VILLA EL SALVADOR, Peru.
The Teresian School in Dublin (Ireland) celebrates now eleven years working with the Teresian group of Villa El Salvador, Peru. The project began eleven years ago when Inés Neira, the Teresian School Manager, in conjunction with Janett Ramirez from Solydes, proposed to bring a group of students to Peru to raise awareness about the poverty in that area of the country. Since that year, 2006, nine groups of students have passed through Villa El Salvador accompanied by teachers and and former mothers and past pupils. The experience now continues with the Centro Cultural Guadix team.
The 17-year-old volunteers prepare to travel to Peru during the entire fifth year of high school, raising funds to support the TA Centre in Villa El Salvador and attending workshops to prepare for this experience before leaving. In these sessions we do meditation, we talk about their personal preparation and at group level, we give information about different interesting realities, we talk about ways of life when arriving in Peru and practical things to take into account or to avoid, among other things. Our Volunteer group arriving in Peru begins with an approach to historic and colonial Lima and then move to Villa El Salvador where work begins to support the Teresian Association projects.
Here students come into contact with different kindergartens that cater for students from impoverished families with very few resources and whose teachers have taken part in the teacher training offered by Teresian Association. In the morning, the students help in the schools and in the afternoon they work in different jobs or helping with homework, in manual work and activities for children organized in the toy library.
So far the volunteers have helped organize the library, clean the park, plant trees and plants, arrange sports facilities and engage the neighbourhood children in different games and activities. During these, the volunteers approach the reality of Peru in an authentic way, developing relationships with the people they meet. During this experience, the students also meet the students of the Isabel Flores de Oliva School of the Teresian Association in Lima and the Fe y Alegría School in Villa El Salvador. In these meetings, the students share their experiences, life expectations, and their culture in an exchange that makes this experience even more enriching.
During their trip to Peru, the Irish students also have the opportunity to discover this wonderful country by travelling to different areas of the country. Different groups have travelled to the sierra and the Peruvian jungle, the islands, the desert and the coast bringing back some images and flavours of an unforgettable land.
We end with some testimonies of the first impressions that our students have had:
“It has been less than a week and already we can feel the significance of this once in a lifetime summer volunteer trip. In the months, weeks and days leading up to this, in our minds we were preparing. We had all the gear, all plans were in place; we believed we were ready for what was to come. How wrong we were! We now know that no measure of mental preparation or rechecked packing list could possibly be enough. Nothing could have possibly softened the wave of emotions that we felt on that crucial first bus ride towards and through Villa El Salvador. The poverty and destitution that we witnessed was a vision that will never truly leave us. At the beginning it was daunting to even think about leaving the Guadix Centre and venture out into the desolate and dog-infested streets. We were content to watch from afar. However, the tide has most definitely turned. We have been welcomed with open arms by the people of Villa El Salvador and have seen first-hand their strength of character and community. We are looking forward to delving further into this raw but undoubtedly good-natured city and we can only hope that any one of our actions makes even the smallest difference.
A big thank you to the teachers, Lorena and Natuca, who have given up their time to accompany us for nearly three weeks.
Thank you very much to the team of Centro Cultural Guadix, Eli, Elena and Edilia for looking after us with such care."
Aoife, Emily, Emma, Holly, Kate, Jane y Sarah.”
This year, the group arrived on June 8 and will leave on the 24th. Time has flown and there is a sense of deep joy in the group and also of grief for the realities they have seen before their eyes. Together with their parents they have gathered funds for the projects and have paid for their own trip by working in different things and saving for their journey and keep.
A unique experience to be recommended to other Teresian Schools.
The end to this fantastic and eye-opening journey has come too soon. The shock of seeing Villa el Salvador for the first time will stay with me forever and Villa will always have a special place in my heart: the people here have truly inspired me.
They have shown me the true meaning of faith, love, strength and appreciation. For people who have so little they have been so generous. Everyone here has had such a positive impact on me and I hope I have done the same for them.
My time here has been truly opened me to the world around me and the mazing people in it, both the girls and teachers I came with but also the new amazing friends I have made here. All these experiences and people have definitely molded and shaped me into a new, better person, and for all this I am so grateful.
Now that we are coming to the end of our trip, all I want to do is stay. It has been the most incredible trip, where we have got to meet some amazing and inspiring people.
Upon reflection, this has been a life-changing trip. Although we have only spent a short time here, the memories I have made will live on with me forever. The people in Villa El Salvador have inspired me with their strength of character and their undeniable faith. As I prepare to pack my bags to leave I am bringing home many more life experiences and unforgettable memories than I left with.
Anything I write will most definitely pull this extraordinary adventure we have experienced together up short. I am finding it difficult to even attempt to reduce this trip to just a few choice words. The girls who arrive home on Sunday are not the same as those who embarked on the journey. We no longer live in blissful ignorance of the world right at our doorstep. What we have experienced can never be taken away from us and I know that the people we met and the things we did have reshaped us and will have a lasting impact on us all, one that without doubt will never truly leave us.
Simply, our time in Peru has been a truly extraordinary experience, in fact it was honestly life-changing. We met so many inspiring people who have completely shaped my experience. I had an amazing time, I wish I could stay longer! I will always cherish my memories from Villa el Salvador. I feel priviledged to have spent this time with some of the people of Villa. I could not recommend it enough as a trip.
Villa El Salvador has completely exceeded my expectations. My journey here has been unbelievable and I have met many amazing people whom I would love to meet again in the future. Villa has completely opened my eyes to suffering and I genuinely believe it has changed me for the better as a person.
Coming towards the end of the trip I am both incredibly happy, looking back on what we have done, and also very sad to leave. I have seen a lot on this trip, from the poverty of the people of Villa El Salvador to the strength of their community and the enthusiasm of all those who volunteered to make this a better place. I know I will remember most the people of Villa El Salvador because they have sparked a wish in me to continue helping others by doing whatever little I can.
Lorena Lampedecchia y Natuca Cordón, Villa El Salvador, Peru.