Part III: Bryan shares his final thoughts on his experience in Peru.

Hi Everyone,
We are excited about our Annual General Meeting happening tomorrow in Waterloo.
Thank you to everyone who has helped make this such a special year!

In addition, I want to share with you the final installment of past participant Bryan.

Bryan thank your for sharing your reflection with the SIA community.

I hope you all enjoy!
All work and no play make Bryan a dull old guy: Well there was nothing dull about the work in Lima! Teamed with an intermediate teacher in a francophone school, I did work with adult teachers. Paired with a documentary filmmaker from Katelyn-land, her imaginary home inside a home, I laughed with my groups of students. On a visit to el Mirador, a restaurant overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, I sampled Peruvian specialties. Not to be outdone, the ladies of Pacífico made samples of foods from various regions of Peru – eviche, lemon-dressed raw fish from the sea, pachamanga, the fruits of the earth associated with the inland culture of the Incas, roasted in the ground, and, from south from Cuzco, Asado Arequipeno, roasted meat with bright red tomatoes and a ball of ubiquitous rice on leaves of lettuce. We danced.

During the placements, we learned solidarity with one another and with the Peruvians. During the meals and reflections, we understood how a day in a nursery setting could fill you with joy and weariness at the same time. At day’s end, we were elated and exhausted, when after a full day at an amusement park, some of it in pursuit of three little “Miss Squigelly Wigglies” as they got baptized, we fell into our beds. In Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca, I viewed the still solid foundations of the Temple of the Sun, upon which the Spanish had built a church. Subsequent earthquakes shook parts of it off the more stable fourteen-sided interlocking stones of the Inca. It is a lesson in humility for those of us who might think our technology superior, our way of life better, our thoughts somehow more important. Peruvians, despite the little they have, enjoy life, and enjoy watching their North American friends adapt to it.

An anecdote to show how kind the Peruvians are: In a short story in Prairie Fire magazine, a Canadian traveller tells about meeting a stereotypical “ugly American” tourist, yelling in a restaurant at breakfast time for “Eggs, eggs! Doesn’t anyone here speak English”. I tried to engage the Peruvian teachers in a discussion before reading this passage in their afternoon English sections; I thought I could have them tell me why American tourists are unfortunately not always well loved in places around the world. “Oh, no” replied one of the teachers, “even if one was rude, we’d try to help him”. Others nodded assent adding “and if one was really rude, we’d never judge all people by one’s example”. Sighing as that pre-reading strategy, a sure-fire winner in other cultures including our own, went out the window, I realized, I’d been shown a true value of their society: friendship.

Near the end of our stay in Peru we wondered among ourselves if we could sustain the level of excitement, and help Pacífico to finish its nursery project. All said we would find a way. OSSTF members can help too. By visiting the SIA website,, you can find more information about how to get yourself invited on similarly inspiring projects in Peru and Ecuador. By donating, OSSTF members can sustain the work. By participating, however, you can learn the famous tooth-brushing song created to teach children in Pacífico about dental hygiene, or make a new one! You can mix cement while mixing with wonderful, grateful and energetic people. You can help people in need, and in an act of selfish altruism, help yourself to broad understandings on a personal leve.

There is much more to Machu Pichu than meets the eye when you view the tourist brochures. But Peru is much much more than Machu Pichu, and, though I dread saying so, after working alongside the people of Pacífico, the fabled ancient monuments will fall away from your memory. Instead, you will experience, over and over in each retelling, the warmth of the people of Peru and the rewards of accomplishment.

During the weekend, Bryan and the other participants were able to experience the beautiful landscape and history Peru has to offer.

A recollection from a past participant: High school students volunteer and the women from Pacifico are empowered

Hi Everyone,
In our last post we shared you the first part of Bryan’s reflection. Here is part two of Bryan’s musings.

Each Solidarity in Action volunteer has a choice to participate in various activities defined by the communities we work with. So I was faced with several decisions: Would I work on the construction crew digging a foundation for a wall to support the addition for the nursery school being built so that the children would have stimulation while their mothers worked to better the community or to gain money for their families? Would I assist in a school for children and young adults with mental disabilities, run totally without government support? Would I go to the orphanage after the two weeks to work on a photo project with Calyn (Project Karma), one of the leaders? Would I work with a team doing ESL lessons for teens prepared to give up their holidays to learn more English? Or, do ESL with teachers spending their mornings on pedagogy but who told us they wanted more of EVERYTHING” – and this is how they wrote it – in afternoon sessions when they could be at home with their families?

