July 12, 2011

Service in Ayacucho

In Ayacucho's Plaza de Armas

Ayacucho is one of Peru’s most historically significant places. During the 6th century A.D., when the Wari civilization ruled much of Peru, its capital was located just outside of what is now Ayacucho. Twelve hundred years later, in 1824, Peru’s struggle for independence from Spain ended in victory with the Battle of Ayacucho. And it was here in the late 1970s that the revolutionary Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) movement started, with the goal of destroying the existing society to build a new communist state. The battle that ensued between Shining Path and Peruvian government forces resulted in an estimated 69,000 deaths, and countless people, mainly Quechua-speaking peasants, suffered severe human rights abuses. The Shining Path’s leader, Abimael Guzmán, was captured and imprisoned in 1992. Today Ayacucho is a safe, bustling regional center that four SSTers are calling home for six weeks.

Kim is teaching English at Institución Educativa Cristiana William Thompson, an elementary school with about 60 students.  She stays busy with her students and her host family, which includes five siblings, ages 1 to 18. Jenae is working at Institución Educativa Privada Inicial Vidas, a preschool and kindergarten where she is assisting the teachers and helping her 2- to 5-year-old students learn some English. She also recently taught her students how to make pizza.

Peter and Tahnee are helping out in a few different medical environments. They spent the first few weeks working in a small clinic that’s in the same building as Jenae’s school. They’ve also been assisting at a clinic in the village of Quinua, a 50-minute drive on winding mountain roads. Most recently they’ve been working with Medical Mission International to assist American and Canadian health professionals who are conducting a health campaign. Peter has been translating for doctors and patients, and Tahnee has been working in the pharmacy. Both have had a chance to see all kinds of health problems and help patients who have limited resources.

All four SSTers have been enjoying Ayacucho’s mild weather, beautiful natural surroundings, and strong Quechua culture.

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