See you later, Seeds of Hope

I’m writing this from my hostel in Cusco, already missing all the children and friends in Huaraz I just left. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived in Huaraz two months ago, but I got out so much more that I ever imagined. My last week at Seeds was insanely busy, since I was determined to finish the mural that we had all hoped to complete. I had tons of help from the other volunteers, and in only 5 days, we turned a brick wall with cracked white paint into a mural with important Peruvian imagery. It has the Peruvian national tree and flower, and the vicuña (animal kind of like a llama or alpaca). It also has Huascarán, a huge and beautiful mountain that you can see from the school itself. Finally, we got the kids to get involved by them painting their handprints for the flower petals and leaves of the tree. The director of the school and all the volunteers put our hands around the sun and all the kids and us wrote our names in them. Though I was so sad to leave the school after frantically finishing the last handprints on Friday night, I’m really happy to know that there is something physical left of my time there, something that the kids helped make too and can be proud of.
I also never imagined just how close I would get to all the kids. They are all amazingly unique and I am so happy I was there long enough to get to know a lot of them individually.
Throughout my whole time there, but especially the last week, the kids would ask me when I was leaving and when I’m coming back. At first, I would tell them when I’m leaving but just say I don’t know when I’m coming back. By the end, I still said I don’t know when, but I said I definitely will come back. I have seen the school and kids grow so much during my time there, I’m so excited to see what other great things happen in the future. The school grew physically, with the old chipping paint replaced by bright blue and a mural outside. New floors were put in out back so the kids didn’t have to play in the dirt. Also, I saw the kids learn as Mily learned to read and ran around the school reading to everyone from her book. Yadira started asking for harder math problems and remembering her multiplication.
Now I’m finishing up my summer in Peru with a trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. I will be sure to stay in touch with Seeds of Hope and tell anyone who will listen about my amazing experience there, until I can go back myself.

Busy week at Seeds!

Got started working on the fence this Monday, which was great, except for the fact that we accidentally broke the water pipe in two places while digging the holes. Luckily the breaks weren’t too big so they didn’t take long to fix, but it was a setback for a little while!
One of the girls, Yadira, had been gone for over a week and she was finally back on Wednesday. She didn’t explain why when I asked, though one of the other volunteers said that sometimes when their moms are sick, the girls have to stay home to help them. After the second session on Wednesday, there was a man waiting outside the school with two kids. He said that they didn’t have much to eat and that his wife left. He was going to talk Yuri, who runs the school, to see if his kids could join. I hope that they can, but it’s so difficult because there can only be so many kids enrolled at a time.
On Thursday, we started priming the wall to paint the mural! I really hope I can get it done before I leave, but I still need to finish the design and get the paint for it. I really want to get the kids involved and have them put their handprints on it with their names in it.
Friday was really tough, with three volunteers leaving. We made tons of cookies and the kids all decorated them, which they all got a kick out of, but didn’t make it much easier to say goodbye. In the morning, I drew with Keler and he did an amazing drawing of a mountain for one of the volunteers who was leaving. I really hope he can help me with the mural and that I can draw with him more. I love finding out all the different things the kids like!
I had quite a few different lessons this week too. I learned how to make ceviche with Willy, which turned out really well! I also learned how to make two different types of bracelets from Marisol. I hope I can have a few more lessons from each before I leave.
Going into my last week here, I’m definitely not ready to leave Huaraz, especially all the kids. They constantly ask when I’m leaving and always say “noooo” when I tell them. I’m definitely going to make the most out of the rest of my time here, and hopefully finish the mural!

Where did the time go?

