As many of you know, I have been living in the Peruvian Andes for about one year and three months, which leaves me nine months of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Thus far diary-like form of writing, and focusing more on what is going on around me, rather than what I am doing. In this blog I do hope to shed some light on what I have been doing here, as a volunteer both in work and in leisure.
So what the @#$% am I doing here? I have asked myself this question many times, and in various lights. But really, my job as a Youth Development volunteer has encompassed a range of activities. My goal is to work with youth and those who influence them; teachers, parents, health workers, etc. In my first year of work I had several short lived projects including a world map mural, “summer school” program, and a girl’s self-esteem group. Currently, I have been helping in the school with a project called “Amigos y Libros,” (Books and Friends) that meets twice a week. Created by another PCV, this project consists of a series of workshops in which high school kids learn to read stories to their younger elementary aged peers. They are taught how to project their voice, read clearly, use gestures and fun voices, and to ask the kids relevant questions. When the workshops are done the kids get into the classroom, usually two at a time to read to the youngsters. This has worked very well. The high school kids have greatly improved in their out-loud reading skills, and the little ones enjoy the stories and picture books. The teachers also learn that reading does not have to be boring and repetitive. Our finale for the year will be a puppet theater written by the older kids on topics such as hygiene and taking care of the environment.
Most recently, with the help of other volunteers, and the local health post I have finally begun the greatest challenge as of yet in my service: teaching sex-ed to rural Andean high schoolers, scary! We had a series of charlas the other week, and plan on using the upcoming World AIDS Day as a launching point to form a Youth Health Promoters group. These are kids that will be trained in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, serving as leaders in their communities; because really, where do most kids get their information on sex? From each other of course! The health promoters will be a group of kids who have correct information, and this information will bleed out into the wider community.
Up next I will be planning another round of “Vacaciones Utiles” (utilitarian vacations, doesn’t have quite the same ring), which will meet twice a week in the hope to give the kids of Amashca fun and educational ways to spend their vacation time.
In my free time (believe me, there’s plenty of it) I enjoy hiking around the beautiful landscape, chatting with neighbors, yoga, cooking (and eating), the occasional art project, reading (I’ll be posting my reading shortly), and yes, I admit, a daily dose of TV (I have learned there are so many good shows out there!) This helps keep me sane and happy. I also talk with other volunteers, write in my journal, and dance huayno with my little host sister. All good stress relievers.
As a side note, I am looking for illustrated children’s books for grades 1-5. Preferably in Spanish (or Quechua if it’s out there), but if the text is simple they could be translated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org