March 30, 2011

Service in Arequipa

In the Plaza de Armas

In 1540 Spanish conquistadors in southern Peru settled in a mostly sunny spot—shaded at times by the nearby volcano, El Misti—that, for centuries before their arrival, was home to indigenous Aymara people. Today that settlement is Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa, with nearly 850,000 residents and a strong tourist industry that features nearby snowcapped mountains, deep canyons, and rivers, as well as impressive colonial architecture that led UNESCO to designate Arequipa as a World Heritage Site.

For six weeks Zach and Nick are teaching English at two schools in addition to serving at San Luis Gonzaga, a government-run residential care center for at-risk boys, where they work with 8-to-11-year-olds during classes and recreation time. Their schedule requires a fair bit of transportation time (six buses a day!) but they find the commute worthwhile. “The kids are always happy to see us,” Zach says. While neither has previous teaching experience, they’ve jumped right in with their English students from all levels of primary and secondary school, teaching them colors, animals, the family tree, and giving an introduction to verbs.

During the morning and early afternoon Ashley is working at Colegio Cristiano Salamon, where she assists in the 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old classrooms. In the evening she’s been working with a physical therapist associated with Medical Mission International (MMI) to provide therapy for low-income clients, many of whom are children. Ashley says the young clients she works with have “the most determination and most genuine smiles I’ve ever seen.” She has appreciated the connection between her service sites and her social work major.

Hannah is also working with MMI, where she has been doing PR and design work. So far she has set up an MMI Facebook page, created posters for upcoming health campaigns, and produced health information cards for common medical problems that volunteer doctors and nurses can distribute to individuals seeking treatment.  In the evenings Hannah has been working at a church-run café called Berea, where she makes coffee drinks, washes dishes, and has ample opportunity to practice her Spanish.

Ben is working three days a week at a church-affiliated farm, where he’s been building a tractor shed out of sandbags. He also works with MMI two days a week, organizing their warehouse and helping in the office. And two nights a week Ben puts his musical skills to work during the church’s worship band practice, where musicians have been learning and practicing the keyboard, guitar, and drums.

The students have just 10 more days at their service sites before returning to Lima for our final retreat.

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