Julie Ingriselli’s Story

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.

My name is Julie Ingriselli and I travelled to Lima, Perú in May 2012 for two life-changing weeks. I have never had an experience like this in my entire life, and I must say I am better now because of it. When the opportunity to travel to a third world country to work with the community presented itself in an e-mail from my Spanish professor, I must admit, the aspect that triggered my pursuit was Macchu Picchu. In high school we had seen pictures, learnt about the Incas, and dreamed of seeing this wonder of the world. Little did I know that while Macchu Picchu was everything I had hoped it would be, the volunteer work is what I reflect on most now that I am home.

During my time in Perú I worked with the most incredible people; not only my Canadian partners who are truly special individuals, but also the Peruvian citizens who welcomed us with open hearts and deep appreciation. I have never had the pleasure of being in the presence of such a welcoming, accepting, and appreciative community. We spent all but three days of our journey with the people of Pacifico de Villa, the students of Pronoei Set Daycare, Juan Pablo, Cristo Rey, and Laura Alva Saldaña schools.

I spent three of our volunteer days teaching English at Juan Pablo and Cristo Rey; these are the days I hold closest to my heart. I fell in love with the children, the culture, the colours, the smiles, and feeling so appreciated and welcomed. One day in particular is very special to me. My friend Nicki and I went on this trip together and this day we spent teaching together. Not only were the children at Juan Pablo so attentive and respectful, but they were so loving. During our morning break, the door to our room was crowded with children waiting for us to be done eating so they could have our autographs and take pictures with us. Some of the children remembered me from previous days, called me by name, and greeted me with hugs and kisses. My heart grew so much that day. In the afternoon we went to Cristo Rey to teach students who are nearly fluent and had wonderful conversations with them. Nicki and I were placed in an intermediate class with four boys who make me smile every time I think of them.  The connections we made that day have lasted since we have returned home and will continue for a lifetime. I can’t find the right words to express how much those children mean to me.

Explaining such a wonderful experience and intense feelings to family and friends back home is difficult. Most just nod their heads and smile for you, and feel happy that you had a wonderful experience, but very few truly understand the transformation you underwent. Your eyes and heart are opened to so much more and things at home become confusing; not only whether or not you can flush the toilet paper down the toilet either!

Remembering is important. Looking at pictures and re-reading my journal are daily occurrences. This magnificent journey begins to feel almost dream-like once you are thrust back into home life. But keeping the memory alive keeps the love alive. Keeping the doors open allows more to happen.

My door to SIA and Perú is always open.

~Julie

Image

Julie with her new friends at Cristo Rey

 

A Volunteer Story: Jocelyn Chan

Hola! It’s been exactly two weeks since I’ve been home from Ecuador and I can say I’ve fully adjusted back to life in Toronto, Ontario.  The two weeks spent in Ecuador was an amazing and surprising experience.  I feel like Solidarity in Action is essentially a crash course on making a difference in a foreign community; it completely submerges you into the local culture and it’s just so hands on.  It’s impossible to go home without feeling different or unchanged. 

On our last day with the community, when we were all sitting together under the shelter, one of the community members thanked us for helping out and giving so generously without expecting anything back in return.  The truth is, however, we did get so much in return.  The entire experience in itself was superb and unforgettable, and the connections we made within our group and with the community are all things we took back.  But I feel that the lessons we learned about ourselves, what we’re capable of and the new discoveries we made in new situations are extremely valuable as well. 

A personal example of this is a placement I did at Communicar, a school for children and young adults with Autism.  When we were initially being introduced to the placements and discussing them, I had thought to myself “No way am I doing this.”  I never considered myself a “kid-person” per se; I risk sounding a little cold-hearted but I found them annoying, whiny and sticky.  I had also never worked with children or anyone with disabilities.  So upon hearing about Communicar and touring it, I immediately had the preconceived decision of not doing it.  WOW did that change, because I could not have been more wrong about the experience there.  I could also not be more wrong about myself.  I’m almost embarrassed of the way I felt initially because I was so absolutely wrong about everything.  I don’t even remember how I ended up going to Communicar, I think all the other placements were full that day and I just ended up choosing it.  I wound up going again the next day because I loved it so much and I couldn’t wait to see the kids and the teachers again.  I was in a class of about 4-5 kids, and despite the Autism, I could tell they were so intelligent and expressive.  They were all so loving, so giving and had huge hearts.  I spent time with each kid, helping them with their spelling, phonetic and art lessons, and I had an amazing time.  This surprised me and surprised my friends and family when I told them because they know how I was with kids.  This placement really pushed me out of my comfort zone, in a way, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  I also bonded a lot with the teachers – there was a major language barrier so most of our conversation was like a game of charades, but it was manageable and pretty hilarious.  I just clicked with them right away, and I guess they generally get really personal pretty quickly, so we talked like we’d been friends for ages.  Writing about them is making me miss them right now.  

So overall, a stellar experience and trip.  I would definitely do it all over again in a heartbeat.  I just graduated from university this year, but hopefully since I’m an insider now I’ll still be able to go next year!  

Chao for now! 

Jocelyn 

Image

 From left to right: Miguel, Sergio, Karina (the teacher’s aid), Alexander, Andrew, Elissa (the teacher) and Carlos.

 

“Eyes that Travel See”- How it Feels to be Back Home by Nicki Brubacher

Hola mis amigos de SIA! My name is Nicki and I had the opportunity to travel to Peru on the May 2012 SIA trip. It was definitely one of the most uplifting and life changing experiences of my life. My eyes have been opened and those that I encountered on my travels have filled my heart with much joy. One of my professors would often share this quote with my class about her passion for travel: “Eyes that travel see’.  After going on this trip, I can now understand the meaning of this quote; I have now seen the world in a completely different and invigorating way.

I have been home now for one month and I have to admit, it has been a hard time adjusting. It took me a while to see any of my friends and I felt like my family couldn’t really understand what I had gone through. I knew they were happy for me, but they just didn’t see what I saw. I missed the kids of Pronei Daycare, Juan Pablo and Cristo Rey schools, and their smiling faces and infectious laughs. I missed the Peruvian SIA team, and the insightful conversations we had about their culture and lifestyle. I missed my fellow volunteers and the relationships we had built. For two weeks we were thrust into a whirlwind of adventure. And then just like that, it was over. I came home and everything felt foreign to me. It felt weird to use a computer, driving a car felt strange and I know I wasn’t the only one who kept forgetting that we could actually flush the toilet paper! Crazy that two weeks away from a normal routine can do that to someone.

One of the biggest things I have learned from my time in Peru is appreciation. Appreciation for the things I have and the people I love. I know this was a huge topic during our nightly discussions at the retreat house.  I am so grateful to the people of Peru for teaching me what it is to be part of a family and a member of the community. I envy their sense of pride and dedication to helping each other get through tough times.  I experienced this on one of my favourite days in Pacifico de Villa on my first day of volunteer placements. After a fire had destroyed a family’s home, it was their neighbors and friends that rushed to their side as soon as it happened.  Their sense of pride and eagerness to learn, teach and contribute to the well being of others should be admired.

I think about my time spent in Peru everyday. I find myself scrolling through the pictures reminiscing over and over, until my parents walk in and say, “Are you looking through those pictures again?!”.  An experience like this will never leave you. I believe that it will stay with someone forever and impact their choices whether they realize it or not. Like I said before-life changing.

Te Amo Peru y SIA!

I miss you Corndoughs everyday!

-Nicki Brubacher

Nicki helping out at the daycare on the day of the community fair, May 2012