A volunteer story

Today is the final day of my time here in Lima and let me begin by saying that this trip was a whirlwind journey! I came to Peru on June 7th to begin adventure of a lifetime. I will begin by introducing myself. My name is Afton McKee and I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I came to Peru with my school, the University of Manitoba through the Faculty of Education. I am a 23 year old girl with a passion for teaching and education. Though I was the only student from the Faculty of Education, I was able to come with a group of Nursing students and I am now proud to say that I am an honorary nurse!photo 1

Prior to my departure, I was unsure of what my role would be on this trip. I knew that I would be spending time in the Pacifico de Villa PRONOEI and also helping to run an after school program called Youth in Action. I was very excited, but nervous for what my travels would bring me. I knew that Solidarity in Action seemed like a reputable organization which the University of Manitoba approved, so I decided not to worry and to trust that I was in good hands.

When we arrived in Lima, we were greeted by a man who was smiling from ear to ear. I recognized him from the Solidarity in Action website and I knew that this was Larry Shuttleworth. He greeted us warmly, as though we were his own family and I immediately felt welcome. We were brought to our accommodations at a Retreat House, as our flight arrived late and we were off to bed. The next day we got to see all of the places that the group would be volunteering at. For me, the most interesting spot was the Pacifico de Villa PRONOEI. I had heard about their educational conditions and desire to learn more pedagogy, so I was eager to begin. I also got to meet a wonderful young man named Daniel who would be my personal translator.

photo 2photo 3As the trip progressed, I began my placement at the Pacifico de Villa PRONOEI as well as observing how classrooms operate in different areas of Chorrillos. I was able to visit Cristo Rey, a semi-private school that seemed to be most comparable with a Canadian public school. I stopped by Capullitos, a public school and Santa Rosa PRONOEI in San Genero II. Every place I went to greeted me with a warm welcome. In Cristo Rey, I was embraced with open arms and even invited to teach multiple English classes from kindergarten to grade 11. The Pacifico de Villa PRONOEI and Santa Rosa PRONOEI even invited me to lead a professional development session. I discussed how they could make better use of their classroom materials as well as classroom management. I shared many personal stories with these women and was so thankful for the glimpse into their lives that I was able to take.photo 4

There was one particular woman from the Pacifico de Villa PRONOEI who truly seemed to touch my heart. Her name was Flora and she taught a class of 3 year olds. Not only did Flora welcome me with open arms into her classroom, but she also invited me into her home so I could see how she and her family lived. Flora was extremely open with me and eager to learn whatever I had to teach her. She already had such a passion for teaching and a desire to expand her already diverse pedagogy. Flora was a remarkable woman and I feel so honoured to meet her and to have shared so many experiences with her.

On this trip I have had the privilege of meeting so many amazing and inspirational people. As I am an only child, Daniel took on the role not only as my translator, but also as my Peruvian little brother. I was able to meet a young man from Pacifico de Villa who had a passion for music and a love of people, especially young people. The principal from Cristo Rey, who welcomed me into his school, was another one of those inspiring people. While discussing the fundamentals of education with him and Larry, I was able to challenge my current educational beliefs and expand them further. He was a profound man who helped me to grow not only as an educator, but also as a person. The final person who I would like to acknowledge is Larry Shuttleworth, the executive director of Solidarity in Action. He is a man who is truly passionate about helping people. It was through his organization that I was able to journey to Peru and to help others. It was through his hard work and endless drive that I was able to be so embraced into the communities that I visited.photo 5

This trip to Lima has not only changed and evolved my educational perspectives, but also developed my outlook on life. I have such a greater appreciation for all of the luxuries that I have been granted, everything from clean drinking water to having a sewage system and a clean place to lay my head at night. These are all things that I took for granted in Canada that I have come to see the importance of here in Peru. Though many of the people I met lived in such poverty, they were still happy. The children had smiling faces and were excited to see everyone who came into their community.photo 4(1)

Tomorrow I will travel to Cuzco for the last bit of my trip. Though I am wildly excited to venture to Machu Picchu, it feels bitter sweet to leave such a wonderful place. I have had the privilege of spending 2 ½ weeks of my life here in Lima, and I am so thankful that I was able to have such an amazing experience.

Afton McKee

Written on June 22nd, 2013

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