Christmas Day in Peru, a journal entry from a volunteer serving in Peru:
“Fireworks all over the place, like you have never seen before.” That was the consensus for those of us who had never spent a Christmas Eve in Lima before. The previous night, we had all sat together and shared a delicious meal next to a Christmas tree. Now, on December 25th, it was our turn to share, or rather serve, a holiday meal for 200 kids from Alto Progreso, a struggling community in the outskirts of Lima.
As we drove up to Alto Progreso, we began to leave the city behind. We left the paved streets of Lima’s urban sprawl and entered the dusty roads of the shanty town district.
“Barred gates and doors quickly merged with the bizarre visual cacophony of the scrap wood, corrugated metal, brick, concrete, tires, rock and rebar of the family-made shelters our hosts called home.”
The team carried and handed to the host community boxes with all the necessary for a chocolatada, a traditional Peruvian Christmas meal consisting of hot chocolate and panettone. While the host community prepared the meal, the team taught games and played with the children of Alto Progreso. The likes of “duck-duck-goose” and “sharks and minnows” were carefully selected by our games committee: Ella (9) and Alissa (10).
Once the cakes were cut and the giant vat of hot chocolate was steaming, we began to serve the people who filled every chair in the hall – perhaps sixty – the super majority being children. Some volunteers were concerned that the children would not eat the panettone we bought for three hundred, but they did.
“Whose math was wrong? Or does love simply compensate?”
The kids, satisfied with the meal, run up the hill with all of us to the soccer field that had taken the community ten years to build. After a long twelve-on-twelve soccer game, Mike Hagele and his daughters (Ella and Allyssa) left their soccer ball behind for our new friends. This was surely a sacrifice given that Ella, her hat, and that ball were constant companions the days prior. Nevertheless, the sacrifice was a decision Ella had made on her own.
After the soccer game, Mr. Córdoba, one of the community leaders, led the volunteers on a tour of his community as he shared its story and struggles. At the end of the day, Mr. Córdoba and Haydee, the president of the community, shared their personal stories. Finally, Haydee thanked the volunteers with words that resonated in the hearts of all who heard them for their sincerity and depth.
“For the team, not only those words, but the stories they heard, the smiles they saw, and the memory of a Christmas day spent serving a struggling community in Peru, will never be forgotten.”