Four weeks into our placements, and there seems to be no absence of weird, wonderful and first time experiences in Villa El Salvador.
Amidst the arid landscapes of the coast is Parque Huascar, the current placement of myself, Hussein and Stephen. The ecological park is home to a diverse zoo, lagoon, swimming pool and several species of wild birds. It received the World Leadership Award in 2006 in London for its contribution to the environment and recuperating abandoned areas by planting trees.
Although a major attraction for many of the surrounding areas of Villa, there is a lack of knowledge of what the park has to offer its residents. The park may be one of the few places where residents, many living in poverty, will be able to see wild animals with their families, and hence why we have been collecting information for the production of literature to encourage the appeal of this little oasis in what is a dry landscape.
In between the planting of flowers in the heat and feeding the hyperactive monkeys - who now clearly recognise us for food, we were able to undertake a spot of early morning bird watching and last week, to witness the birth of three baby goats to the Park family!
Uphill and out towards the beach, in one of the most deprived areas of Villa El Salvador lies CEDEC (Centro de Educacion y Desarrollo Comunitario), Anna and Anike’s placement. The project, which was set up by an Italian woman called Geri 11 years ago, has two main components; ‘Arenitas del Mar’ (literally meaning ‘Little Sands of the Sea’) a formal educational life experience for children between 3-7 years old and ‘Deporte y Vida’ (‘Sport and Life’), a community education experience, which includes a homework club, sports practice and an arts and crafts workshop that students are able to visit before and after school.
The work comes with a mixture of emotions and challenges. In the mornings, Anna and Anike mainly work with the small children at Arenitas del Mar, helping with a variety of tasks, including learning words and numbers, painting, singing songs and playing games. Although Anike has a vast interest in working with children, it has been a great challenge working with children who speak a different language. However, frustration has transformed back into enjoyment with increasing Spanish lessons. Anna, with a good knowledge of Spanish, has not found the language barrier as problematic but has found working with small children, who usually have high levels of energy, challenging at times! Regardless of the differences, the two make a great pair and have enjoyed activities at Deporte y Vida, including pottery making, assisting with homework and facing defeat in games of volleyball, chess and drafts.
In addition, they also conduct English classes for all of the teachers, assistants and other workers. Most importantly, they have come to feel part of the CEDEC family and the local community, having had the chance to participate in numerous events such as the mini Olympics, various street parades, and the colourful and lively celebrations for the neighbourhood’s 17th anniversary.
We are halfway through our time here now and time is flying fast. There is a lot more we hope to achieve in the next few weeks, and being in Villa El Salvador, a district with non stop community action, we are sure to find various other initiatives we can learn about and contribute towards, so watch this space!
Written by Farah Hossain, ICS volunteer in Peru.
Photos (from top): Watching the mini Olympics, one of the CEDEC events that the ICS team participated in (that's Anna, middle right); Hussein on his way to feed the animals at the zoo; Anike (left), a banner at the mini Olympics, and a lion...; and the ICS team - from left, Hussein, Farah, Anna, Anike and Stephen.