Summer Family Volunteering in Peru – Sydney Hill and her new friends in Alto Progreso.
The teens shared an interest in soccer. The children welcomed hugs and games just as kids everywhere do. Neighbors worked together to build a stairway for safety and access on the steep cliff. At the conclusion of their two-week project, they felt they shared important, life-enhancing experiences together.
“Everyone really wanted to go. We were all super excited, ” said 14-year-old Beau.
But, these “neighbors” live nearly 3, 000 miles away, and traveled more than 10 hours to lend a hand to families in Alto Progreso, Peru.
True Service was Goal for Hill Family Volunteering Program
Jennifer and Ryan Hill of East Lake Woodlands, FL and their daughter Sydney and son Beau had one singular request for their family volunteer vacation: “We want to help where we’re needed most.”
They decided Alto Progreso, Peru was the place where each family member could offer the greatest contribution. Planted on a desolate and dusty mountainside, this community is cut off from running water, public transportation and the public education system. Helping improve life here, the Hills reasoned, would be highly meaningful.
Early in the service program, they met Haydee Mendoza, community leader and mother. “Haydee beamed at the roads being built, walls, stairs and the like. She shared stories of success and failures over her time as president of the community association, ” Jennifer said. The differences between Haydee’s neighborhood of Alto Progreso and the Hill’s in Florida was staggering. But the family appreciated the warm welcome of the local people, and the pride they felt about the modest upgrades the community recently made.
“Haydee took us to the hidden gem – the childcare facility run by her sister. This building used to be the community center, but was now helping single mothers by giving free childcare so they could work.” Jennifer and Sydney played with the babies in the bright, colorful playroom while husband Ryan “entertained everyone endlessly” while cheerful music played. ”The children showed every toy to us.”
For two weeks, the family worked hand-in-hand with Alto Progreso residents – painting the inside and outside of the new community center, carrying cement bags, building forms, and helping construct a new set of stairs. It was obvious the work they did was greatly needed and appreciated… even by the volunteers. Beau, the youngest Hill family member, regarded the stairs project as a work-out to strengthen his lower body. “Beau was able to feel like he could trust his legs to do more hard labor tasks, ” Jennifer reported.
He also said he was grateful to have time to spend with the local kids to get to know them as he worked. Most important, they learned they “were able to complete a difficult task and keep doing more.”
They Also Helped Out Together at Lima’s Largest Orphanage
Part of the time, the family volunteered together at the Puericultorio Perez Aranibar (PPA), a large orphanage inside Lima. Teaching the teens conversational English and playing games with the younger children, Beau and 17-year-old Sydney felt they developed a genuine understanding of the local people’s lives. “On the outside their lives and towns look depressing to live in, but once you get to know the people of the community, they’re almost just like yourself, ” said Sydney. “You learn that not everything in life is a choice.”
Beau added: “I’d say that helping makes you feel good, and seeing a different way of life really opens up new perspectives.”
Jennifer recalled the last day of volunteering. “Back to the community center, it was more full than I had ever seen it. Many children were finishing their lunch. Syd’s usual crowd of young girls showered her with love as we colored. We played active games – roja luz y verde luz, agua y cemento and pato, pato, ganzo. Ryan did all of the painting he could to finish the exterior. ”
“When it was time to leave, Ximena cried, telling Sydney good-bye, clinging to her and sobbing. Syd walked her part-way home to help her cheer up.”
What did they hope to gain as a family volunteering in Peru? Jennifer stated simply: “In addition to helping a community, Ryan and I wanted to teach the family about the importance of being humble and having a giving spirit – to appreciate and respect how other people live and work.”
Smiling, she concluded Global Volunteers in Peru is an ideal volunteer opportunity for families. “Go! Your family will be better because of it, ” she said.
“I honestly felt sad to leave, and could not believe we were not coming back again anytime soon. I’m a jumble of emotions, and will selfishly keep the rest of my thoughts to myself. In my heart, I hope this is buenos noches and not adios for the Hill Family in Alto Progresso.” – Jennifer’s entry in the volunteers’ team journal
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