I chose mostly to work as a teacher of second language with 11 year-old and 15 year-old students intent on becoming superheros. Originally, they had planned to learn some English. Little did they know that after finding a second, secret identity with heroic purposes, I would invest them with superpowers which they could use for the good of their fellow Peruvians. Later, one of their super-heroic acts was to spend a day in Pacífico working on the cement crew, rolling whole loads of sand, mixing it with cement powder, stirring in the water and, along with a chain of women passing bucket loads to the forms for the steadily rising wall for the nursery. Not wanting to appear a shirker, I challenged the brawniest of the teens, who with the aid of two of his friends had managed to put most of the wheelbarrow load of sand into the pile to mix with cement by picking up the next load and alone wheeling it onto the pile. Announcing, in broken Spanish :El viejo hasta mas fuerza que jovenes! Non es possible” – roughly, the old guy is stronger than you teens? Can’t be!” , I laughed and showed them the technique mastered after two weeks of wheelbarrow work in a rampant Ontario garden gone wild.

Elsewhere, there were other challenges: For a week, the women of our Solidarity group had been working on digging the wall’s foundations, digging it back out after a cave-in, carrying the four by eight forms down a steep mountainside to the nursery school, shovelling sand and cement and heavy wet mix. This had not gone unnoticed. My wife, a former OSSTF member, now retired, reported how on the day the Canadian women had begun to work at manual labour, a community leader had called out on the loudspeaker that “los gringos” were here, that they must show that they are united and strong in wanting a nursery school for their children, by helping in its construction. When, one evening, a large batch of cement lay waiting as supper time appear, she again called families to postpone supper and to lend a hand. The Canadian women, and the one man in the construction team, were not, she said, to be allowed to do all th e work for them. Later that night, one of the women from Pacífico de Villa, told us that “You have taught us that women can do anything”.

Apparently the men took notice. When I arrived with my merry band of largely male students and superheros, there were only women at work. When I next arrived, after the female crew had erected one half th e wall, there were men with wheelbarrows at work. One leaned toward me and whispered in a male conspiratorial voice “The women aren’t strong enough to manage the wheelbarrows”. Apparently, he thought he needed to talk loudly to the gringo so I would understand. Obviously, a Peruvian women overheard, took up his challenge, grabbed the next wheelbarrow load of wet cement and trotted it, with a smile of accomplishment, to the second portion of the wall. Round one soccer: Men 6, women 2. Round two cement: Women won.


Bryan speaks with students fromm the ESL program. Many of these students spent a day in the community helping to build the retaining wall

Enjoying their increasing role they played while at the construction site.

A Busy Week: A recollection from an SIA participant

Hi Everyone,

This week between the OMLTA Conference and my visit to the University of Manitoba I have been unable to grace you with my musings.

This is a blessing as I am able to introduce you to part one of an excellent piece written by SIA participant and Ontario teacher, Bryan.

Thanks for all of your wonderful support.

See you soon!

L. Shuttleworth

How could I not fall in love with Peru? After all, it has Peruvians, some of the most open and loving people I’ve met in my – excuse the bragging – world travels. It also has Incan architecture, Spanish culture, monumental churches, shanty towns …. Yes, you can fall in love with Shanty-towns. I did.

Pacífico de Villa, rising on the steep hills outside of the Lima suburb of Chorillos, is a community of shacks made out of plywood, tarpaulins, recycled political billboards, local stones, with mud floors in the living room, but stamped mud in the areas the family only sees. It is perched close to the site of a historic battle between Peru and Chile in the Pacific War and stands between Lima and a sewage treatment plant. Why then, does the proposed main sewer going under this community not allow for sewage hookups? Why do the people there use pit latrines and the sand hills when this is being dug beneath their feet?

As an OSSTF member invited on a Solidarity in Action trip, I got to see Pacífico de Villa first hand on our first day in Peru. The women had decorated the community centre for the 18 volunteer participants. We were invited to dance. We received hugs from children and adults, hearty hand-shakes and smiles. On the soccer field, where we were invited to play, I saw that the teams were Peruvians versus Canadians. I switched sides: after all this was Solidarity in Action, a group planning to work with, not for and certainly not against the people.

