A little help, a little love, a little time, we each CAN make a difference!
by Peru Volunteer Jeri Russell
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a young stewardess working for Pan American, traveling the world. We flew into Liberia Africa for what was my first time. As we landed the large 747 at midnight, we were met by a crowd of orphans. Not pictures of big eyed orphans but real children; hungry babies alone in the night. I saw how the crew helped these kids, each flight. A little help, a little love, a little time, every time. The power of that experience was a game changer and one all humans should have; knowing we each CAN help.
Twenty some odd years later, I found the perfect opportunity to share this feeling with my children (boys, 13 and 14). Cross-Cultural Solutions Peru offered the ideal meaningful volunteer programme. I wanted my children to really “wear a culture” and to experience parts of the CARE programme. I was already quite familiar with CARE and it was a main reason for choosing Cross-Cultural Solutions.
Our placements were spot-on. My sons worked in a local boy’s orphanage and were the youngest volunteers ever. The orphanage housed 52 boys (“like having 52 brothers Mom”) and they helped teach English, Math, Art, and the universal language of football – lots of that!
They were responsible and reliable and had a wonderful time doing it. In addition, my sons were able to walk the ¾ of a mile to and from the orphanage each day. They gained so much from this trip, we had already traveled extensively and seen poverty, but working and playing side by side is a far richer experience.
While the boys worked at the orphanage, I worked at a variety of sites including the medical clinic working in trauma treatment, teaching the doctors what is new in the UK. I also worked at the Catholic orphanage with babies; the women’s prison with toddlers; I sat in the warm sun and peeled vegetables for hours then served children and seniors in the soup kitchens.
My biggest accomplishment was working with blind people at the disability office and helping them to create new products with more markets. I requested that CARE and Cross-Cultural Solutions buy a newly designed water bottle carrier with ‘CCS’ or ‘CARE’ in bead work – this alone would support Jose (who was blind), his wife and three daughters.
On the last evening in the orphanage, the boys brought bracelets from the disability group, one for each of the 52 boys. As they tied them on to the wrists of each of their new friends, the room was sad and silent. The headmistress asked my oldest son to stand up and say something – I saw his cheeks colour and I saw him try to gather himself together.
“Amigos” he said. “Gracias para todos” I saw him gulp and both son’s eyes were blinking back the tears.
“Amigos” – deep breath- “Gracias para todos” – what else, oh please some words, please – swallow….and then “Hasta Luego…..” and he turned to his brother: “Amigos. Lo mismo…..gracias”.