The Dorm

A little about the dorm itself. We currently have 10 or 11 girls at the dormitory. I say 10 “or” 11 because when I got here we had 11. Now, it appears that we have 10. A little more on that in a later post. The object of the project is to provide a safe, supportive environment for impoverished girls from the Andes Mountains to live in, so that they can get an education. Why is that necessary, you may ask? Why don’t they just get on the bus and go to high school?  Well, the mountain communities are far. Very far from towns that actually have high schools. The shortest hike that any of our girls has to our town is 3 hours. The longest hike one of our girls has is 8 hours. Each way. So most kids finish their education in the 6th grade. Boys, after that point, are usually sent away to schools or to work in the cities. Girls are left behind to get pregnant.

A community where one of the girls lives.

So, the Sacred Valley Project has set up a dorm in our town of Ollantaytambo. There is a high school here in our town. The goal of the project is to take on 6 new girls every year. So eventually we will have 6 girls in grades 7 -11 (high school.) The girls walk to our town on Sunday afternoon, and live in the dorm throughout the week. On Fridays, they hike back to their communities. What do we do here at the dorm? Glad you asked. Well, aside from giving the girls food and lodging, we give them a lot of educational and social support. They really aren’t very well prepared for high school courses, since their prior education may have been in a one room mud hut in the mountains. So, after they get home from school, we tutor them and work with them on their homework for another 4 or 5 hours. It’s a huge game of catch-up, as well as trying to keep up with new concepts. And we help them acclimate to a different social setting. Oh, right, and learn Spanish. Their native language is Quechua.

Some Math Help - Me and Maria Elena

The dorm itself is quite adequate. Actually quite luxurious compared to conditions in the mountains. We have an outdoor courtyard,

Courtyard

Courtyard

A kitchen, study room, dining/homework room, 3 bedrooms for the girls,

Dining/Homework Room

a shower and toilets (albeit they are sort of outdoors), and a room for our house mom, Maria.

Toilets/Washroom

Flushable Toilet

All in all, the dorm itself is a wonderful,caring community, where the girls have learned to grow in so many ways – to live away from home, form a new community of peers, work hard, and fulfill their responsibilities through chores. I am thrilled to be here. And although we lack the amenities of home, I have found so much more in the warmth and caring of the people that I am living and working with. I have found that you don’t need tons of money and stuff to have a happy and fulfilling life. Sometimes, less is more.


who, what, where, when……….

So, you may ask –
What is this all about? What are you doing? Why are you in Perú?
All good questions…….

Let me start at the beginning.

So, there I was. Sitting in a cubicle at an insurance company. Programming. I had taken a short-term assignment just to have steady work, make some dough and pay some bills. Well, I was still at the assignment 2 years later… and I had never worked in a cubicle before. I often thought, “I wonder how many of these people had the wish to work in a cubicle when they were a child?” I knew I certainly didn’t. I didn’t even know what a cubicle was. I wanted to be a puppet show. Not in one. But be one. Go figure.

Meanwhile, my youngest child was away at a 5 month “semester” school. Yes, I missed her, and knew that upon her return, she would be leaving home for good – to attend a University out of state. Hmmmm….. she was only 16. I thought this would be the most opportune time to spend one final year with her – working closely together – doing something that would stretch the both of us – and help the common good. My dear husband, although he would sorely miss us, agreed. So, to make a long story short, I found the Sacred Valley Project, in Ollantaytambo, Peru. They had advertised for a long-term volunteer to do curriculum planning. They were also more than happy to have a 16 year old young woman volunteer to work with their 12-15 year old girls – tutoring, and being a big sister. A marriage made in heaven. Plans were made. Tickets were bought. I quit my job. We packed our backpacks, and we left. So here we are.

<NOTE: I wanted to post a very lovely mother/daughter photo here, but alas, after 15 attempts, I am giving up…. Ahhhhh. Perú.>


New Chapter……..

“It’s not the destination, so much as the journey.” – Captain Jack Sparrow

I am old. Well, many people may argue that point. But my point is that I have lived quite a life. Many chapters in a book that have gotten me to this point.

As I start a new chapter, working with indigenous Andean girls in the Sacred Valley of Perú, I am compelled to write about my experiences in this new land. If time permits, I may digress to previous chapters such as being one of the first female vendors in the vendors’ union @ Shea Stadium, getting smashed by a ton of bricks when I was an engineer, building a 2,500 sq. ft. log house by hand with my family, meeting various celebrities as I grew up in NYC,  zip-lining one mile at 60 mph over a one mile high rainforest, or raising 2 incredibly talented children.

But for now, it’s this adventure in Perú.

Read my posts, and follow my journey……….