Peru, Summer 2011
Thanks to TFI, I have had an amazing, and one of the most humbling experiences, working with children, teenagers and young adults in La Comunidad de los Ninos Sagrada Familia in Lima, Peru. A community that started as a refuge for orphans and street children in 1989 in the middle of a sandy desert on the outskirts of Lima, it has now expanded into a home for 850 children, ages 1 month to 21 years, complete with a public school, more than eight after-school programs to teach children to be self-sufficient (including bakery, sewing, welding, music and different levels of English classes), and a medical clinic that serves residents from within and outside of the community.
For eight weeks, my colleague, and now a dear friend, Yolanda Peneda, and I lived in the dorm with about 50 girls, ages 15 to 21 years, and we participated in all aspects of their lives, acting as their supervisors, mentors, English tutors, mediators, occasionally even as parents. I have also carried out various informal talking circles with the girls on different health issues, and resolved a few conflicts among the girls.
Beyond close relationships with the girls, we have supported various projects and participated in the daily function of the entire community. We offered four to eight hours of English classes weekly for middle and high school students, organized the girls to cook meals for a community of 850, helped raise funds for a funeral and a project caring for the environment through freeing caged birds, and worked as interpreters / liaisons for the community when groups of foreign visitors arrived. We also translated and updated information for the community’s website, explored alternate funding sources and ways to make the community more visible. I also taught Chinese to a few interested students.
Currently, they are seeking support for: 1) Clothing items (preferably ones that dry quickly due to the winter drizzle, and because they are in continuous shortage of clothing); 2) second-hand musical instruments for the youth who frequently perform at local fundraising events, and for those in the music workshop; 3) English teachers who can stay longer than six weeks; 4) Volunteers with experiences working with teenagers and college students to serve as mentors (preferably ones who know Spanish and can stay for two months or more), and 5) funding and setting up a microloan system to support university students and encouraging them to give back to the community.