Newsletter-Unique Opportunities III

Message from my Heart

In the last two newsletters I shared two very unique opportunities  Part 1 and Part II to volunteer and serve others while on vacation (also known as Voluntourism) in Peru. Today I would like to share the experience of our final service project through GlobeAware that we participated in during our memorable trip to Peru.

Thinking of our final days of service in Cusco just reminded me of how fortunate we are to have our children living with us. We have the means to provide an education to them and certainly have many opportunities to be proud of their accomplishments and talents as we attend soccer games, swim meets, award ceremonies, class plays, musical performances and concerts, dance recitals, etc. etc. We see their self-esteem and confidence flourish. Needless to say, it felt really good to be doing something for the children in Cusco who did not live with their parents, but were given an opportunity to be educated, learn some basic life skills and nurture their talents.

Today’s Inspiring Story

We left the Sacred Valley for our final two days of service projects in Cusco at the Albergue, a home for 22 children between the ages of 10-18. Most of them have parents who live on farms and in villages that don’t have access to schools, nor can they afford them, so they apply for their children to live at the Albergue and hope to get lucky. Most of the children have been sponsored to live here and go to school for at least 5 years. Some are fortunate enough to be educated for up to 7 years. When they leave the Albergue, they have a basic education and they have acquired some life skills in carpentry, sewing, metalwork, cooking, and gardening. Some of them will go on to become educators in their villages so that they can help their own communities. 

Upon arrival at the Albergue, our two teams were pumped and ready to work. One group started building the Adobe brick walls of a future classroom and the other group started sanding pre-cut logs for a fence. It was a lot of heavy lifting, muddy, dusty and tiring work, but very gratifying when we were done for the day. We could see progress and were ready to continue working the next day.

But before we left the Albergue for the day, the kids treated us to a surprise talent show showcasing their traditional song and dance. They even managed to get some of us to get up and participate with them. After the performance they all came around and gave us hugs and thanked us for our time and effort with beautiful cards. Seeing their beautiful smiles made the day’s hard work all worthwhile.

The next day, our team was anxious to make more progress even though we knew the work would have to be continued and finished by future volunteers. It was satisfying to see the structure coming up, especially the log fence which we managed to get up and even paint. The younger volunteers really enjoyed the painting. It gave them an opportunity to leave a personal touch and made the fence more fun for the kids at the Albergue.

We enjoyed another healthy lunch before saying goodbye to all. We even had time on the last afternoon to hit the cobblestone streets and main square in Cusco. We really enjoyed the walk, the sights, the shopping, and could not decide where to grab dinner. One of the most beautiful sights was the church at the hotel Monastario. The carvings were so intricate and the colors so vibrant. 

Our trip to Peru was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed all the sights. Machu Picchu was definitely a highlight, but all the service projects we worked on throughout the week were truly inspiring, fulfilling and really gave us an opportunity to interact with the local Peruvian people. They are very friendly, grateful and welcoming. We came home with a perspective we will treasure for a lifetime. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newsletter-Unique Opportunities II

Message from my Heart

This experience was especially touching for me because in May 1997 I was involved in an accident which left me millimeters away from being paraplegic. I count my blessings daily for the medical facilities, doctors, nurses, countless hours of therapy and rehab that I had the privilege of having access to. Not to mention all the family & friends for all their emotional support. I was able to recover within 18 months to full mobility and today I can share my stories with my 2 beautiful daughters.



Today’s Inspiring Story

The temporary lack of mobility that I experienced was nothing compared to that of the estimated 100 million people in developing nations around the world who need a wheelchair but cannot afford one.

Fortunately for some of them, there are organizations like
Free Wheelchair Mission, who are dedicated to providing the gift of mobility to everyone from children to seniors in these impoverished communities.

 

Our second day in Lima, Peru was incredible. We started the morning off at the Camino de Vida facility assembling wheelchairs. Camino de Vida works in partnership with Free Wheelchair Mission, and our team of 24 assembled 4 wheelchairs within an hour and a half.

The assembly work was fun as we tried to race each other in completing the task. It’s amazing how durable these wheelchairs are even though at first glance you may not think so.

We then split into smaller teams of 8 and hopped into vans loaded with 2 wheelchairs each.

Off we went to different areas where individuals had been identified and selected through a government process to receive these wheelchairs.

The distributions are prioritized based on the needs. My group of 8 provided the first wheelchair to a 70 year old woman who was paralyzed and immobile. The second one we delivered for a 3 year old boy whose legs were amputated earlier this year, and he continues to be in the hospital due to a lack of diagnosis.

Over two days, our group of 48 assembled and distributed 12 wheelchairs.

