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Peru SST

Sharing our Daily Bread

Reflections by Julia Baker: "It was our second day here at Yurac Yacu and we had a lunch invitation. Nancy, one of the Peruvian women that works at The Lazy Dog Inn, was having a birthday and it was being celebrated with a nice lunch, a feast we were of course invited to even though we had never met Nancy. Crowded into Nancy’s dark adobe house we ate together – tin plates piled high with potatoes, a cuy and very spicy sauce. A one-liter coke bottle was passed around and squares of chocolate cake toppled onto the tin plate. For most of the meal I was overwhelmed by the six potatoes in front of me and the spices that made my eyes water and nose run, yet the welcoming smile from Nancy and the clink of forks around the circle felt like such a beautiful community – a communion – that all I could do was smile back.

Serving in Huaraz

Krista with her host Grandmother There are seven students serving with four organizations in the greater Huaraz area. Sarah and Julia are volunteering for Andean Alliance, a nonprofit organization started several years ago by Diana and Wayne, owners of the Lazy Dog Inn.  Each morning our students leave the comfort of the Inn and walk a bumpy trail to a nearby community of Quechua-speaking farmers.  They work with preschool age children, promoting early childhood development among a population of kids that receives relatively little physical, intellectual and emotional stimulation.  In the afternoons, they devote their energy to teaching English and playing games to help further the development of an eager group of school-aged children.  Julia and Sarah's enthusiasm and love of learning are contagious.

Serving in the Jungle

Two worlds meet Kelly and Micah volunteer for a fair trade company called Chanchamayo Highland Products.  Founder Jose Jorge grew up on a farm and understands how difficult it is for agriculturalists to support their families and provide a better life for their children.  He pays higher prices than most other buyers by insisting that those who produce his coffee beans and rain forest fruit do so sustainably.  But he can only buy as much as he can sell, and thus far his customers are limited to a small segment of the certified organic market in France and Germany.  One of his biggest worries, seldom verbalized, is that desperate farmers will soon turn to the production of coca leaves, a strong temptation given its high price.

Serving in Chimbote

Outdoors at a gang-prevention program Chimbote is famous, both among Peruvians and former SSTers.  Peruvians think of the fish that are caught here, home to some of the best Ceviche on the coast.  SSTers think of Father Jack, Sister Peggy, Charles, Jaime and the hundreds of other characters who perform good words and minor miracles at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish each day. Sadly, the city still suffers from deep poverty caused in part by overfishing, this year's El Nino effect and the resulting decline of its principal industry.  Seeking to avoid the smell that characterizes an aging fishing port, most of the wealthier residents have moved to nearby Nuevo Chimbote (New Chimbote).  Those left behind try to eke out a life in the dusty streets and ramshackle buildings that comprise the older parts of the city.  The children here are particularly vulnerable to hunger, disease, violence, chemical dependency and gang activity.

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.