Working in the Wawa Wasi, (which means something along the lines of “children’s house” in the Inca language Quechua) was an eye-opening experience. The town I was in, Otuzco, had 12 Wawa Wasi, each one room houses scattered around the town. One care giver, usually a young woman, watched 5 to 10 kids under the age of 8.
My role with the kids was to bring in activities that they normally didn’t have access to, in this case: arts and crafts. Otuzco doesn’t even sell construction paper not to mention glue sticks, stickers, or crayons. I brought all of these things, mostly up from Trujillo, the major city at the base of the mountains. And that was only the first barrier I faced. I am conversational in Spanish and can generally work out kid slang. But in Peru, they speak Castellano, a variation of Spanish meaning that most of the nouns and some of the verbs I know, are different. But kids are patient and I had an amazing time working with them and miss them all very much now!
Photo credit: Luis (a 7 year old boy at the Wawa Wasi who got a hold of my camera)
While we were in Otuzco, we also had a free clinic for the people in town to come and see a doctor and get whatever medicines they needed. The clinic was open to everyone from people in town to people from higher up the mountain in extremely rural and poor areas.
Living in Peru was a totally new experience. We were living above 10,000 feet in a house with 10 people and only one bathroom. Unlike areas in northern Mexico that I have visited, nobody spoke English. Even fewer could understand my vegetarianism. True story: Pizza Hut in Peru serves ham on its vegetarian pizzas. Still, it was one of the most amazing, albeit challenging, experiences of my life.