by Daniel Salazar, Global Volunteers Peru Country Manager.
When you volunteer in Peru, you have the chance to significantly change a child’s life. It’s one thing to sight-see in Lima. But there is an opportunity to do more, to get to know the country, the stories, and also actually make a difference in a child’s life.
I have witnessed this personally working with teams of Global Volunteers. Lima, like many cities in South America, holds millions of migrant families who come to the city escaping extreme poverty. Mostly single mothers, with no education or property, they resort to street vending or cleaning jobs. These are not stable jobs, and, even they do provide an income, it is less than one dollar a day. So these families occupy barren hills in the outskirts of Lima and, with whatever materials they can gather (usually plastic, cardboard, and plywood), they build their houses, forming shanty towns. Most of these shanty towns lack water and sewage systems, and there are no schools or hospitals available for such large masses of people. It is here where children grow up, and where many families give up.
Many mothers try their best, but even when they do, sometimes they just can’t provide what their children need. That is the story of Flor, for instance, a community leader in Alto Progreso – one of the communities where Global Volunteers works in Peru. We were helping the community build stairs, and Flor’s job was shoveling sand. Every day Flor came to work with her two year old daughter, who would spend the day playing with the sand and a broken bucket. Flor explained to me that she had to stop selling fruit in the street, as she simply was not making any money out of it, while there was no room in the local childcare center for her daughter. Sadly, Flor’s story is not the worst. Many mothers give up and turn to alcohol or prostitution, leaving their children in neglect.
It is in this scenario that the Puericultorio Pérez Aranibar (PPA), the largest children’s home in Peru, seeks to shelter children facing abuse, neglect, or harmful living conditions. Many of the children at the PPA came from families living in shanty towns like Alto Progreso. Global Volunteers team members provide psycho-social support to the children at PPA and accompany PPA social workers and staff to visit the homes and families of the PPA children. This helps PPA staff to assess the situation of the families and assist their efforts to provide the best care possible for these children, whether at PPA or at their homes.
Helping reunite a child with his family or provide a neglected child shelter at the PPA is certainly a life-altering experience not because of what you see, but because of what you do. When you get the chance to help change a child’s life, your life changes too.
No special skills are needed. Regardless your age, professional experience, background, heritage, or life status, the children we work with will welcome you with hugs and smiles. You’re needed to demonstrate true compassion and share your interests and skills on many projects – from feeding toddlers to teaching conversational English to teens.
Learn how you can help change a child’s life in Peru. We look forward to working with you soon!