It was such an amazing way to give as we learned how to work as a team to assemble them, and then experienced the emotions as we distributed them.

Driving to the different communities gave us an opportunity to experience Peru from a local’s perspective and not just as tourists.

We will forever treasure this unique opportunity to serve others and the perspective it gives our own lives. Our children are back in school, the days will get shorter and cooler, but life’s adventures, challenges, and rewards will continue. Stay tuned for the next issue of
Matters of the Heart!!!

Newsletter-Unique Opportunities

Message from my Heart

I know it’s been a while since my last newsletter, but I hope that you have had a great summer. I’ve had some very unique opportunities to experience giving and quality family time with my immediate and extended family this summer.Starting with a service trip to Peru in South America with a family group of 46 people, and ending with a family wedding in Toronto, Canada with the opportunity for a reunion and a visit with my 91 year old grandmother.

With so much to share, I’ll dedicate this issue to the shoe distribution that we experienced in the outskirts of Lima, Peru with Samaritan’sFeet, an organization that I’ve really enjoyed working with and supporting.

Today’s Inspiring Story

You may remember one of my previous newsletters which featured Emmanuel (Manny) Ohonme, founder of Samaritan’s Feet. I was truly honored to be working with his team on his incredible mission to put 10 million pairs of shoes on the feet of 10 million orphans and impoverished children around the world. Manny wishes to make a difference in the lives of millions by continuing the legacy of love and hope which he received with his first pair of shoes at the age of 9 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Vacations That Matter had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with Samaritan’s Feet to include a shoe distribution service project for the extended family with a mission to serve in Peru. And the privilege was all mine to join them with my 11 year old daughter to experience giving in such a unique way.

On the afternoon of June 20, 2011, 48 of us boarded a bus to one of the poorest areas of Lima to distribute 300 pairs of shoes with our local representative for Samaritan’s Feet, Pastor Samuel Santa Maria, and his dedicated friendly translator. What a humbling experience it was to wash the feet of children, women and men, and to provide them with a new pair of shoes while giving them a message of hope. Seeing the smiles and excitement in their faces was well worth the long bus ride to get to the distribution site. Even with our limited Spanish language skills, we managed to get our message of love and hope across to them.

We could have stayed many more hours and distributed many more shoes because the need so outweighs the supply we had. It just gives us a reason to want to go again and serve those who we sadly missed.

As one of the teenagers in our group said, “Everyone is the same, no matter how different our lives are. Each person has value and deserves to be treated with no less respect than anyone else. I really picked this up when washing people’s feet. It really was a humbling experience”.

This experience was not exclusive to a few, but was felt by the entire family group. What could be more gratifying than sharing these moments with your loved ones while enjoying the sights, culture and people of Lima and Cusco.

As you may have guessed, a trip to Peru would not have been complete without a visit to the awe-inspiring kingdom of the Inca’s, Machu Picchu. The scenery was breathtaking and definitely worth the hike.

Stay tuned for the next couple of newsletters where I will share the other unique service projects that we participated in during the same trip to Peru.

 

Day 7- Final Day in Cusco

We were up bright and early today for our final service project day. We were only going to be at the Albergue for half a day so that we would have the afternoon to experience the sights of Cusco, do any last minute souvenir shopping and pack since we have an early morning flight back home.
The team was anxious to make more progress today even though we knew the work would have to be continued and finished by future volunteers. It was satisfying to see the structure coming up, especially the log fence which we managed to get up and even paint a few pictures on. The younger volunteers really enjoyed the painting. It gave them an opportunity to leave a personal mark on their hard work and made the fence more fun for the kids at the Albergue.

We enjoyed another healthy lunch before saying goodbye to all. We headed back to the hotel, showered up and hit the cobblestone streets and main square in Cusco. We really enjoyed the walk, the sights, the shopping, and couldn’t decide where to grab dinner. One of the most beautiful sights was the church at the hotel Monastario. The carvings were so intricate and the colors so vibrant.
Supporting a local street vendor

Our trip to Peru was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed all the sights. Machu Picchu was definitely a highlight, but all the service projects we worked on throughout the week were just as enjoyable, fulfilling and really gave us an opportunity to interact with the local Peruvian people. They are very friendly, grateful and welcoming. I would definitely recommend Peru as a vacation destination with an opportunity to give back….