Then I noticed that our enthusiastic and skilled group of players, lined up facing me and the Peruvians, were all women. The Peruvian men mocked. Should I have played on the same team as the women, in solidarity with them? Apparently they didn’t need my assistance. Jenn took the ball from one of the astonished men. Katelyn seized control of the corner of the field, sending me flying in the process. Nathalie shot successfully on the net. Winded, I switched out, inviting a Peruvian to “cambiamos”, leaving me to admire the play. In our reflection later in the day, it became obvious that our society and theirs do not work by the same rules in terms of gender. Something to ponder.

An exciting time of the year

The fall marks an important time of the year for us at Solidarity in Action, as many people make the important decision to participate in the potentially life changing experience of a Solidarity in Action program. Returning from Woodstock late Thursday evening following a presentation to the parents of high school students that are going on an SIA trip in the 2012 year, I found myself reflecting on what makes the SIA programs special. Perhaps my thoughts were triggered by the presentation to the interested parents or by a visit to the travel agent earlier this week, where we discussed the timetable for the 2012 year. It also may have been triggered by the excited high school students, or by our visit with our partner universities. We can feel the excitement growing as the Solidarity in Action Trip Application begins to approach (applications are due November 4). Emails have been coming in and interest is growing as we approach the deadline.

The excitement led me to reflect on the special aspects of these programs, the impact they have on the participants and the communities; how both lives are changed following the experience. I have been fortunate enough to experience the joy of the SIA programs. In each SIA program the friendship that forms between participants and local community members that always stands outs. The wonderful and kind participants arrive in the community, as complete strangers to the country and the community, and receive a warm welcome as if they friends or family. I know the feeling. I experienced it when I first arrived in Peru six years ago. It was as a result of a trip to Peru with Brock University that led a number of us to create Solidarity in Action. I have also seen firsthand as people impacted by the experience have had their careers shaped by the experience.
There are many different reasons that people choose to travel with SIA. Many do so because they love to volunteer. Some feel that they want to give back to society. There are others whose predominant interest is to learn about the country. All of these components are integral to SIA programs.

An SIA program promotes genuine interaction with the community members and the people in the volunteer placements. The focus is on getting to know the people, and the volunteer placements offered by SIA allows for these experiences to take place. Participants are given the opportunity to teach, work with children with exceptionalities, experience a day working in a health care clinic and they can try their hand at a variety of different construction projects. This coupled with Spanish lessons help people feel more comfortable in their interactions. Additionally, the visits to Machu Picchu (Peru) and Cuenca (Ecuador) provide participants ample opportunity to explore the country and learn about the people.

Many people travel with SIA with high expectations, having heard about the experience from a co-worker, a friend or a family member. Many of the participants return having experienced the amazing experience that they had prepared for. Many people indicate that their SIA experience surpassed their expectations. In most cases it is the genuine love and care that they receive from the communities that will remain with them for the rest of the life. For many people their SIA trip sparks an interest inside them that they will continue to pursue the rest of their lives. There are many people right now who are contemplating this opportunity, who will make the decision to join us in Peru. We look forward to seeing how they will impact the community and how the experience will shape their lives.
If you enjoyed this entry and would like to hear how other people have been impacted by the experience, your wishes will be satisfied. Stay tuned as Solidarity in Action’s newsletter (available in November) will include firsthand accounts from past participants and SIA leaders who have experienced the power of solidarity.

If you would like to see how this experience could impact you, please visit our website, SIA Trips 2012

Thank you for sharing this time with us.

Have a great week.

L. Shuttleworth

SIA Participants following the final celebration - Mt. Sinai, Guayaquil, Ecuador


A growing community: The impact of the work of SIA as shared by Javier Bazan

Welcome back!
Last week you were introduced to Javier Bazan SIA’s Popular Man on the Ground. This week as we continue our series we are bringing you thoughts that Javier Bazan shared with us on his views of solidarity and the work of Solidarity in Action. His words always seem to inspire.

It is very difficult to remember all the great moments that we have shared with the many people who have been involved in our programs because there have been so many wonderful moments. The moments that we have shared have combined a friendship, which have helped those involved help others while at the same time experiencing their own personal development.

The [participants] who come great distances to help, have left traces and their footprints, in the hearts of the people they have helped. The experience has been reciprocal as those who have received the aid have left footprints on the hearts of all the people who have shared a life of solidarity with us.

