I went to Cuzco with my 14-year old daughter, Maddy, for her Spring Break. We didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping we would experience another culture and make a small difference to people. I was looking forward to some special time with my daughter, before she no longer wants to hang out with me. We experienced all this and so much more.
The Albergue is such a special place. The children live there while getting an education in the Cuzco schools. It would be too far for them to travel to attend school from their home in rural areas. They spend the week away from their families and travel home on the weekends. Some kids, like Samuel, cannot go home every weekend. Home for Samuel is a 10-hour bus ride. (This is the same amount of time it took us to fly to Peru from California.) The kids learn both Spanish and English, after their first language, native Quechua. They are expected to follow the rules of the school and study hard. Each child is assigned a chore, which they do without being told – often early in the morning. We enjoyed helping them with their English studies. Maddy taught them a song in English about llamas.
We met Rocio, who makes everything run at the Albergue. She is a very special woman. Rocio lives at the Albergue, so it is more than a full time job. She helps the kids with their studying, coordinates work assignments for the volunteers, and arranges for volunteers to see Cuzco and understand its rich history. She is a mother to the kids when they need a hug and provides stern, but loving discipline. She identifies opportunities to help the kids’ families. There is a picture of Ashton Kutcher on her door – he would be so lucky to meet someone like her.
We spent most of our time laying tile and painting one of the newly built rooms to be used for studying. The kids would come and help us when they had finished their homework. It was difficult work, but they didn’t mind and enjoyed spending time with us. They could have done any number of things with their free time, but were proud of their second “home” and wanted to help make it better.
We visited the home of one student, Hugo, whose family lives about an hour away from the school. His home is in a beautiful area, surrounded by green mountains. It was made up of four buildings with dirt floors and no plumbing. Water came down the mountain via cement drainage. One building was a two story living area, one was the kitchen, one housed the guinea pigs, and the last held tools and potatoes.
The kitchen did not have a sink or refrigerator - only a clay stove used for cooking. The stove needed to be replaced. Smoke was escaping, resulting in much smoke and carbon monoxide every time a meal was cooked. Our group worked with Hugo, his father and brother to rebuild the stove. The clay was made by mixing water and the dirt from the front of the kitchen with straw.
Maddy and I met people who have rich, full lives without many of the things we think of as “necessities”. They have conversations instead of texting and dancing instead of watching YouTube. We thought we would be the ones giving, but we received far more than we gave.
To view Donna and Maddy's blog from their timein Peru, click here.