My volunteer project took place at Kyuki-do Wasi. When I arrived at the home there were 9 girls, 8 babies, and 4 other volunteers visiting from the US, Canada, and Europe. The girls all came from villages in the jungle, and the large majority were the victims of rape from within their family. I can’t begin to imagine leaving circumstances like that and traveling hundreds of miles to an orphanage in order to raise a baby you never planned to have.
I’m having troubles finding the right words to describe my experience at Kyuki-do Wasi. I was, unfortunately, there for a much shorter time than the other volunteers. Despite our short time together, the girls were so warm and welcoming. It was easy to forget that these little women who were taking care of babies and an entire house are only children themselves. There were moments, such as a pillow fight that broke out when a teenage boy volunteer stopped by, or when the coloring books and crayons I brought from the states kept us all busy for an entire afternoon, that I was reminded that the moms where still kids as well. But then the moment passed and they were back to their chores, breast feeding, or offering me another cup of tea.
I expected my heart to be changed by these girls; I welcomed the change. I did not expect it to be changed in ways I could not express. The experience obviously made me grateful for all of the things that I have. My home and family, the security I have grown up with, the education that I have received, the abundance of anything that I have ever wanted, the ability to travel and see the world in an attempt to broaden my horizons. One of the girls was studying a map of the world one afternoon. I pointed out about where Colorado is on this map, and we looked at the distance to Peru. Most of these girls will probably never see a country other than Peru, and here I was having set foot on 4 of the 7 continents on that map, there for a week to play.
For all of it’s faults, the US is a pretty great place to live. I’m lucky that I was born here and not in a jungle village in Peru. And I think I forget that sometimes. A good example of this came during meals at Kyuki-do Wasi. We were served quite large portions during meals, always more than I needed. At home we put leftovers in the fridge and maybe, if we are lucky, half of those left overs are eaten before the food goes bad and starts smelling up my house. At Kyuki-do Wasi though, the extra food on my plate was quickly divided and shared between the girls who eagerly ate every last bite. And this happened at every meal. They never missed an opportunity to get a little extra food. I have many theories about why this happened, but none of them matter. What matters is that they gratefully took any extra that there was, and nothing went to waste. I have so much, but sometimes it feels like the extra I have is not enough to be worth sharing; like it may not make a difference. If I took one thing away from my time in Peru, it’s that what I can give is not too little. Whether it be just a few hours of a normal week, my leftovers, or one short week of my year. I may wish that I was able to give more, but that does not mean that giving what I can does not still mean something to the people on the receiving end. Of all of the lessons I took from Peru, this is the one that I hope to really apply to my life in the US and to my family, friends, and future career.