It’s finally starting to hit me that I only have about 2 weeks left here in Huaraz. Though I don’t leave Peru until August 3rd, the kids have vacations from school starting the last week of July, so that is when I’m going to travel to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu. Ive seen so many volunteers come and go, and I don’t want to have to be the one the kids are saying goodbye to! In the mean time, I’m definitely going to make the most of my last few weeks here.
Over the weekend, the other volunteers and I went horseback rising on the Cordillera Negra on Saturday, and then rock claiming at Hatun Machay. Both were absolutely amazing and things I never expected to do while I was here!
This past week, we started the exercise project with the kids. This has been a few weeks coming, since we first had to translate the directions from German to English and Spanish and then set up a schedule. We did spinal exercises with the kids first on Tuesday, and it went really well! They are supposed to help the older kids’ posture and flexibility, and I didn’t even realize how much some of them needed it until we did the exercises. We also did core and coordination later in the week, so I’m hoping we can keep the set schedule well.
This was not a good week health wise for the kids, since we found out that Mily broke her leg at home! She’s one of the youngest and so active, so I hate that she won’t be able to do much for a while. We’re planning to visit her once she’s home from the hospital, which I really hope will be soon. Another accident happened on Friday, when Yesenia tripped and hit her head on the wall. She had to get stitches at the hospital, but was such a trouper and kept telling us it didn’t even hurt. Yadira also hasn’t been here much recently, so I really hope that she isn’t sick since she seems to be a lot of the time.
It’s amazing how differently some of the kids work. Gina is almost impossible to get to focus and would rather guess an answer ten times than try to figure out the problem. On the other hand, Salvador always works quietly no matter how much work he has, and loves to make clocks out of paper once he’s done. I worked with both of them last week, and though Gina can be difficult, it’s great when she finally understands.
I finally finished painting the school logo on Thursday and I’m really hoping to start a mural on the side wall soon! We want to get the kids involved with it and have them make flower petals out of all of their hand prints.
On Friday, the kids performed their play Los Colores! It was adorable seeing them all excited to perform and we filmed it so we can show them next week. They had hand made costumes and everything and read their lines really well.
It was really different not spending the 4th of July in the US, but still really fun! The other American volunteers and I cooked a huge dinner and even got a thumbs up from our friend Willy, the chef. I can’t wait to see what else we’ll do this week!

Already over a month!

I can’t believe how long I’ve been in Peru! It’s gone by so fast, yet I also have gotten so used to life here. I’ve been trying to walk from the home stay to the school in the morning, and then take a colectivo (shared taxi – much cheaper) or taxi back at night. The walk is about a half hour to the school, so sometimes I take a colectivo instead in the mornings too. I’ve really loved the home stay so far. It’s great living with a family and being able to speak so much more Spanish!
Last week, there were three dentists here from Scotland. They were only here for a week, but it was amazing how much they contributed in such a short time! The examined all the students teeth and helped reorganize the toothbrushes we have at the school. Even though the kids brush their teeth at the school every day, a lot of them still have many cavities and dental issues. It’s especially tough to get the older kids to brush their teeth since they aren’t as used to it. The dentists showed all the kids how to brush their teeth correctly and talked to them about cavities, so I really hope it helps in the long run.
Last Friday, we practiced the play more with the kids. So far it’s going really well! They rehearsed more and made lots of colorful costumes out of paper. I’m hoping this coming Friday they will be able to perform it!
There also was no water at the school on Friday. We aren’t really sure why, so we were hoping to get it fixed over the weekend, but today it still wasn’t fixed. We had to bring big jugs of water from the apartment to use to make the kids snack. At the end of the day, it randomly turned back on! Hopefully it stays fixed.
This Saturday, I went with the family to Pastoruri since there was a festival all weekend. It was at the glacier that day, and the view was amazing! We left really early in the morning, but it was worth it cause I actually got to see snow! There was enough to build a mini snowman and have a snowball fight. There were even a lot of snowboarders and skiers around.
Over the weekend, two of the volunteers left. It’s so hard saying to goodbye to them, even though we haven’t known each other that long! I’m sure it’s really hard for the kids too, but they seem used to it, even though it’s sad. I’m really glad there are Peruvian volunteers that are there all the time, cause it gives the kids more consistency with all the international volunteers who have to leave.
Two more people also arrived this weekend, a new volunteer and new volunteer coordinator. They seem really great so far, and were a huge help at the school even on their first day there. One volunteer even is planning to help rebuild the fence in front of the school since he’s a carpenter. With that plus all the repainting we’ve been doing, it’s going to look really great.
Still trying to figure out what I can do for my capstone project! I have a little less than a month left, so I really want to get that going.

Lots happening at Seeds of Hope!

