Huanta, the “Emerald of the Andes,” is situated at 2,627 meters (over 8,600 feet) above sea level. Despite the high elevation, the sun shines almost every day in this protected valley and the daytime temperatures are warm. Home to over 80,000 people, this small city feels more like a mountain town. Most of its inhabitants moved here to escape the violence between the Shining Path Maoist terrorist movement and the Peruvian government in the 1980s and early 90s. These rural transplants have settled into the many neighborhoods that surround the business district. Here they have tried to make a new life — building homes, finding work and enrolling their children in school.
Ana volunteers at an organization called AFADIPH that was founded several years ago to provide services to the families, especially the children, affected by the armed conflict — many still struggle to make sense of their move from their farms and rural villages to this growing city. Ana supports program staff, teaches English and works with a group of youth that is focused on leadership development. She has been asked to design a workshop for women and another for children to help broaden their perspectives. Ana is eager to help and has found a variety of ways to engage with the organization’s constituents and staff. On the day we visited she and one of the lead staff members, Pastor Samuel, pulled out their guitars and sang us a song written about a battle fought on Huanta’s main plaza two decades ago. It is hoped that acknowledging the pain of this period in Peru’s history in an honest and dignified way will help those who were present move forward and, God willing, keep history from repeating itself.
Danae volunteers at the Iglesia Evangélica Presbiteriana y Reformada en el Perú — Cristo Rey (Christ the King Presbyterian Reformed Evangelical Church of Peru). The pastor and staff of this congregation have invited her to assist in a variety of activities. In the mornings she works as a teacher’s aid in the preschool that serves neighborhood children. She begins her day with the older (3-5 year-old) children and afterwards spends an hour or so with the toddlers — this group is particularly adorable. Given the high student-teacher ratio, Denae’s calm presence helps bring order to the day’s activities. In the evenings she is involved in programs for youth as well as for women from the church. And in the afternoons Danae teams up with Ana to teach English to neighborhood teens — this group is anxious to learn and overflowing with energy.