A kiss on the cheek for ‘goodbye’

‘Thank you very much Canadian friends. People like you make a big difference and serve to publicize what they can do, every one of our guys [wish you] a good trip, hope to see you soon and stay in touch with us and our children who need them.’

(A card we received today from teachers and students at Cerrito Azul, a school for children and young adults with exceptionalities that our group has been volunteering with this week.)

Today was filled with thank yous and goodbyes as our entire group visited each of our volunteer placements for the last time. We started out at Cerrito Azul, where there were hugs, dancing, singing, gifts and Justin Bieber karaoke by one of the children. Before leaving, some of the kids took the opportunity to sell some of their hand-made jewellery. At Cristo Rey school where our English Second Language (ESL) classes took place for primary and secondary school children, we were thanked in English by many of the kids and by Ricardo, the dedicated and generous director of the school.

The next stop was the teaching strategy conference that was being run by a volunteer who is an education professor at the University of Western Ontario. Participants at the conference were all teachers themselves and their compliments and tears to her made it clear that she had a lasting impression on them. Today’s closing ceremony for the conference and for the adult ESL afternoon classes that many of the same people participated in included singing, dancing and certificates.

Last but definitely not least, we spent the rest of the day at Pacifico de Villa, the community we have built such strong connections with over the course of the week. They welcomed us with open arms and proudly showed us the progress they had made in the last half a day on the retaining wall we were helping to build. Half the wall was complete, and the cement for the other half was poured throughout the day. There was tremendous progress in this project this week and we were happy to see how far it had gone. The afternoon was spent dancing, eating and having a great time in and around the community centre. Unlike our welcome celebration where our group of volunteers were invited to sit on the stage facing everyone on the benches below, we sat on the benches with everyone else today.

It was tough to say goodbye to a community of people that had been some welcoming from the very beginning. Phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses were exchanged, all methods of communication that are simple enough for us to use. But in Pacifico, people rely on community telephones, internet cafes and a central mail system. That they are so willing to maintain these relationships despite the difficulties and costs to sends a strong message to our group.

Tomorrow morning we head to the airport. After a week of hard work and learning about life today for people around Lima, we turn our focus to Peru’s rich past. Cuzco and the peaks around Machu Picchu await…

A graduate (centre) receives her certificate from her ESL teachers
Final celebration at the community centre in Pacifico de Villa
The Canadian members of the construction crew celebrate their hard work beside the new retaining wall



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