Along with the joys that this type of life brings, it is not without its challenges. It is hard when I think back and remember, that along this journey, at times the fingerprint we have left for one reason or another, has been that we have not been able to help.The experience allows/ forces many people to reflect on questions about the existence of human kind. I am left to consider, why is it that a child does not have food to eat? Why are many children faced with abusive households? Why are people treated with indifference?

[As an organisation] I am happy about the walk that we are on. It is satisfying to know that we are advancing; that step by step, Solidarity in Action, is growing stronger. We are going to continue to develop and to help more people experience solidarity. Together we will continue to help one another; we must not let this chain of solidarity come to an end. A steel chain acts as an effective analogy for solidarity. A chain gains strength as more components are added to it. The metal begins as aluminum, it then hardens into iron, and it eventually becomes steel, which is almost indestructible. Like a chain, solidarity grows stronger as more aspects are added. In another way solidarity acts as a chain, as it links people to one another, and it looks to continue to maintain these links. Together we must work together and ensure this chain continues to grow.
I am pleased with the strong team of Solidarity in Action that we have and the steps that we have taken [in Peru and Ecuador]. We are building strong partnerships and with the blessing of God we will continue to grow.

I congratulate all of the volunteers, university students, adults, friends and brothers, who have become part of our community. We miss you all and continue to follow the footsteps that you have taken with us.

I appreciate every opportunity that we have experienced in the communities, with the people in Peru, and Ecuador. These varied experiences have taught me the meaning of sharing and have helped me to build stronger relationships.

Finally, I want to thank all those who work and continue to work for the welfare of children and who look to put smiles on the children they work with: those who help to make the communities better.

We continue to have many challenges, but I have often said that we may not change individuals’ economic situations, but we can help by sharing, by living a life of solidarity. In this life we can all give something of ourselves to others. We can all contribute. I hope that I never lose the natural instincts of man always to be supportive.

Greetings and we look forward to seeing you in Peru and Ecuador.

Javier Bazan
SIA Regional Coordinator (Peru and Ecuador)

“quiero decirte que es muy dificil y grande recordar todos aquellos momentos de compartir con las personas a traves de una combinacion de amistad,ayuda para ellos y ayuda para otros.
a pesar de que en el camino hemos dejado muchas huellas.
huellas en el corazon de todos aquellos que llegan desde tan lejos ha ayudar,huellas en el que recibe la ayuda,huellas en las personas que han compartido LA SOLIDARIDAD.,junto a nosotros.
A veces es tan dificil recordar por que en el camino hay que dejar huellas en aquellos que a veces no podemos ayudar,por uno u otro motivo,no todo es felicidad.
a veces te preguntas muchas cosas sobre la existencia,quiees saber por que pasan muchas cosas,como por ejemplo que un niño no tenga para comer,o que reciba indifirencia o que reciba abusos,entonces viene la impotencia.
me alegra,satisface y me hace feliz,saber que estamos avanzando,que solidarity in action es una realidad caminando,paso a paso fuerte y que va ir creciendo y en un momento solo ayudaremos a mucha gente que sienta lo que es solidaridad.
y la ayudaremos y juntos haremos la cadena de solidaridad que no debe de acabar si no hacerse  un metal fuerte,que primero de aluminio,luego de fierro y al final de acero indestrutible.
me gusta que ahora seamos un equipo y que podemos trabajar mas,me gusta que tenemos aliados estrategicos,que donde vamos con la bendicion de dios nos quieiren,y reciben con su corazon.
felicito a todos aquellos jovenes ,adultos ,amigos voluntarios hermanos que ya se han convertido en parte de nuestra realidad,que extrañamos y que continuan en las huellas de las que hablamos.
agradezco la oportunidad de las experiencias en cada comunidad y pueblo en peru,ecuador y por supuesto que me han enseñado mucho.el compartir y la relacion con ellos fueron grandes.
para terminar solo me queda felicitar a todos aquellos que trabajamos y continuamos trabajando por que las sonrisas y el bienestar de aquellos niños y madres de las comunidades siga siendo mejor.
muchas veces he dicho,no podemos cambiar su situacion economica pero si ayudarlos y compartir SOLIDARIDAD,algo que brota en el que tiene o no tiene, todos podemos dar algo de lo que somos.
saludos y nos vemos en peru y ecuador

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Javier (bottom right) poses with Rotary club, student volunteers and community members