They are allowing them to dream, develop an identity, to value themselves. They are working to help them realize, truly believe, that they can achieve more. They are working to change the mentality such that these 80 families no longer sit idly with their hand in the air and request humanitarian aid,no, they are helping them organize, open their world view, and realize that these people– these 80 families in this few blocks of the city– can do it themselves. They are doing this through amazing creative ways: art, education, community projects.

Pamplona, bottom of the hill

Top of the hill... all those structures are houses

Giuli has helped me jump right in with this community. Today she and I gave a full day course for the almost 60 preschool teachers in Pamplona. There is a government program(which to my understanding appears to be very similar to headstart) that “supports” these programs. “Supports” being in quotes because they basically provide the bare minimum– a roof, a few tables, a few books and toys. The teachers are amazing, strong, animated women… but they are not teachers and have no formal training, they are women from the community committed to the future of these kids. They receive almost nothing and work very hard: there are 20+ students (age 3-5) for 1 teacher.

Preschooler outdoor play time

More recess

Burning some energy... choo choo train in the street right in front of the school

So today we covered preschool teaching 101 on 6 hours. They loved it. I of course want to stay and keep working with these women. I will spend a few days next week observing various classes to help them put into practice some of the things we discussed today. But there is so much to do. And they are so eager to learn.

Giuli working on puppets with afterschool group

I will also visit a few orphanages while I am here, including a special needs orphanage with over 100 children with disabilities. It’s quite an impressive place with lots of therapists and qualified care-givers. It has definitely been quite an experience!

And yes, the icing on the cake of my Peru experience, my new “land on your feet” family. They are so amazing. I have felt at home since the minute I arrived. We have had slumber parties, homework parties, art sessions, watched movies. They have taken me all around Lima to show me the big sites. And I really think that it is their personal mission as a family to introduce me to as much peruvian cuisine as possible (which I of course do not mind at all…. and neither does my stomach, butt and thighs). So in return, I have introduced the family to exercising. We take family runs at the park (which the six-year-old said was the “best day of her life”). It is relationships like these that make traveling so special– it’s about jumping, risking, and getting really lucky sometimes to land on your feet.

The fam... before one of our many feasts. Homemade ceviche.

Pajama party.... post blindfolded make-up game

Thanks again for all the support!!! Miss you all.