Sparkling Smiles

Suitcases of toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss in hand, we set off for Pacifico de Villa (in Chorrillos) this morning to begin our dental hygiene campaign. In Pacifico, the lack of access to dentists for regular check-ups and the fluoride-free water has taken a toll on many. Thanks to all the generous donors we had in Canada, over a hundred toothbrushes were distributed in the community and with the help of our volunteers, the kids practiced using them.

The organized chaos of the hygiene campaign was followed by less organized chaos as we ventured out to a fun-park on the outskirts of Lima with close to 90 kids from Pacifico de Villa.

The afternoon of climbing on the play structures, playing soccer, seeing the animals in the zoo and riding the paddle boats was a first-time experience for many of the kids. The language barrier didn’t prevent the children from making an impression on everyone in our Canadian group. Some of the kids took advantage of the opportunity to show how high they could count in English, or teach us the Spanish words they deemed most important for beginners to know (ball, brother, shark, etc).

Inspired by the energy, sincerity and curiosity of these kids, look forward to seeing many of them again tomorrow and during the week ahead when we start our volunteer placements in and around Pacifico de Villa.

Hasta luego!

Sarah demonstrates teethbrushing.

Dignity and Development

We started the day at Pacifico de Villa, a small village within San Genero, Chorrillos. We met the great people that make up the communities there. We saw plywood houses, no running water, dust and stray dogs – along with big smiles and open hearts. We were greeted by some of the leaders of Chorrillos’ communities who explained recent progress in their communities and what some of their outstanding needs are.

Our group’s reflections following this initial meeting included the relationship between dignity and development. In this case, and in so many others, how do you provide assistance without imposing on the dignity of those on the receiving end? The answer may lie in listening. In this situation, ensuring that we listen, understand and take direction from the experts on the ground that live that reality every day is definitely a good way to start.

The head teacher from one of the schools in the community was among those welcoming us today. A shy woman with a kind smile, she humbly thanked us for coming and explained what improvements need to be made to her small school so it is more appropriate for the 70 children that come to it every day. Even as she spoke, she became increasingly confident – she was the one calling the shots.

The second part of the day, we visited the centre of Lima and spent some time wondering the streets, visiting the Mueseo de San Francisco (catacombs and all) and caught a glimpse of Peru’s new president – Ollanta Humala as he returned to the Government Palace.

These two contrasting worlds, Pacifico de Villa and the centre of Lima, but both could teach us so much.

By the way, we did get a bit of sunshine today.

Hemos Llegado! (We’ve arrived!)

We arrived at La casa de la Espiritualidad Retreat House last night about 10pm after a long day of flights and airports. We whisked by San Salvador, El Salvador on the way to Lima, Peru.

Upon arrival we were greeted by, among others, Javier, SIA’s Regional Coordinator, Peru and Larry, Director/Member of the Board. Javier lives in Surco Viejo, Lima and works hard between trips coordinating projects and maintaining a close relationship with the communities we work with.

La casa de la Espiritualidad Retreat House, our humble lodgings for most of the next two weeks, is a multi-room residence with some common areas. There are two other groups here with us for the time being, including one group that has taken a vow of silence. We’ve been told that if we say ‘hola’ to strangers here and they don’t respond, not to be offended.

Yesterday was a big day for Peru. Not only was it Independence Day, it was also election day and Humala Ollanta was selected as the new President after an election period ripe with controversy.  We saw little evidence of either event on our way from the airport to the retreat house last night but I’m sure today will be different.

Today, we visit the sites of on volunteer placements. Come Monday, our group will be spending our days doing the following: building a retaining wall to reinforce the site of a future school, teaching new effective teaching methods to primary and secondary school teachers, teaching English to a group of adults who want to improve their skills and teaching students from Cristo Rey School in Chorrillos.

Hoping for some sunshine today in Peru!

Adventure on the horizon!

Adventure is waiting patiently for us on the horizon…

We are ‘one sleep’ away from what is promising to be an exciting time in Peru! First thing tomorrow morning, we head to Pearson International Airport. There, our group of 22 bids farewell to family, friends and familiarity and sets off for the unknown.

Calyn, Larissa and Jenn will be our fearless trip leaders in and around Lima and Cuzco, Peru, with Jessie from Laurier International (at Wilfrid Laurier University), and Solidarity in Action‘s seasoned trippers – Larry and Angus – at the helm. After a couple years behind the scenes at SIA and many more years hearing about the trips second hand, I (Rachel) decided it was high-time to check one out for myself.

People, culture, perspectives, learning and laughs – all that and more in the coming days. Keep checking back with us at ‘DevelopingTogether’ to follow the trip from where you are!

PS – I’m grateful to have just learned WordPress for work. I’m sure it will make this – my first international blogging experience – run  much more smoothly (shout out to CYBF! I’ll miss you, and see you in two weeks!).