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Archives for Spring 2010 Category

Service in Cusco

Sometimes you just know you are in the right place, at the right time. When heavy rains and flooding in the Cusco area arrived in late January, we were forced to cancel our plans to visit Machu Picchu.  But the disappointment this brought was little compared to the devastation suffered by those living in the low-lying areas of Lucre and Huacarpai. From the disaster emerged a new service opportunity for three of our students.  Tori, Joe and Jeff are working with pastors and volunteers from the San Jeronimo Mennonite Church to help residents of these farming communities clean up the mess created by the flood.  Some days this involves digging.  Other days it involves helping to dismantle a destroyed home to salvage building materials or recover valuable contents.  And everyday it involves bringing a smile and a sense of hope to the people whose lives have been affected by the unprecedented rains high in the Andes.

Serving in Ayacucho

Three students are serving in a new province this semester.  Ayacucho is located high in the Andes, an historically important region that hosted the final battle of independence against the Spanish almost 200 years ago.  It was also the birthplace of the conflict between the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the Peruvian military in the 1980s.  While the victory against the Spanish colonialists is a source of pride to the locals, the more recent conflict between the maoist terrorists and the government soldiers continues to haunt the tens of thousands who lost family and friends.  Fortunately, the most resilient have founded churches, schools and clinics to help heal the wounds and bring hope to a new generation.

Spending a Night in the Southern Cone

Most of Lima's population is made up of recent immigrants from the Andes or rain forest who inhabit the "cones" located to the north, east and south of the city.   We began visiting the Southern Cone during the second week of the program to learn what conditions are like for people living on the margins -- economically, socially, culturally. The city of Villa Maria is over thirty years old.  The original estera (reed mat) walls erected by the first settlers have been replaced with sturdy concrete blocks.  The residents benefit from running water, sewer and electric hookups.  The neighborhood may still appear "poor" by North American standards, but we discovered a richness we had not expected.


What do people living on the margins south of Lima need more than anything else?   There are many answers to this question, but the one that first came to mind for Corpusa is something basic and essential:  water. Chavin de Huantar is a young neighborhood an hour's ride from the city in a place called Villa El Salvador.  Corpusa and her husband were part of the "invasion"that took place here 10 years ago.  With hundreds of other homeless families, they showed up one day with construction materials in hand and divided the land into sixty-square-meter lots -- each about 20 feet wide and 33 feet long.  Desperate for a place to live, they assigned the lots by lottery and began erecting homes in earnest without either title to the land or permission to build.

Arts of the Informal Economy

We have developed a series of workshops this semester focused on how artists and artisans -- dancers, musicians, cooks and others with particular talents -- support themselves. We began with a workshop on dance by a long-time friend of the program, Pedro Farias.  Before demonstrating dances from the Andes, jungle and coastal regions of Peru, Pedro described what it was like to grow up in a musical family here in Lima.  He started performing at the age of four, traveling often with his parents and siblings to festivals in his family's hometown of Piura.

Green Hills, Healthy Children

We traveled an hour south of Lima and found ourselves in another world.  Before our adventure we asked the students two questions:  (1)  Are you ready for a hike? and  (2)  Have you ever spent the night in an orphanage? The consensus?  "Yes" to the first question.  "No" to the second. Quebrada Verde (Green Ravine) is a rare find just 20 miles south of the bustling metropolis.  Residents of this hidden hamlet have worked with a local nonprofit group to protect the natural area known locally as Lomas de Lucumo (Lucumo Hills).  We hit the trail eager to soak in the tranquil beauty and challenge our legs to some uphill action.  We were not disappointed. 


There is so much to learn when you first arrive. We settled into the living room at Goshen Tambo on our first morning of orientation and asked each student to check in. One described the excitement of being in a new country, like a child full of wonder at what he sees and hears around him. Then we worshiped together, giving each student a chance to reflect quietly on their experience before singing our version of "You've Got a Place (at the Welcome Table)". Summer has finally arrived here in Lima so our first lunch was a picnic in a park that overlooks the Pacific. The students opened their lunch bags to discover their first quadruple, a sandwich stacked with 4 slices of bread and different ingredients between each slice. Feeling an overwhelming urge to see the water up close, most of the group descended the hundreds of stairs down to the ocean itself.