No rest for these guys! After just 4 days at the project site, our Villa Maria team have worked with hundreds of kids, run a fun fair, performed in a stage show and met the mayor, all while negotiating the local staff’s cheeky jokes. We also received a lovely update from Deborah Owen below, thanks and keep up the good work.
A new group of Gringos arrived in Lima, ready to take Villa Maria by storm. Completely shattered after an ‘interesting’ last night in Quito, 2 hour long waits at passport control and arriving at the school in the early hours of the morning, we were shown our more basic home from home and then crashed into bed. Wanting to get us straight into a routine, Pedro and Raul did not fail to wake us early for our inaugural trip to the bakery and market, before sitting down with Alejandro, the joker of the day, to get an overview of Quest’s involvement in Villa Maria over the last 15 years. We met the team of Peruvian volunteers before evaluating the state of the stockroom, and compiling a massive kiddies shopping list. Half the team left with Alejandro in the search for paintbrushes and hula hoops while the rest bought out the supermarket (including Fanny’s jam), and then began repairing sports equipment.
We did a brief tour of San Gabriel including a compulsory trip to visit the fake Christ the Redeemer and a look at the local volleyball team – we soon realized our skills are not quite up to scratch. Poster making began for advertising the Saturday ´Feria´(show) while Alejandro and Lucho, ever the pranksters, had way too much fun with a squeaky pig.
The next day we all donned our Quest t-shirts and oh so flattering matching hats to visit the Villa Maria Council for the first-ever meeting, to discuss cooperation and possible extra funding. The volunteers sat looking pretty while Alejandro explained Quests’ work to the Mayor, who seemed suitably impressed and demanded a photo on stage at the annual job fair – luckily we dodged the dancing competition. Headed out for our first afternoon’s activities and a trip down to the pool where Rowan tested the robust nature of South American children by taking out 2 kids on the first day – we are assured that they are fine! Even after only 2 hours with the children we realized what tiring days were set to come.
We dove straight into the deep end with our first Saturday show, the theme being Animals. Costumes were created, faces were painted and stalls were set up in preparation for excited children. After a manic first fifteen minutes where it seemed all of Villa Maria’s children came at once, we settled down and on the whole, the fair was a great success (even without chucking sweets at them!). Like much of the activities in Villa Maria, an impromptu swimming visit was organized, before an amazing barbeque in the evening with all the volunteers – We certainly felt the repurcussions of this on our reduced budget the following days! Sunday passed with much rehearsing of Domingos Familiares courtesy of Lucho’s interesting choreography, and the evening was very popular, even us Gringo’s didn’t get booed.
Our impressions in the first week here have been very mixed. When we first arrived in Lima the words ‘oh my god’ were definitely used, as it was all a bit of a shock, especially when comparing Villa Maria with other closeby neighborhoods. We also definitely noticed the difference between our ‘luxury’ hostel and a fair few meals out in Quito, compared to our basic facilities here. However, we have all quickly acclimatized and grown to love the budget food, banana beds, copious dogs and endless pranks from the Peruvian Quest volunteers. It was also very nice to see that despite the poor living conditions and minimal facilities, the faces of the people living in Villa Maria are always smiling and they seem extremely happy and content with their lives here. There is a distinctive strong family atmosphere that is sometimes missing in western countries, which has shown us that money doesn’t always provide happiness, and strong family ties are just as, if not more important.
‘One more sportsman is one less drug dealer’ – written on a house in Villa Maria.