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 with her new friends at Cristo Rey