“A Volunteer Story: Jamie Prong”

I have always wanted to volunteer abroad, but there was always the question of how I could go about doing this. Then, I heard about Solidarity in Action (SIA) from a friend at school, and I decided to join SIA’s social justice trip to Peru in 2010. I’ll be honest and say that I really did not know what to expect, despite the very thorough briefings I received from my trip leaders. For the most part, I expected to teach Peruvian children, maybe help build stairs or fix up a school, and teach children how to brush their teeth. Little did I know that I would be jumping into the two weeks that would evidently change how I saw the world. Yes, I taught children English, I taught children how to brush their teeth, and I helped fix up a daycare, but what I got out of these experiences was so much more than the satisfaction of helping a community for a few days.

The gratitude expressed by the community members was overwhelming. People you don’t know – who don’t even speak the same language as you – hug you, and sometimes even cry, while they hold the first tooth brush they have ever owned. It’s humbling to see, and the emotions you feel in simple moments like these is astounding.

To return to South America with Solidarity in Action was the simplest choice I ever made. I knew that’s where I belonged. In the spring of 2011, I traveled to two countries: Peru and Ecuador. Though we were working with very different communities in either community, the same level of acceptance and sense of community was present in both.

It is these experiences that fueled my drive to truly understand what the term ‘solidarity’ means. I am still looking for an adequate definition, but each time I return to South America, the meaning becomes a little more clear and close to my heart.

– Jamie Prong, SIA Trip Leader (Peru 2012, Peru 2011, Ecuador 2011)

Jamie learning about the meaning of solidarity from the wonderful children of Monte Sinai, Guayaquil, Ecuador

“Students get crafty for a good cause”

Students at Pavillon de la Jeunesse Elementary School in Hamilton are raising money to support the construction of a daycare in the community of Pacifico de Villa, Lima, Peru. Nathalie Pageau is a Grade 5 teacher at the school, and traveled to Peru in August with Solidarity in Action (SIA). When Nathalie returned to the classroom in September, she was eager to share her experience with her students. After learning about Peru and the work Nathalie had done there, the children were eager to help, too. Ever since, they’ve been busy making friendship bracelets to raise money for the expansion of a daycare centre in the shantytown community, Pacifico de Villa. During the August SIA program, participants helped community members to build a retaining wall that will support the planned extension of one of the classroom areas. Solidarity in Action is working directly with the community to execute this and several other sustainability and development projects.

The students at Pavillon de la Jeunesse Elementary will be selling their handmade bracelets at the school’s upcoming Christmas festival. To request your own, send an email to Nathalie at onerisingstar@hotmail.com, or info@solidarityinaction.ca.

Students at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse Elementary School in Hamilton make bracelets to raise money for the Pacifico de Villa daycare.

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!
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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, http://www.solidarityinaction.ca, 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.

Discovering the Nascans: Nasca Lines and Lake Haucachina

During much of the blogging experience I have been able to recount many of the experiences that we have had in Lima and in the community. On Tuesday during my layover in Panama I was able to gather some ideas together to provide you all with a better idea of a very interesting cultural and tourist experience-a visit to the majestic Nasca Lines. I hope you enjoy!

August 21, 2011

Last weekend the Doc and I packed up and headed out of the city. We decided to head to Nasca, a small city known for the remarkable Nasca lines.

Nasca is a city located about 450kms from Lima. It is an oasis, located 50kms from the coast. It is surrounded by the dry arid hills and sand dunes, the most prominent being the Cerro Blanco (White Hill), the tallest dune in the world.

Home to 30,000 residents, the city of Nasca has experienced a period of great growth, with the growing interest in the Nasca lines and other tourist sites.The city represents a nice mix of archaeologists, historians, local Nascan people (Nascans) and tourists. The Nascans still feel a connection to their ancestors. During our visit we saw a cemetery located near a significant ancient ruin that the Nascan people wtill walk to, to bury their dead.

We had an amazing time. Through a connection with Jorge Seminario from KUSA Bus Lines Peru, a man who arranges our transportation when we are in Lima, we were introduced to Josua Lancho (Professor Labcho), an energetic historian native to Nasca. Professor Lancho was a joy to be around and he kept us entertained with his stories, He seemed to know just about everyone in the town and he was greeted by just about everyone he saw around town. Lancho is an avid Nascan historian and as a result we were able to see artefacts from the Nasca, Guarni period at the museum of Antonio Antoleni, the Nascan aqueducts made a favourable impression on us. We even helped transcribe a document for Josua who is currently working on contributing his own theory on the creation of the Nasca lines. More than 70 lines exist. By taking an airplane flight one can see 16 images, including a monkey, humingbird and astronaut.

The Nasca lines we designed by the Nasca culture (400 AD). As we learned, historians debate the impetus for their creation. One theory states that they were created so as to be used during religious ceremonies to the gods. The other prominent theory was that they were designed for astronomical and cosmological purposes.

