The Other Side of Lima

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the calling that I discovered on that trip. 

Part 2: World Youth Day 2013

Originally Published: Wednesday 17th July, 2013

Lima is home to 10 million people, one third of Peru’s population. Its unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in years at 20 percent, insulated from global financial troubles with its resource based economy.

Lima is a beautiful city, but not one that has been without troubles. Even in the heart of the city centre, beautiful colonial buildings sit empty and dilapidated. Military governments, Marxist guerrillas and corruption crushed the economy and stability of Peru.
For every person that lives in Lima, there are 3 or 4 people who live in the poorer areas and the slums.

Today we went to Pamplona, a distinctly poorer area of Lima, but not the worst area. We traveled by bus south to Pamplona and watched the gradual change. Like I said, this wasn’t the poorest areas of Lima and had a surprise vibe to it. The streets were dusty and pothole ridden, but clean and generally rubbish free. Construction was going on everywhere and people were bustling in and out of shops. There was a distinct vibe of a place that was halfway through being developed, got stopped and was starting to crank up again.

We arrived at the school. For the life of me I cannot spell its name or even say it! But it is a public school that covers primary and secondary. The principal is an incredibly dedicated and intelligent woman who has fostered overseas relationships to help fund and build the school. All up there are about 600 kids which are divided into morning and evening sessions. These kids only get half a day’s school to accommodate the kids who have to work and because they don’t have enough room to accommodate all of them at once.

We got a tour of the school by the principal and a couple of the kids from the Representative council. One of them was named Felix and he got one ofthe guitars  and started rocking Nirvana.
We then had a de brief as to what we were doing which was giving a catechesis to the classes (the public school has no funding for religious instruction) and then take them through a dental hygiene program. We split into two groups and went to our first classroom. There were about 30 in the class and they were year 1. The catechesis started with songs as ice breakers and then we acted out the parable of the talents as Jimena (the regular volunteer) read out the story. We then taught them the Hail Mary in English and did some colouring in with them. I made a new friend!

Her name was Bianca, she’s a Hannah Montana fan, her favourite colour is pink and she has a twin sister.

We then bought them up to the Art Room for the dental hygiene program.

We showed them how to brush their teeth, gave them a tooth brush and then we put fluoride on the teeth that didn’t have cavities and sent them to learn how to wash their hands properly and get a tube of toothpaste.

We did three classes each. The second was a kindergarten class with several bouncing kids. One of the girls drew me a picture!

We then had a late lunch and a break whilst the afternoon session kids came in. Little Bianca came and sat with me and Jamie for a while and learned to use the camera.

The evening class were 4th Graders and quite articulate! I made friends with Ana Maria and Rosmarie

We were then thanked by the teachers and the principal. Apparently groups don’t stay for the evening session and we were the first. I didn’t want to leave! They were such beautiful children despite how rough many of them had it. A large proportion of them were orphaned or abandoned and most would not get breakfast if the school didn’t provide it.

This school was doing wonderful work, the teachers were passionate and loved the children as if they were their own and the kids took great pride in their school and education achievements. They were confident, respectful, quite articulate and very bright.
I felt at home and energised by these kids. I couldn’t give them much, just some fluoride and some broken Spanish/Italian mish mash. If someone offered me a job there I would have taken it in a second. So now we have to leave for Iguazu Falls. Well be staying on the Argentinian side so more forms! I am so going back to Peru. After I go to Mexico.
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