I have been to a fair few places around the world, in both the Global North and the Global South, but always as a backpacking tourist. I have never lived within a community that fails to get even the smallest mention in any of the travel guides that exist. Since our arrival in Villa El Salvador on the dusty outskirts of Lima, something has really struck me. Despite having very little by way of possessions - or in many occasions even a house that is made of solid brick – people here seem outwardly happy.
You are here
Want a deeper insight into what an ICS placement looks like? Read the amazing blogs written by our past and present volunteers. Enjoy the journey!
We finally have lift off! After all the preparation and planning the practical work has finally begun. And things have moved so fast,we have had so much help and support from the locals and farmers that many hands have made light work.
This week we have focused on water flow and direction, so we have been creating pit beds. Pit beds are small holes in the ground about 45cm deep and 55cm wide that catch surface run off water. Around them we will be planting a variety of fruit and veg.
My teaching placement is at MANTHOC, an organisation which fights labour exploitation and supports its young people who have pride in their working lives and know the value of independence. The name MANTHOC (Movimiento de Adolescentes y Niños Trabajadores Hijos de Obreros Cristianos) literally stands for “the movement of working young people, children of Christian workers.” This gives an instant indication of MANTHOC’s morals and what its values are based upon.
After a three hour drive from San Salvador, we arrived in the beautiful town of Arcatao in the Chaletenango district of El Salvador. This small rural town was one of many effected by the civil war and the brutal massacres that took place. This area was originally used by the indigenous population to grow crops for material dye but due to the development of synthetic dyes in Germany the land was taken from them and instead used for growing coffee beans, an industry from which the rich could profit.
The legacy of Maria Elena Moyano’s activism and political contribution lives on almost 20 years after her death in the soup kitchens of Villa El Salvador.
In the 1980s, Moyano was instrumental in the resistance against the Shining Path, a Communist movement which gripped the country in fear and mistrust for two decades.
It was her role as president of the ‘Federación Popular de Mujeres de Villa El Salvador’, rallying the local community against the terrorism of the Shining Path, which brought her fame and notoriety.
It has been a very Malawian week where we’ve experienced the reality of the petrol shortages (having to wait in the heat with cans and using help from the police to get the fuel we needed to travel to our projects), power cuts (we’re getting better at lighting charcoal to cook on with just a plastic bag and a match), as well as storms and meeting lots more people we would be working with and observing existing projects.
On Monday we spent the morning working in the greenhouse with two of the women from Amiga, Sara and Irma. It was very tiring and made me appreciate their workload. We were cultivating the soil, laying out the irrigation pipes and we also picked around 100 cucumbers to be sold. We all really enjoyed working in the greenhouse despite it being really hot.
Our first working week in Villa El Salvador, a 40 year old district on the southern outskirts of Lima, has been a warm welcome. From the host family we're staying with, colleagues at our placements and the local community, the last seven days have been packed with invitations to community events, meetings, outings to get to know the area better and of course, getting to grips with teaching English at our placements.
This week we begin our project work in the colourful streets of downtown San Salvador. We are staying at the Centro Bartolome de las Casas (CBC). This is an organisation which focuses its attention on the youth in the capital, raising awareness of issues such as sexual and reproductive health, women’s rights and the prevention of violence and works with both men and women.
After a 16 hour journey, two plane rides, and a short stop in Ethiopia, we finally touched down in Malawi. We were all very tired but the energy in the team was high.
Travelling through the country we were greeted by lush bright green vegetation, rivers, streams and vibrant red soils, small villages scattered throughout the countryside, women with babies wrapped on their backs in traditional African dresses, children herding cattle and men selling fresh fruit on the roadside.