By Judy Weaver
Miranda and Jaime are living in Chiclayo, a sunny city of 630,000 residents on Peru’s northern coast. Chiclayo is the fourth largest city in Peru, founded several centuries ago by the Spanish. The area is rich in pre-colonial (and pre-Inca) history, including giant pyramids and an ancient royal tomb that yielded an amazing array of gold, tapestries, beaded collars and other treasures. Miranda and Jaime hope to find time to visit the museum where “El Señor de Sipán,” Peru’s King Tut, rests with his burial artifacts. Meanwhile they are very busy living and working in the quiet beach community of Pimentel, 10 kilometers west of Chiclayo.
Jaime and Miranda work with children at the Hogar Clínica San Juan de Dios. The Catholic facility serves children diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities. The two Goshen students assist clinic staff with providing general care, education and medical services to about 20 children in the residential care unit.
Miranda and Jaime reported that the first week was tough. The children are cared for, but many of them miss their families. Miranda said she learned quickly that when a small child is crying for her mother, all you can do is stay with her. In addition the education the children receive at the clinic is not what a school could offer. A single teacher has four hours a day to teach a room full of special-needs students of all ages, including some who have never attended school. After their first week, Miranda and Jaime sought the serenity to accept the things they couldn’t change, the courage to change the things they could and the wisdom to know the difference, to paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous serenity prayer.
They talked it over with each other and their host parents. This kind of mutual support is why Goshen students are generally sent to their service assignments in pairs. Miranda and Jaime decided to seek small ways in which they could have a positive impact. One was to work on teaching the children to share and to say “please” and “thank-you.” They say this small change made a big difference in the general atmosphere. Another was to learn the children’s names and ages, and try to give each one individual attention. Both of them have found ways to use their experience and talents. Jaime, who plans to study physical therapy, assists with physical therapy. Miranda, a music education major, offered to give the children short music lessons. This has become a daily event that the children clearly love.
On a typical day, Miranda and Jaime get up early to work out. After breakfast, they walk or take a bus from the neighborhood where they live to the clinic about a kilometer away. They arrive at the clinic around 8:30 a.m. to help the teacher in the school room. Jaime assists the physical therapist three mornings a week. They take the children outside for a while, then upstairs to the dining room to serve lunch and help feed those who need assistance to eat.
They go home for a lunch break, and then return from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The afternoon time is not programmed. They play with the children and have taught some of them to play Uno. “I am gaining a lot more patience,” wrote Miranda of her work at the clinic. Jaime agreed and added, “I enjoy the kids (for the most part) at the clinic and they’re starting to feel like my children.”
Jaime and Miranda’s host mothers are sisters who live a few blocks apart. The Goshen students have enjoyed being part of this extended family. Miranda says the highlights of her experience in Chiclayo are, “smiles from kids and long talks with my host dad while eating fruit.” For Jaime one highlight was a trip she took to the mountain city of Cutervo with her host family. She also loves visits to the nearby beach: “It’s beautiful there. I also love the weather. It’s perfect this time of year.”