Monday, June 8th.
Oh my heart. Deanna. Kids. Moms. Families. Babies.
After breakfast and morning devotions and prayer, we all piled in two small buses. We used two smaller ones because going into the mountains requires smaller vehicles! (As it turns out, that’s not always true!) We headed up to Hualhuas just to the north of Huancayo to visit a Child Survival Project (CSP). When we arrived, the mothers and babies were out to greet us!
It was really exciting to see all the bright colors they were wearing! They really went all out which was humbling because I really don’t think any of us expected that! Compassion’s Child Survival Program helps mothers and babies to stay healthy because in poor communities, proper hygiene and health practices are not widely known. Something as simple as washing hands is taught at these projects to help moms prevent the spread of disease. Their babies can receive help with nutrition so they can maintain proper weight and avoid anemia.
My family group first visited the stimulation room where toddlers can play and learn motor skills. The kids were very playful, and it was fun to watch them laugh and play while the tutor that helps in that room explained how much she loved it.
Afterward, we went into the office where the records are kept, and moms and babies/kids get their check-ups which includes weight and other health standards. We met the project director as well as the nurse who helps teach the moms about proper nutrition and hygiene.
We then were able to visit various stations that represented other areas that teach the mothers valuable skills. They can learn to knit and even start their own business to help support their families. They learn baking for the same reason. We sampled their cakes, and they were marvelous! They also learn the proper way to wash their hands and their children’s hands. The mothers receive training for teeth brushing as well. Some of our group were able to purchase some knitted items! After our official tour, we were able to talk and hang out with the moms and babies. The little ones even did a dance! Well, they got really shy so mainly their tutors were dancing!
After the visit to the CSP, we headed back to the buses to travel to our next stops which were home visits. My family group had 5 people in it, and we visited a family of 8! When we walked in the doorway, there was no roof, and the floors were dirt. There was a small porch-like area in the back near the house. This is where we stayed for the visit. The next to youngest daughter, Camille, was in the CSP program. I wish I could remember her mom’s name (family group – let me know if you remember!). The father, Hugo, was home as he works in a brick factory down the road, but they only have him work when needed. The second floor of the home was where the older children slept, and there was a ladder leading up to it. The kitchen was in front of the home, but it was just an area made out of rocks and mud, and they cook with wood fires. Compassion provided food for all of us for lunch, and we left anything we didn’t want or need to eat with the family. We also brought a gift basket with more food and supplies in it for them. The grandparents (paternal) lived down the road and joined us for the visit. The oldest son (12) was not home since he had school in the morning.
The tutor from the project also came with us. They do home visits during each month to teach the mothers new healthy recipes and to check on their progress with other skills they have been learning. Camille had some toys that the project had given her.
We asked Hugo if we could pray for anything specific for them, and he said that he just wants their family to be happy and healthy. They have so little, and he just wants them to remain a family. I didn’t feel a sense of despair at this home; I felt hope. They were so welcoming, and it was nice to have good conversation with them. There was a chicken and a couple skinny puppies wandering around the house while we were there. It is currently winter in Peru. They said that during the rainy season, the area in front of the house turns into a lake.
We prayed for the family as a group and then had to head back to the bus. Our next stop was a brand new Compassion project. The children there do not yet have sponsors, but once the start-up grant runs out, they will be released for sponsorship through the church (in the US, Canada, etc.) that helped them get started and through Compassion. Even so, the kids were beyond thrilled to have us there. After making our way to the receiving line, we got handmade cards and hugs! That was the best. I met a little girl named Deanna who was 8 years old. (I am so proud; I was able to actually ask that and understand her in Spanish! Then of course she thought I could speak more and then really confused me!) She gave me her card, then a hug, and then stood with me with her arms around me. Eventually she sat in my lap, and her teachers had to come and get her for class!
We heard the pastor talk about his vision for the project and how excited he was to have the ability to provide resources for these kids. We heard classes sing songs and then visited classrooms to see what they learn and what they were working on. Kids in Compassion projects usually attend after school so you’ll see them in their school uniforms a lot. Today they were learning about the story of Moses. We got to ask the kids questions and let them ask us questions too. The funniest question I got was probably “why are you so tall?” I let him know that my parents are both tall too! (I’m 5’11”.) That was in Deanna’s class. When we asked them if they knew where we were from, Deanna knew it right away because she had asked me that earlier!
You may notice that the girl in front is wearing orange cords. That’s something the schools do for good behavior, and they have certain ranks and responsibilities. It looks cool too!
After visiting the classrooms, we gathered around the staff and prayed for them. It was a little intense because as we prayed, the staff prayed too. I could also hear them crying which made me cry too. It was just an amazing experience. They are the hands and feet of Jesus to these kids. We ended with hugs all around and took a group picture.
We returned to the hotel for dinner, but it had already been such a long day, and it was really the first day we had activities! One of the challenges that we had all week was drinking plenty of water while at altitude and then worrying about the availability of bathrooms. Generally they were small, and you weren’t guaranteed t.p.! Most of us carried some, but you also could not flush it.
As usual, we returned to the hotel for reflections on the events of the day together and dinner.
Stay tuned for Day 4 – Sapallanga!