By Elisa De Venaro Viera (Brasil UWCAC06-08) and other UWCAC students
The 5 pictures above recount the story of the project in a cartoon format, using the pictures and adventures we went through to better illustrate and recreate our 5 weeks.Working in the orphanage ‘Virgen del Pilar’, a colorful oasis for abandoned children in the small town of Tarapoto, Peru, proved to be very worthwhile. We helped in whatever ways we could- from the kitchen, to accompanying medical visits, changing dippers, checking homework and even selling tickets in the streets for a fundraising event with our limited Spanish! A particularly interesting day was visiting lands where the orphanage grew most of the food used for the children and staff. We even picked up ‘aiuca’ roots, used for dinner that evening, as well as weeding reasonable sized fields. When it was time for the next adventure, we decided to leave a world map with all our countries marked as a gift to the children who in all their textbooks and books did not have the world to look at. From money we managed to save from the project we are also buying a medical apparatus that aids in muscle reconstruction for one girl who was scarred by mal nutrition as an infant, but who should make a full recovery with this machine.
The next part of our journey, took us to the depths of the Amazon forest. Our leader was a guide from the NGO CIMA, who through an 8 hour hike showed us the signs of deforestation and harm done to some forest areas that had escaped protection and been pillaged by coffee plantations. Going through some of the most remote villages many of us had ever seen, as well as experiencing the passion felt by locals for their natural heritage was most mind-opening. The message of preservation has now become much more than a fashionable and distant idea.
Our initial desire to work in the favelas teaching English did not go through for many reasons. The time of the project coincided with a shaky period in the city and since no risks were to be taken, we decided to head straight to the farm and start work on the school. This in fact proved to be a good decision because it allowed us to make a much greater change with the time we had and saved us stress and money from the city.
After a week traveling around, we were happy to establish ourselves a routine where we woke up at 5:30 am, had breakfast and just as the sun was rising hopped on to a tractor that commuted us to work. As soon as we arrived, we determined the needs and our goals for the school in the following 2 weeks.
These two rooms were used to create a library with donated books and reading area as well as a separate classroom for 3rd and 4th graders to be set apart from 1st and 2nd grade children. With unused wood and tiers we created a playground with swings, a see saw and a climbing frame, an exciting new attraction from the children’s point of view. We also created a vegetable patch, which the children were taught how to take care of and which will become part of their new lunch menu. Although not a foreign idea, recycling was not part of the lives of the children and their families- but we created a storage space where paper, plastic, aluminium and glass can be sorted and later sold for revenue for the school. Most importantly, it was not only the children who were eager to start their new projects, but also the teacher seemed to be more inspired and keen to keep the activities and new-injected life in the school going.