We arrived at our new home after a short bus trip from Barranco. Instantly you can tell the difference from the well developed capital city of Lima; Villa El Salvador is still a place that is developing. With the dusty streets and hoards of dogs that roam around, it comes as no surprise that Villa El Salvador is a young district that is built in the middle of a desert.

In fact it's one of the biggest squatter settlements in the world, a largely self organised area in which the people worked together to make the district what it is today. 

A couple weeks in now and we are starting to feel the groove of our placements. Three of us are working in a school called Fe Y Alegría (Faith and Happiness) and the other two are working at a youth club called Casa De La Juventud. After some initial issues of adapting to new circumstances and early apprehensions, we are now far more comfortable and are really starting to thrive in our work placements.

In Fe Y Alegría Adrianna and I are working with primary school kids teaching P.E. and English, while Shalina is assisting a teacher in the secondary school teaching English. The first time we visited the school we were surrounded by dozens of young kids all eager to see and hug the people that were going to be working in their school.

The first day began with a real bang as it was a street parade for the environment, where all the schools from the district would walk down the roads to the municipality with music, balloons and kids dressed up in traditional and colourful clothes. We accompanied them and it was a nice way to start and get a taste of the local culture and see the sheer amount of students that are in our school.

Boys playing at a school in Peru

Since then, we have slowly started to acclimatise to our job at hand. For me and Adrianna it was a real challenge in dealing with such large classes ranging from 20 to 40 students, aged from 7 to 11. Especially, when it came to P.E. when the younger ones in particular are so restless, we found with much stress how difficult it can be to put these kids in some kind of order and to follow the classes we had prepared, especially with our early limited Spanish. But slowly and surely, with the key Spanish phrases learnt, we managed to connect with the kids to be able to teach and bond with them.

It was a similar case with Shalina. Dealing with the older kids has been a large task especially as they speak very little English and Shalina has had to explain things in her slightly broken Spanish much to their amusement. She is aided by the English teacher Flor who doesn’t speak perfect English but her experience and enthusiasm is brilliant at dealing with noisy and disruptive kids. Shalina also has plenty of homework to mark, which has been a real struggle, but luckily she has had lots of help from the rest of us.

ICS Empower volunteer with English class in Peru

For Yohance and Agata it has been a different experience. Casa de la Juventud is part of Villa el Salvador’s Municipality. The establishment is a youth club which aims to organise extra curricular activities for teenagers outside of school hours. They teach English in morning and afternoon classes and in the beginning it was particularly challenging for them but after some patience, persistence, a lot of faith and of course advertising, they started seeing an increase in students coming to their classes, from a modest two to a plentiful 20 per class. They are becoming much more attached to their students and they always mention the brilliance they show for learning English.

Now that we are more comfortable in our placements we are starting to venture out into different work opportunities to help the local communities and to also know more about the different aspects of what makes Villa so unique. In the next blog I will go into more details of what these are.

By ICS volunteer Alex Kosieniak-Madejski in Peru. Photos:

Top: students at the Casa de la Juventud evening class with (back row) Yohance and Agata (photo by Shalina)

Middle: Adrianna (left) and Alex (right) on the football pitch with boys from Class 3C of Fe Y Alegría primary school (photo by Shalina)

Bottom: Shalina with her English class (photo by Alex).