By Sarah Nartiss (St. Francis Xavier University)
My experience with Nexos Comunitarios in Peru has been life-changing. I have wanted to travel to Peru since as long as I can remember. The week has allowed me to deepen my interest in the culture and struggles that Peruvians faced during the internal conflict. During my week with NC we were able to work on a Learning Service Program at two different schools first in Ventanilla and second in Malambito, both in different districts of Lima. The children we got to work with ranged in age from 4 to 15 years.
Working in Ventanilla was absolutely incredible. It was beautiful to see how excited and engaged the children were to be at school each day, and to be greeted by their smiling faces and a hug or a kiss. In Ventanilla we first participated in art activities with the children in which they were required to draw things they liked and didn’t like from their environment, capturing these ideas like a photograph. Next we were given real cameras, the children got to try them out taking action shots, and still frames as well as photos of people or objects around their school. Both activities were great because they really allowed us to learn about the students and connect despite the language barrier. I couldn’t get over how patient the children were when we did struggle to understand each other, and how eager and creative they were in finding ways to connect. Despite many of the children coming from homes that may be struggling financially, my group found that they were very happy and full of life.
Our second school placement was in Malambito which had a completely different vibe from that which we’d felt in Ventanilla. Ventanilla is located in the desert, up in a mountainous area and Malambito was in a busy area. This part of the project was a bit different, because we were switching places with another Canadian university involved there, and were required to complete the second portion of their project. We got to go out into the busy district with the children taking pictures of things that they liked and didn’t like from the map they created earlier in the week. Finally, we were to create a map with the children aspects of their city they liked and didn’t like all together. One thing that was different in Malambito from Ventanilla was that I was worried about the children’s security.
Despite them being safe and well cared for when inside the school, there was no control of what would happen when they left. Simple things like having the children walking in the streets alone made me worry. For this reason I was interested to see how the children themselves conceived of their role in the city through the negatives and positives they conveyed. These children were also so beautiful inside and out. They found joy in little things and really worked to connect and learn from us. I believe both sides were so appreciative about the new relationships we were forming and what we were learning from one another.
Despite some little bumps in the road like during any study, I think this initiative went well. I really hope that our efforts this week can be translated into something to improve the life and education of these amazing children, because they deserve it all so much.
My experience in Peru, I can honestly say, was life-changing. Learning about a new culture, new issues, practising a new language and making new friends was all what this week entailed. I had the opportunity to learn about myself in how I responded, engaged and learned in new situations. My time learning about the culture and people in Peru will definitely not be forgotten and I hope to return soon.