Wednesday, June 10th.
Today we stayed in Huancayo at a local center. We were running VBS in the afternoon at this particular center so it was nice to stay in one place all day but no less tiring! Upon our arrival, we hugged the staff and kids as usual and then entered to hear music playing and dancing/running in a circle with the director! It was a fantastic time! I know pictures of me exist running around with her, but I haven’t seen them yet! We were always met with such excitement everywhere we went that it just filled me with joy every time!
We heard the pastor’s vision for the center, and this guy just had the biggest heart. He’s been at the church/project for a long time. The project has existed there for about 12 years I believe. He’s outlasted and survived the gangs that used to be rampant in the area. They even have a small church in another part of town that we were able to visit where they host many children who can’t make it to the larger location.
We visited classrooms to start with, and they were such fun! This project is blessed enough to have workshops for kids to learn skills that will help them find work or start a business. First stop for my family group was the salon! The girls were so eager to do our nails so we jumped right in! Some even got their hair done or braided! It was so great, but the best part is that this skill can help them find employment! We also stopped by the bakery workshop to learn how they learn recipes and are taught how to bake. This is stuff the kids can really use! It can lift them out of their current economic circumstances and really better their situation. It was so encouraging to see. In fact, my manicure is still mostly intact but is starting to chip quite a bit! I really had a great time in this workshop so here are a ton of fun pictures!
So if that weren’t fun enough, we next visited the computer lab! These are computers that the kids can come and use to do their homework. Wendy, who is 19, supervises the students when she’s not in college classes. The schools in Peru require students to do a lot of writing and without the use of computers, it takes students a very long time to get their homework done. We talked to the students who were in the lab at the time, and they said it helps a lot to have that resource or otherwise they wouldn’t even be able to finish their homework! There aren’t many places they can go to use computers. I believe they said libraries don’t really even have them available for public use. (If I’m remembering this wrong, someone from my group correct me!)
We had a delicious lunch of various Peruvian foods. I’m quite sure it included potatoes, rice, and chicken in some form. I even tried some Inca Cola courtesy of my family member, Bill. He travels a lot for Compassion so it’s one of his favorites! It’s been described as tasting and smelling like cotton candy. I’d agree that it smells like cotton candy, but it tastes more like a sugary cream soda. I had some before I left!
After lunch, it was time for more home visits. We rode to a very hilly region of Huancayo that had a lot of poor neighborhoods. Most of the children will ride to school on a bus and then walk or take another bus to the project. The family we visited had a nicer home than the previous two we had seen out in the rural areas. This home was small, but there was electricity to a single light bulb on the bottom floor. There was also a small gas stove as well. I think one of the children was in the Compassion program. The upstairs was probably the same size and that’s where everyone slept, I think. As soon as I walked inside, the youngest, Elisa, went to me like a magnet! So, I knelt down and she used me as a chair almost the entire time we were there. My knees were screaming, but it was a small price to pay. I’m still floored that children like me at all! I guess our culture is just so different from theirs, and the fact that they just want someone to show them love is enough. (You’d think the fact that I’m a towering giant would maybe put them off, but apparently not!)
One of the really cool parts was asking the children what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answer that struck me most was from Elisa, who is 3. She said she wanted to be a brigadier. So naturally, we were a bit confused. It turns out her oldest brother is a brigadier in school which means he has earned, through good behavior and responsibility, the rank of brigadier which comes with cords that he wears on his school uniform. I have to say that it was quite impressive when we saw scores of school kids walking to or from school wearing these cords looking very sharp! It was just so sweet that she wanted to be like her big brother. Besides the basket of goods & supplies we brought from the project, one of our group gave the family a blanket which was nice because it gets down into the 30s at night in Huancayo so with no heat, you have to add blankets and layers! We didn’t have heat at our hotel so we knew what it was like. I’m so thankful that we did have hot water and toilet paper though. (Weirdly, the WiFi was better in Huancayo at our small hotel than in Lima at the large one!)
After the visit to their home, we met a few of the other family groups and the pastor at the small church nearby. It was so cool to hear how the pastor wants to expand the church’s reach. Please pray that the lady who owns the land they need will be open to reducing the price. I believe it will happen for them.
We went back to the project to start the VBS program we had put together. I helped with crafts which involved making construction paper link chains with prayer requests to form a giant caterpillar in keeping with the theme. We had to share a space with games, and it was pretty much organized chaos. The chain ended up being so large, it took two of us to move it from the third floor to the first floor where it was draped over the entire stage a few times over! I don’t have any pictures of VBS because there was so much going on! I do remember having to confiscate a ball for a while. Things don’t always go as planned, but we just did the best we could. I’m sure the kids enjoyed it anyway.
At the end of the day, we heard from a few different people from the center, including Wendy, the pastor, and the project director. After more prayer and hugs, I headed out to the bus as instructed by our trip leader. Soon I was the only one out there and heard music playing and nobody seemed to be coming out. So I got up and went back inside where a lady (not sure if a mom or staff member) took me toward the stage where a big dance party was going on with our group and anyone who was there – kids, parents, staff, everyone! It was so great! No pictures of that either. Hoping some appear on Facebook that I can move here. (Trip people – let me know if you have any, and I’ll be glad to post them for you!)
It was hard to believe Wednesday was already over. Every day seemed like a week of activity, but at the same time, half the week was done already! We had been going nonstop since we got there. Thursday was a day “off”, but there was still plenty of activity going on! I was trying very hard to just enjoy every day and not rush to Saturday (when I would meet Angely).
Update: Pictures from me with the project director (courtesy of Mary) and the sign the kids held up when we left!