An unannounced visit and a surprise invitation

If we think back to when we were younger, most of our closest relationships were with people who were lived just down the road. The community would never stretch much further than beyond the main road. However, the interactions that we have with the communities in South America are different. Children in the communities and the Canadian participants build strong relationships and in many cases they become attached to one another in a way that they never experienced before. However, for most of the year these relationships are separated by about 6000 kilometres.

What happens then when we leave the community? How do the friendships sustain themselves once we leave the community? Do the bonds we made begin to loosen? An announced visit to the community and a surprise invitation changed my understanding of our relationships and our community.

Above the busy bus “terminal” in Pacifico, the soccer field remained empty, there were no kids to be seen welcoming us, or preparing for a visit to the park. Just a few shouts could be heard as kids called to one another between the makeshift houses. It was a far cry from the one hundred community members who bide us farewell the previous F

riday. I was not disappointed. I like making announced visits to the community, either alone or in small groups. It is as if we get a genuine snapshot of everyday life in the community.

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No me olvides – “Don’t forget me”…

It has taken me almost a week, but I think I am now able put it into words.

No matter the promises we made, they could never be sure that we ever would return.

When we were greeted by children they would cling on to us, almost in desperate. As if by holding us they could keep us forever, never leaving them alone. The goodbye was much harder. The image of the child from Ampliacion Pacifico, who whispered in my ear  “No me olvides” (Don’t forget me) as we said our goodbyes in 2010. It is not easy saying

goodby to someone who you may never see again. Many times we have left communities in tears, both the Canadians and the local communities. Communities left in the balance and the unknown. I have always felt that although we gave everything we could during our two weeks, it was not enough. I never felt comfortable leaving the communities in this feeling of the unknown.

I am no closer to resolving this concern, but I feel that we are moving towards something. I think with every visit we are getting closer to helping the community realise that we will

continue to support them. The goodbyes are shorter the hugs are becoming more relaxed.

Follow me in my next few blogs as I try to express and grapple with what I have been feeling.

There is always a lull that follows an SIA trip. As is the case with many intense experiences once they are run their course it takes time to regain your feet.

However, this time it was different. After an emotional goodbye I was prepared for the upcoming lull.

The remaining SIA team left the airport in silence. Nat, Kathryn, Calyn and I, all deep in thought and all visibly missing our friends. Everything seemed to indicate that we would experience an anticlimax.

Feeling that we needed to continue the experience, we decided to visit the community. On the way to the community we stopped in for a visit to Virgen del Carmen, the orphanage where the SIA May participants laid a floor. The orphanage is also the site of Calyn Pettit and Jen Bolus’ building leaders program, Project Karma (August 15 – August 19). Follow

Calyn Pettit and Jen Bolus at

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Getting to know the doctor


Dr. Kathryn Noel, a professor at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Education, Kathryn as she prefers to be called, has been in education for more than thirty years. She has experience in almost every type of teaching job, including teaching at a high school, acting as a consultant, and working for the Ministries of Education. Kathryn has spent the last twenty-five years helping young, eager university students and professionals become effective teachers in various Faculties of Education.

Solidarity in Action has been fortunate to have hosted Kathryn in Peru for the last two weeks. What a two weeks it has been! Kathryn travelled to Peru to participate in the August SIA program and to lead a conference for teachers. As a result of her having travelled to such places as Sierra Leone, Mongolia and China, students from all over the

world can attest to the high quality of teaching that she expects from them, and she expects nothing less from herself. As a professor, she never says no to an invitation and will willingly drive out to visit a student teaching in a practicum. (As her translator and personal  “agent” in Peru, this blogger can attest to her hard work, desire and never-ending work ethic).

Kathryn’s first two weeks were highlighted by leading SIA’s first conference in Estrategias y pedagogicos (Strategies and Pedagogy). Forty teachers from in and around Chorrillos, Lima, learnt strategies to motivate their students through engagement and by using sound teaching methods.

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Postponing almuerzo and receiving love: Two stories that may help us understand

When I left you last I was just about to introduce you to two stories that took place during our time in the community of Pacifico de Villa. The first story highlights a small sacrifice that goes along way.

During one of our days volunteering in the shantytown of Pacifico de Villa, the community members and the Canadian volunteers had been working on the retaining wall. It was approaching the regular time for the Canadian snack and the Peruvian almuerzo (lunch – the biggest meal of the day). There were indications that both groups were beginning to get hungry. In past experiences it has been a challenge coordinating meal times on the construction site. Community members like taking a large lunch, but unfortunately by the time they return the Canadian have to finish for the day. We depend entirely on the support of the community to complete the projects and are unable to continue our projects while the community has lunch. Aware of this concern, we spoke to the community leader, Florentino. He agreed that the community should forego lunch until after the volunteers had left the site so as to maximize their support. A number of the community members were noticeably uncomfortable with this prospect. However, they understood the importance of utilising the available time to work on the wall. The community volunteers agreed that they should delay lunch until after the Canadians had left the community. The community offered for the Canadians to take a rest, however, when the Canadians heard that the community had agreed to forego lunch, the Canadians refused to take a break. It was a touching moment. Each group willingly inconvenienced themselves so as to bring benefit to the other party.

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Stimulating Creativity

While the majority of our group of volunteers in Peru arrived home on Wednesday, August 10th to catch the last few weeks of summer before September and the new school year starts, Calyn’s work in Peru is not yet complete.

A trip leader for this 2011 August Peru trip and the head organizer for the English Second Language (ESL) volunteer placement, Calyn is spending some extra time in Lima and will be running an art and leadership program. The program is called Project Karma and participants will be the kids at Virgen del Carmen daycare and orphanage in Lima. A journalism graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University, Calyn was impressed by the creativity and talent of some of the children that she spent time with during an SIA trip last summer. The kids took pictures of their friends and the scenes around them using the disposable cameras that she provided. With logistical and partnership support through Solidarity in Action, she created Project Karma photo exchange, a program for Canadian and Peruvian children to take photos and share them with each other as a way of building cultural awareness and appreciation.

Starting Monday, August 15th, Calyn and her friend Jen will run a five-day visual arts and leadership program for 24 kids and teens from Virgen del Carmen. The participants, between the ages of 9 and 15, will have the opportunity to develop leadership skills through team work and activities, and express themselves through visual art projects which include photography, painting, drawing and writing.

Last week, our entire SIA volunteer group had the opportunity to stop in and visit the daycare/orphanage, which is home to 16 children and operates as a daycare for another 24 local kids. We only had a short visit with the kids but they were happy to see us and eager to share some of their drawings. The director Clara and the other staff members were warm and welcoming. Solidarity in Action has worked with them during the SIA trip to Peru in May. Volunteers worked with the children in the daycare, assisted in the expansion project by pouring a concrete floor and providing medical check-ups and basic treatments from volunteer nurses.

With Calyn and Jen’s hard work and dedication to helping the kids at Virgen del Carmen, Project Karma is sure to be a success! Find out more about Project Karma and follow the progress of the program starting Monday, August 15th (complete with photos and art work by some of the kids) by visiting the blog at

Child at Virgen del Carmen
Games and toys
"It's not 'goodbye' it's 'see you soon!'"