Global Volunteers Alumna Maggi Gallaher said retirement has liberated her to indulge her appetite for volunteering. For her fourth service program, she served at Sagrada Familia, a community in Peru serving 1,400 at-risk children, from one month to 17 years. The community shelters about 600 homeless and abandoned children and provides nutrition, healthcare and education. Another 800 day students attend public school at Sagrada Familia from the surrounding shanty towns outside Ancon. Maggi said her service program in Peru was a true inspiration.
Impressed with the work of the community of Sagrada Familia and from the story and commitment of the founder Miguel, Maggi said: “The founder, Miguel, created this facility after he lost his young son, helpless to save him despite having lots of resources. As he looked at the other children in the hospital, he felt the spirit of his son in their faces. For 30 years now, he has worked tirelessly to care for street children that are brought to the facility.”
“I was reminded why I chose to do Pediatrics after med school. I love children, especially the little ones!”
Maggi, a physician, was assigned to conduct pediatric examinations at the clinic. “The children enjoyed having me listening to their hearts and then listening themselves with the stethoscope. Each had an issue that was addressed. The second day, I was instructed to examine the pre-K kids, looking potentially for nutritional deficiencies. We spent the morning checking 23 beautiful 3-year-olds. The teacher chose to bring the class to the clinic. What fun! I was reminded why I chose to do Pediatrics after med school. I love children, especially the little ones!”
Above: Scenes from Maggi’s volunteer service program in Peru. “I did brief exams on the 150 or so 3- to 5-year-olds, mostly finding needs for dental care and screening for anemia.”
My translator Diego was a delight to work with. We would go to the daycare after a morning in the clinic to help feed the 35 youngsters there. Feeding all those little ones was quite an adventure on my volunteer service program in Peru.
“We would go to the daycare after a morning in the clinic to help feed the 35 youngsters there. Feeding all those little ones was quite an adventure.”
During pauses in clinic visits, Maggi helped serve the first “shift” of lunches in the comedor. “It was an organized chaos as the 600 children came in for lunch. Very impressive to see it all unfold into no spilled food. It was quite an operation feeding that many children with us there. I don’t know how the regular staff does it without extra help, but they seem to have everything under control, always calm. I could learn a lot from them.”
The love of the children of Sagrada Familia was evident from the first moment for Maggi. “When we first entered Sagrada Familia, students ran to greet us. I haven’t been hugged and kissed so much in a single day. The children are sweet, happy, and full of love. They really know how to make you feel welcome. She added: I want to give back to communities. I have been so blessed throughout my life. I want to support children’s development to help them reach their potential since they are the adults of tomorrow. “
Maggi continued by highlighting the importance of donations for Sagrada Familia: “They feed lunch to all 1,400 students every day, mostly consisting of rice and either lentils or vegetable stew with a tiny bit of meat. Sagrada Familia depends on donations of food, often receiving the things that grocery stores were going to throw out. We ate lunch with the children—it was delicious. On my last day with the team, they had a special celebration preparing Pacha Manga (food from the earth). When we arrived in the morning, the students were busy digging a hole about 10 feet long and 4 feet deep where they lit a fire to heat rocks to cook lamb (donated by a friend of Miguel), chicken, potatoes and lima beans. What a treat! The Global Volunteers team bought 50 chickens in the local market that morning. The sight of the chickens for sale in the market was a little shocking at first, but you quickly adjust.”
“The children are sweet, happy, and full of love. They really know how to make you feel welcome.”
“It was a beautiful week. I felt that I received so much more than I gave during this week of volunteering. I am truly blessed.”