Peru: Life On The Hill, Elizabeth Dellinger, January 2013This past January, a group of twelve traveled to Peru to embark on a life-changing experience. Although this was a planned mission trip, it actually was an immersion trip. Immersion is defined as involving oneself deeply in a particular experience. Our team traveled to a district of Lima, Peru named San Juan de Lurigancho where we specifically lived and served in the Canto-Grande neighborhood. Our ‘home base’ was the school, Fe y Alegria No. 26, where we ate, slept and worked with the local children. Our service was to the entire community, not just the kids.
The communities are divided up by hills-- this is how they identify where their home is located. It is called a ‘hill’, but it is more like a mountain with the steep incline, loose dirt and multitude of rocks all shapes and sizes. The hills are sometimes named, sometimes not and have a makeshift numbering system for the different divisions among the hill. These are their addresses. A daunting number of cement stairs with brightly painted yellow railings run from the bottom of the hill to the top- or as far as they have built them serving as different division points as well as reference points for the locals. The specific community that we had the opportunity to become a part of for 10 days was the Hill named El Misti, which is named after a volcano in Peru.
The conditions of the hills are shocking. I remember turning to Brian, one of the twelve, after walking the kids home one evening, and saying “It looks like a war zone. It is as if it is the aftermath of a bombing and huge tanks just came rolling through the debris. And they are just living within the rubble”.
I will never forget the determination and strength of the community both physically and mentally. I will always remember watching the entire community pull together to build a house in 5 hours and seeing that same community celebrate a little girl’s birthday with a feast of goodies to drool over. You can’t describe the generosity of a family that gives you and your group their last four bananas to share due to their customs, no matter that they only eat one full meal a day.
The school’s name, Fe y Alegria translates to “faith and joy”. Let us find the lost faith in humanity and lost joy within ourselves.