This has been a really busy past week at Seeds, and I was away for the weekend without internet, hence the late post. I moved into my home stay last Monday, and so far it’s been really great! The family is a dad and two daughters, and I instantly felt like part of the family. It’s definitely been improving my Spanish! The dad speaks English as well, but I’ve been trying to only speak Spanish around them, which at times is quite a challenge!
There have been some great improvements happening at the Seeds building. We finished painting the walls, and last week the back patio was redone to replace the dirt that was there before. Tiles were also put in around the back door, so now the kids can play out back without dirt getting kicked up everywhere!
All the dirt they dug up from out back got moved in the front yard, so we’ve been working on clearing out all the rocks from it so we can turn it into a vegetable garden! Though the dirt is pretty dry now, so it’ll take a lot of work to get there.
We started a new project with the kids on Friday which is a play called Los Colores. The characters are all different colors and a grand artist who needs them to help add color to the world. It’s really cute and has a great message about everyone being important even if they can’t do everything! The kids all seemed really excited about it and even wanted to take their lines home to practice over the weekends. I’m still not sure exactly what I’m doing for my capstone project, so maybe I can tie this play in somehow!
In the midst of all these great things happening, tragedy struck one of the primary students and her family late last week. They came home to find their house on fire and basically everything they owned was destroyed. I was happy to see how quickly everyone at Seeds sprang to action to help her and her family. The volunteers all pitched in to help buy her some new clothes and Seeds put together an online fundraiser to help her family with all the things they will need. It is so terrible that this happened, and I just hope that we can help as much as possible.

Learning every day!

My third week here in Huaraz, Peru has flown by! I’ve loved getting to work with the kids every day and get to know all of them! I especially love the primary school kids, who are adorable, hyperactive, and really sweet. I’m terrible with names, so I’m still trying to learn all 50 or so of theirs, but it’s been a challenge especially since they have some names I’m not used to (Yesenia, Josui, etc). One of the other volunteers had been taking pictures of the kids to label with their names to make it easier for new volunteers to learn them!
On Friday, we got to finish the art activity from last week by having the kids paint their paper mâché masks with flags from all over the world. It was a huge success! We also had them color and write on paper ties and hearts for Father’s Day this Sunday, which the kids all got really excited about.
This has also been a great week for learning for me! Another volunteer and I took our first cooking lesson with Willy and made estofado de pollo. It has chicken, vegetables, rice, and potatoes, and is really delicious! I also learned how to make two different types of bracelets from one of the kids moms who owns a jewelry stand. Her name is Marisol and it was a bit of a challenge chatting with her in only Spanish. She talked a lot about her life and kids and how it’s difficult for a lot of women in Huaraz since many of them have kids very young. She seems so happy and proud that her son is going to Seeds of Hope, and I really hope that the school will help make it possible for the children to receive a good education and allow them to succeed in whatever career they choose. I love learning from both of them and hope I can do even more while I’m here!
I also got to meet my home stay family on Thursday and I move in Monday morning. It’s a single dad and two daughters who are 12 and almost 14 years old. They seem really nice and though I’ve loved the volunteer apartment, I can’t wait to live with a Peruvian family.
Tomorrow morning, five other volunteers and I leave for a one day trek to Lake 69, which is supposed to be a beautiful hike and amazing view! I can’t wait for next week as well!

Second week complete!

I have had an amazing second week here in Huaraz! It was sad at the beginning, since four of the volunteers left on Tuesday, which means there were only three of us until two new volunteers came over the weekend. I already can’t imagine having to leave these kids in a few months! It was so sad seeing them say goodbye to the other volunteers they had grown so close to. They all got a chance to say thank you to them and give tons of hugs on their last day at the school.

I’ve definitely been adjusting well to life in Peru! It seems so normal walking to the school every morning and afternoon, stopping in my favorite bakery for cafe con leche, and greeting all the kids by getting kisses on the cheek. On Friday, I got to help plan an activity for the first time. Usually we help the kids with their regular homework throughout the week and then play at the park, but on Fridays, they do something fun and educational instead of homework. The other volunteers and I decided to have them play pictionary, but get bonus points if they guessed the word in both Spanish and English. It actually worked really well! The kids got really into the game and were extra excited when they knew the words in English. Afterwards, we started an art activity that we will finish next week. We had kids put paper mâché over balloons and next week, we will cut them into masks and have the kids paint them like different flags of the world.

Another volunteer, Shannon, and I have really wanted to take cooking lessons so we can learn some Peruvian dishes. Turns out that one of the Peruvian volunteers named Willy is studying to be a chef now that he’s completed school and gone through Seeds of Hope! He agreed to teach us different dishes every week at the volunteer apartment, so I can’t wait to start! Also, one of the student’s moms runs a jewelry stand and agreed to give us lessons on how to make her different bracelets! So many people I’ve met have been so friendly and helpful and I can’t wait to learn even more while I’m here.

I’ve been in the volunteer apartment for the past two weeks, but this coming weekend, I plan to move into a home stay. I’m going to meet the family and everything tomorrow, so I hope that it all goes well! I’ve loved getting to know the other volunteers at the apartment, but I can’t wait to live with a Peruvian family.