The weeks since we
left Lima have passed so quickly it already seems a distant memory. When we first arrived we were told that our time there would fly past, and that we would not want to leave when the time came, but few of us believed it as we first considered our new surroundings. However Alejandro´s prediction came true, and by the end the tears pouring down faces were tears of sadness, rather than the tears at the prospect of no hot showers for a month that had streamed at our arrival.
Our days in Villa Maria were divided between the construction of new houses for the families in the community who needed them most and entertaining the many children who inhabit the favela. The construction was always a tough task, with the Quest volunteers having to take charge of planning and building the panels for the houses, dismantling the previous house, clearing the site, putting up the new house and painting it. To complicate matters, most of the construction had to happen in a day, as the inhabitants had nowhere to go overnight. This side of our work was incredibly physically demanding: sawing and nailing planks all day in the burning sun and then carrying them up the steep stairs of the favelas, but it was also the most visually rewarding. Our impact on the community was tangible in the 4 houses we built in our time, and we could see them standing proudly on the hill wherever we were in the community.
Our work with the local children was just as rewarding, but in a very different way. It really was an odd experience to be in an area where your race and background is enough to get curious families peering at you from their windows and asking for photos with you. Every afternoon we would gather together an assortment of balls, sticks and games and go to play with the children on one of the many dusty pitches spread around Villa Maria. When we had gathered a group together and had tired them out sufficiently to make them herdable, we would take them down to the pool to swim. Each weekend would contain a “feria”, where all sorts of different games were created to set up in the local plazas, and a “Sunday show”, including a magic show from
our very own Mago Lechuga, Lucho´s clown antics and a soul drainingly awkward dance routine involving the whole group jigging around to some bland 90s pop in front of two hundred straight faced Peruvians. All of this was usually finished in time for a quiet hour or two back at the school before it was Monday again and we were back in the sun with hammer and nails.
Everyone in the group got something different from the Villa Maria experience, but nothing would have been the same without the wonderful people we worked with there, who run the project all year round. The commanding Alejandro, the comical Lucho and the strong and silent Pato and many others (internet lady, various neighbourhood dogs, camp bodybuilder man to name but a few) all contributed to our experience in Peru, and we hope that we each contributed something small in our own way to help the Quest Project there.