Longtime friends Urvi Doshi and Suma Putcha have always been involved as volunteers within their local community in Allen, Texas. Then they decided they wanted to broaden their own and their teenage daughters’ horizons by volunteering internationally. Urvi and Maya (age 17) and Suma and Avani (age 18) spent a week serving with Global Volunteers at the Sagrada Familia community in Peru. Urvi said, “I’ve always believed in giving back to the community and making a difference, and I wanted my daughter to experience this, too. And to create memories to cherish forever.” While Suma said, “I believe kids need a mentor to appreciate and mimic, we need to start making a change somehow in the world and this seemed like a great place to start!” Here the four of them reflect on their experience serving at Sagrada Familia.
What projects did you work on at Sagrada Familia?
Maya: We worked on several different projects within the community of Sagrada Familia. All four of us worked with the Pre-K students and at the daycare center. We played with the children, helped them with their lessons, sang to them, and just generally helped the teachers with anything they needed. There was also a sports project where Avani and I got to interact with children of all ages. That was a lot of fun. Surma also taught English classes to the high school students alongside their teacher, Jorge. She helped with pronunciation and English work assignments. Avani and I also taught English a couple of times, too.
Did you have the opportunity to learn about Peruvian culture?
Maya: Yes, I learned about the culture from the kids’ perspective. Peruvians are very lively and caring people — always singing, dancing, and hugging. Lots of hugging. There’s just so much love and affection here! The humility and perspective I gained was something only attainable through interacting with the kids and staff at Sagrada Familia.
Suma: For sure. I found the Peruvian people very proud people, their culture based on gratitude and community support. They support each other in any way they can. They were also very affectionate. At lunch we’d be given hugs, kisses, and lots of “¡holas!”
Urvi: It was a unique and enlightening way to experience the culture and the beautiful community. I saw how Sagrada Familia runs on teamwork, love, humility, and honesty. It was truly amazing to see how they all work together as a close-knit community. Working with the Pre-K and daycare center children helped me understand that all these children wanted was a smile, a little love, and company. How little they needed to be happy.
Did you form any memorable relationships?
Maya: Throughout the program, we were able to form many memorable relationships with our fellow team members, the staff and teachers within the Sagrada Familia community, and the kids we worked with both at the daycare center and the schools.
“It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.”– Mother Teresa
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself through your service program in Peru?
Maya: I learned that I love kids (more than I thought I did) and the humility and perspective I gained was something only attainable through interacting with the children and staff at Sagrada Familia. We were integrated into their community as Global Volunteers, rather than outsiders looking in. I also learned I could practice a lot of Spanish there and being open-minded ultimately allowed me to gain the fullest experience possible.
Avani: I was able to learn about the education system in Peru whilst working in the Pre-K classes. The sheer poverty and lack of classroom materials was an eye-opener for me. It made me appreciate and respect the drive of these children under such difficult circumstances.
Surma: After spending time working with the high school students I discovered how much I love teaching and making new connections. I loved having the chance to interact with my fellow teammates, the children, and the staff at Sagrada Familia.
Did anyone within the community make a strong impression on you?
Maya & Surma: Liz, the English teacher comes to mind. She shared her inspirational story of how she grew up at Sagrada Familia where she met an English tutor, how she traveled to the U.S., and finally found her true calling as an English teacher — in the place where it had all began, Sagrada Familia. Her story brought us all to tears.
Urvi: Miguel, the founder and director of Sagrada Familia, is an honorable, amazing man who has dedicated his life to this community and all its children. “Love is the universal language and that’s all everyone needs to get through difficult times,” he says. There are no words to describe Miguel’s passion, commitment, faith, and love for his children.
Avani: My favorite little boy! I’d often help feed this one little boy his lunch. He liked to turn his head away as soon as the spoon came near his mouth thinking it was a game. As soon as I told him I’d leave if he didn’t eat and I stood up, he’d immediately open his mouth. This showed me how much he wanted me to be there. In the end, we’d created this special bond.
“There are no words to describe Miguel’s passion, commitment, faith, and love for the children.”– Urvi Doshi
How will you describe this experience to friends and family when you return home?
Surma & Urvi: This was our first service program with Global Volunteers. It wasn’t your regular type of vacation. It was a completely different travel experience. We were able to fully immerse ourselves in the culture, become one with the local people, while at the same time help, serve, and make a difference in the lives of others! Our experience in Peru was amazing. Both the staff and children at Sagrada Familia were welcoming and loving. The whole journey was unique, providing an in-depth understanding of Peruvian culture. We were truly humbled to see the nurturing, loving community Miguel has created. A beautiful story of a 30-year journey, which we hope will flourish in the future.
READY TO VOLUNTEER WITH YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, GROUP, OR AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
You can have the satisfaction of sharing service with your friends, too! We engage people of all ages and from all walks of life on our volunteer programs. Learn more about volunteering in Peru, or chat with a Volunteer Coordinator today!