Megan, Luke and Dan are volunteering in Tarma, the “Pearl of the Andes.” Also known as the City of Flowers, Tarma is situated in a protected valley on the eastern flank of the highest mountains in the western hemisphere. The sunny climate is conducive to agriculture and flowers are exported to Lima and other markets on the Peruvian coast. Tarma is located on the Carretera Central, the main highway linking Peru’s capital to the central rain forest, and trucks arrive daily bringing tropical fruits and other products grown in the jungle.
Megan and Luke are serving at Colegio Fe y Alegria (Faith and Happiness School), a primary and secondary school founded by the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church. Sister Patricia, a nun from Australia, oversees the operations of the school. Funds to pay the teachers are provided by the state but the facilities were built and maintained by the Jesuits. Sister Patricia and her dedicated staff run a tight operation — the campus is adorned with flowers, classes start and end on time and there is a palpable sense of order and tranquility. The children are respectful of the teachers and well-behaved — Megan’s host sister says this is because Fe y Alegria is “closer to heaven than other schools”. It is true — the school is located in the Vista Hermosa (Beautiful View) neighborhood of Tarma, a humble collection of recently-constructed houses that provide dwellings at the edge of the city to migrants from the countryside.
Megan teaches English to each grade in the primary school. Her lessons focus on basic vocabulary and pronunciation. She also spends a significant portion of her day, the first hour and a half each morning, assisting a special needs student in the second grade named Katy. Megan enjoys sports and she works with the physical education teacher, helping teach volleyball and basketball to children in the primary classes. Megan’s friendly personality and enthusiasm for teaching have made her quite popular with the children she teaches and very helpful to the school staff.
Luke spends most of his time out-of-doors. He works each day with Hector, who is responsible for the gardens and grounds, helping to keep the school’s landscape ordered and aesthetically-pleasing. The grounds here are notable for the flowers, thanks in part to the work of past SST students who assisted with their planting and tending. Luke’s main task has been to dig rectangular holes that will be used to make compost. The school leadership is concerned about food waste and is hoping to turn vegetable peals and discarded leftovers into compost that will help supplement the hard clay soil. This is the dry season in the Andes and digging the holes is difficult work. Hector is happy to have someone help him — Luke’s willingness to work each day, despite the blisters he has earned, is appreciated by the school staff.
Dan volunteers at an after-school program sponsored by Compassion International and operated by a newly-planted Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. The program provides hot lunches and a safe place to learn and play for more than 300 neighborhood children. The kids spend their afternoons here working on homework and taking part in learning activities organized for each age group. Dan assists the teachers, helps children with their assignments and provides a positive male role model to children who are often neglected by their families and do not get the attention they deserve at home. Dan’s flexibility and easy-going nature make the children feel comfortable around him and the program staff are pleased to have another adult around who can lend a helping hand.