And so we finally started our service program in Alto Progreso. Alto Progreso is a struggling community of about 350 families in Pamplona Alta, in the barren hillsides of Lima. Sherry was our first volunteer for the job. Upon arrival, we did not know how things would turn up, but we had much excitement and expectation. In the end, Sherry, the Alto Progreso community, and I were very happy and proud with what we had achieved in the first service program.
Before the arrival of Sherry in March, for more than a year most volunteers in the Peru service program had visited Alto Progreso for a day. This visit usually included an activity in the morning were we would teach children hand washing or basic nutrition. After that, volunteers would go on a walk around Alto Progreso with the community leaders were they would get to know them and hear their story. But this was different. Now a volunteer would stay all day Monday through Friday.
Weeks before the service program started, I had talked to the community leaders and they had requested help in the soup kitchen. The soup kitchen serves about 120 children and elderly, Monday through Friday, three meals a day, at a price per person of 1.5 PEN (fifty cents of a US dollar) a day. Only two people work in the soup kitchen, the cook and her helper. So it made sense for them to request our help there. However, we still did not know how the cooks would react to the presence of a volunteer in their kitchen or the kind of interaction that they would have.
Sherry was just the right person for the job. From the first day she showed everyone a big smile and disposition to help. At first Victoria, the cook, was skeptic of Sherry´s ability to peal a potato. But I convinced her that Sherry would do all she could to help. So Victoria gave her a chance, and Sherry proved herself. She was then trusted with more potatoes to peal. Onions followed, then beef, mangoes, and so on. At the end of the day Victoria had realized that Sherry was really willing and able to help.
The following days were even better. Victoria would start giving Sherry more and more tasks, to the point that when Sherry was about to finish with something, Victoria had already some other task for Sherry. Sherry noticed that the knifes they were using were not very helpful, and Victoria shared with us that for weeks they had not had the most important element in Peruvian meals: rice. So Global Volunteers donated sets of knifes and 70 pounds of rice.
As the days went by, Victoria and Sherry got to know each other and became friends even though they did not speak the same language. By the end of the service program Victoria said she had gotten used to Sherry´s help and asked her to come back. We hope Sherry comes back. But even if she does not, we hope that other volunteers would fill in for Sherry. Victoria and all the children and elderly who are fed at the Alto Progreso soup kitchen need that help and would surely be thankful for it.