Jessica and Cara’s service assignment is in Oxapampa. This charming town of 10,000 inhabitants is sometimes called “Little Switzerland.” An immigrant population from Austria and Germany settled here in the late 19th century and the food, architecture and certain aspects of the local culture have a distinct European flavor. At 1.800 meters (5,905 feet) above sea level, the temperatures are pleasant — not too hot, not too cold — although many residents are noticing the affects of climate change. This “summer” (dry) season is a lot more like the “winter” (wet) season than people are accustomed to.
Jessica serves at Los Jazmines (Jasmine) preschool and kindergarten. The school features a play-based curriculum, an innovative approach that is new to most of the children’s parents. Jessica assists the teachers in the classroom, helping as asked, and plays with the children afterward. With not much direction from school staff, Jessica’s challenge is to figure out how to support the teachers in the absence of a director and a clear job description.
Cara volunteers at Los Tres Reyes (Three Kings) primary school. The school is unique due to its emphasis on the arts and its basis in the Waldorf curriculum. Cara is especially suited for this due to her love for music and her ability to sing. The director has asked her to teach English through song to children ranging from kindergarten through third grade. She has taught old favorites like “I’m a Little Tea Pot” in the kindergarten classroom and was asked to teach Christmas songs to help prepare the children for the pageant in December. She suggested “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.
In the afternoons both Cara and Jessica serve at two after-school programs supported by Compassion International. On Mondays and Tuesdays the project is located at the local Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and on Wednesdays through Fridays it happens at the local Presbyterian Church. They eat lunch each day with the children, helping to serve the food and encouraging the kids to finish their plates. Afterwards they assist the regular tutors with Bible stories and crafts. Cara and Jessica have been very busy on service. In addition to their work at the schools and after-school programs, they have sung songs and shared messages at a local Christian radio station started by the Presbyterian Church. They have taught English to youth at Alliance Church in the evenings. And they were the featured performers at a recent Saturday evening concert of worship and praise music in both English and Spanish. Cara and Jessica’s willingness to share their talents and time with children from humble homes as well as members of two churches has been a blessing to everyone involved.