Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 2 - Welcome to Los Cipreses, Lima, Peru - Thursday

Thursday (Day 2) started off with a late breakfast and some get-to-know-you-games. If you know me at all, you know that I HATE things like this. Sadly, I seemed to be the only one that hated them. Ugh! Not my idea of a good time but they did break the ice a little bit so I guess they served their purpose.

After our games, we met with the head of FH in Peru and the head of FH in Lima. They welcomed us and told us a little bit about their mission. We then headed out to Los Cipreses to a welcome ceremony in the community. (We must have had lunch but I have no idea where we ate or what.)

Los Cipreses is a small community in San Juan de Lurigancho. There are approximately 1 million people in this region in Lima. It's one of the largest urban neighborhoods in the world. It was formed when people fled out of the highlands during guerrilla warfare there in the 1980s. People moved in so quickly that there wasn't time to plan or construct an infrastructure. People just built "houses" where ever they could find a spot. Most of the people lack running water and basic necessities in these areas.

When we arrived in the community, the kids swarmed the van. I was prepared for a mass-chaos situation like we usually faced in the work camps in Baja. I was shocked when the kids just wanted to welcome us. We each got hugged and kissed as we got off the bus. Not once during the week did anyone ask me for something or try to get into my pockets. They were just excited that we came to visit. They wanted nothing from us but some time and attention---and to take about a billion pictures.

At the welcome ceremony, the preschoolers did a dance for us. Of course, after a few minutes, they started pulling members of our team into the dance. We were all trying to get out of our comfort zones and enjoy ourselves when we noticed the words of the song. It was all about being drunk! This definitely got us laughing.

After the preschoolers, Johan and his sister did a traditional Peruvian dance. This was, of course, a highlight for me. I fell in love with him instantly. (He reminded me so much of my Angelito in Mexico.) His sister never wavered or lost the beat---no matter how silly her little brother got. She was obviously proud of him.

After the ceremony, 4 of us and a translator went to visit a family with a child with special needs. I asked our team leader as we were leaving what the point of the meeting was. She told me to visit with the family and hear their story. That didn't sound like much of an agenda to me but we set off up, up, up the hill. (This is the nice part of the path. It was a bit treacherous!)

At the top of the hill, we met a beautiful young family with a 5-year-old daughter with special needs. You can read Jenna's version of the story here. Ashley is a beautiful little girl with limited speech but tons of personality. Her parents continue to visit doctor after doctor to get a diagnosis for their precious child. When we first arrived, they were very quiet but after a few minutes, they opened up and told us their story. We sat with them for 2 hours while they went through details of therapies, doctors, schools, and family rejection. They told us how they feel awkward and unaccepted in the community. I began to realize why we were there. We were there to listen. I'm pretty sure this was one of the first (if not the first) time someone had sat and listened to their entire story. (After all, how often do people sit and listen to someone talk for 2 hours.)

At the end of the conversation, I was able to encourage them from a professional and personal viewpoint. They are doing a lot of things well. They both love their daughter and they love each other. They are searching for the best schools, therapies, and doctors they can afford. They are working together to help their daughter be independent and working with their families to encourage acceptance of Ashley. We ended the night by inviting them to go to dinner with our team and with some other families from the community who have children with disabilities on Friday night. I thought it would be really important for them to see that they were not alone. Ashley had doctor's appointments on Friday so they weren't sure if they would make it or not.

By the time we made the hike down the hillside in the dark, we were all ready to head back to the hotel. We stopped for a light dinner at a local restaurant and then, once again, crawled off to our beds and collapsed from another long day.


  1. You haven't mentioned if you've had any guinea pig yet. Can't say that I'm surprised about Johan!!

  2. Fortunately, I was not offered guinea pig while we were there. I did eat some chicken on a bone, though.