The highlight was our visit to Cahuachi. Cahuachi with its white walls stretches over 24km2. It is home to the largest ceremonial dig in South America and it is one of the largest in the world. When we arrived the archaeologists were busy uncovering and rebuilding the ruin. They had to stop at 1:00PM as the temperature becomes unbearable. We found out later that only a small portion of Cahuachi can be uncovered to ensure that it can be maintained. The rest remains underground.

The visit to Cahuachi corresponded with the serendipitous visit of Adine Gavazzi’s (archaeologist) to Cahuachi. Adine Gavazzi  has visited over 500 Peruvian ruins, which she has documented in her book, Arquitectura Andina. It was fascinating speaking with Gavazzi. When discussing her book, she explained that she hopes the book will help build awareness to the pre-columbian Peruvian cultures. It is her life goal to help the Peruvians learn about their history so that they can value the developed cultures that preceded the Spanish. It was an amazing experience being able to visit an archeological dig and speak to the members in charge of the dig.

After our nice time in Nasca we headed to Lima, making a morning stop in Ica. In Ica we enjoyed visiting Lake Huacachina, climbing the dunes and tasting Peru’s drink of choice, pisco sour, at one of the many vineyards. We then headed back to Lima to prepare for our busy week ahead.

The Nasca cultures are enchanting. I was left amazed by the Nasca lines and left in awe of such an advanced culture.

If anyone has the opportunity to visit Nasca and Ica I would highly recommend it. Your visit is sure to be enhanced if you stop by the Oro Viejo Hotel and tell them you are looking for Professor Lancho.

I hope these photos give you a sense of our wonderful experience in Nasca and Ica.

L. Shuttleworth

The Palpa Oasis - on route, Lima to Nasca.
Nasca residents mill around the main square.
Inside the cockpit - Nasca Lines
Astronaut, Nasca Lines, Nasca.
Spot the curly tail - Monkey, Nasca Lines, Nasca
Contemporary cemetery located minutes from Cahuachi. Nascans bury their dead in a location that maintains a connection to the past.
Magnificent Cahuachi!
Adine Gavazzi (archeologist) signs her newest book, Arquitectura Andina.

Impressive Nascan aqueduct

Artefacts - Antonio Antoleni - Nasca
Sand dunes - Huacachina
Buggies await passengers to head to the dunes.
The oasis of Huacahina - Lake Huacachina

SIA, Rotary and Cristo Rey bring water to Pacífico

During a community meeting in the shantytown of Pacífico de Villa, Javier, Solidarity in Action (SIA) Peru’s Regional Coordinator explained the possibility. Heads turned, families began to chat excitedly as they learned about the opportunity to have access to clean water. Water filters arranged by the Sunrise Rotary Club of Lima and SIA would allow families to have two litres of water every 30 minutes. The water filters are guaranteed for two years, require minimum maintenance and if looked after properly, can last up to five years.

Many people throughout Lima struggle to have regular access to water. Even when they do have access to water, they need to treat or boil it before it can be safely consumed. Many people spend hours a day just preparing their water before it can be used.

Solidarity in Action, the Rotary Club of Lima Sunrise and Cristo Rey School in Chorrillos, Peru have partnered together to provide 140 natural water filters to families in Pacífico de Villa at a discounted and affordable price. The Rotary Club of Lima Sunrise had access to 200 water filters. They had attained these water filters and wanted to provide them to the people in Lima in the lower economic bracket (classified as D and E under Peru’s classification system) at a discounted price of 10 soles (roughly US$3.25).

The Rotary Club had received the water filters months before, but they had struggled to find the best way to distribute them to populations in the greatest need. SIA, through founding member and Board member, Angus Shuttleworth, who is also a Rotarian and a member of the Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore, offered a solution. When visiting the Rotary Club of Lima Sunrise during his recent trip to Peru, Angus heard about these filters and he immediately knew that SIA would be able to find people who could benefit from the water filters. He was sure that the filters would offer a sustainable solution to the water shortage problems for the people of Pacífico de Villa. SIA began the steps to have the water filters sent to Pacífico.

Following the community meeting, Javier, left sign-up sheets with Luis Serna and the Pacífico de Villa leaders. Within two days, 120 people had signed up to receive a water filter. Yesterday, Friday August 19, Ricardo Grados, education director at Cristo Rey School and a good friend of SIA and the Rotary Club of Lima Sunrise, arranged for the drop off 140 water filters to the community centre in Pacifico de Villa.

Tomorrow, members from the Rotary Club of Lima Sunrise will participate in the delivery of the water filters to the families of Pacífico.

Follow us on Twitter tomorrow (@VolunteerSIA) as we deliver water filters to families in Pacífico de Villa.

L. Shuttleworth

Recently, SIA's Larry and Javier delivered a water filter like the ones that will be available to people in the shantytown of Pacífico de Villa.