Share

Day 6- Service Project at Albergue in Cusco

We left the Sacred Valley this morning for our final two days of service projects in Cusco. We arrived at the Albergue, a home for 22 children between the ages of 10-18. Most of them have parents who live on farms and in villages that don’t have access to schools, nor can they afford them, so they apply for their children to live at the Albergue and hope to get lucky. Most of the children have been sponsored to live here and go to school for at least 5 years. Some are fortunate enough to be educated for up to 7 years. When they leave the Albergue, they have a basic education and they have acquired some skills in carpentry, sewing, metalwork, cooking, and some basic life skills. Some of them will go on to become educators in their villages so that they can help their own communities.

Upon arrival at the Albergue, our teams were pumped and ready to work. We split into two teams. One group started building the Adobe brick walls of a future classroom and the other group started sanding pre-cut logs for a fence. It was a hot day, so we had to take several water and Gatorade breaks. They also prepared a tasty vegetarian lunch for us. It was a lot of heavy lifting, muddy, dusty and tiring work, but very gratifying when we were done for the day. We could see progress and were ready to continue working the next day.

But before we left the Albergue for the day, the kids treated us to a surprise talent show showcasing their traditional song and dance. They even managed to get some of us to get up and participate with them. After the performance they all came around and gave us hugs and thanked us for our time and effort with beautiful cards. Seeing their beautiful smiles made the day’s hard work all worthwhile.


Share

Day 5- A free day to experience different activities

Today was a free day for families and individuals to experience whatever activities they wanted. Several people chose to ride ATV’s through the scenic mountains. Others chose to try paragliding, but since it is dependent on wind conditions, only one person actually took off and enjoyed the thrilling ride from the mountain top to the valley.

Another group of people decided to go shopping for local arts, crafts and everything Alpaca wool. The local Pisac Market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and definitely offers a huge variety of Peruvian handicrafts and textiles for a bargain. Supporting the local vendors is yet another way of giving back to their community. Our tourism dollars allows them to earn their living.

Some people took the opportunity to tour the Moray ruins, the agricultural terraces with their complex irrigation system and natural green house effects which allowed the Incas to grow an extraordinary variety of crops at that altitude. Nearby was another interesting site called the Salineras or The salt mines where 3,000 pools produce all the salt consumed in the region. It was interesting to learn about the way the land is cultivated and utilized by the communities.

Now that we’ve spent a couple of days enjoying the scenary and activities in the Sacred Valley, we are ready to go to Cusco and get busy with another couple of days of service projects.


Share

Day 4-Machu Picchu, Peru


Our day started off at 6:30am when we took a half hour bus ride to the Ollantaytambo train station. From there we embarked on the most beautiful scenic train ride along the river to Aguas Calientes. Another 25 minute bus ride and we were at the entrance to Machu Picchu. We then started our 2 hour walking tour of the breathtaking ruins and gorgeous sights. Pictures don’t do justice to the beauty and scale of the Inca kingdom.

We also experienced a hair-raising hike along a steep mountain side where the views were unreal. It was as if we were hiking through the movie set of Avatar.
The natural beauty and symmetry of the soaring Andean mountains was amazing. The construction of Machu Picchu and the agricultural system of the Incas was unthinkable.

We enjoyed a huge buffet lunch at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge before heading back to the Urubamba Valley for a relaxing stay at the Tambo Del Inka resort & spa.


Share

Day 3- The Sacred Valley, Peru


Today we flew from Lima to Cusco and then took an hour and a half bus ride to Urubamba which translates to The Sacred Valley. The sun was out, the air was clear and the views were incredible. We arrived in the valley in the afternoon and took the remainder of the day to acclimate to the altitude. Those who felt a little light headed or shortness of breath just had to lay down and relax while their bodies adjusted. We all drank some Coca Leaf Tea which is supposed to help relieve the symptoms.

We did manage to get out to the local food market and saw the multiple varieties of potatoes that this region is so famous for. We also purchased mangoes, passion fruit, and several other fresh fruits to share with the rest of the group. There is nothing like the experience of a local market for those who enjoy food, culture, and learning about what the locals eat and how.


Share

Day 2 Peru Service projects


Our second day in Lima, Peru was incredible. We started the morning off at the Camino de Vida facility assembling wheelchairs. Camino de Vida works in partnership with Free Wheelchair Mission. Our team of 24 (the other team worked on this project yesterday) assembled 4 wheelchairs and distributed 6 of them. It’s amazing how durable they are. My group of 8 managed to provide a wheelchair for a 70 year old woman who was paralyzed and immobile, and the second one went to a 3 year old boy whose legs were amputated earlier this year and he continues to be in the hospital due to a lack of diagnosis.

In the afternoon, all 48 of us went to one of the poorest areas of Lima to distribute shoes through Samaritans Feet. What a humbling experience it was to wash the feet of children, women and men, and to provide them with a new pair of shoes while giving them a message of hope. We encouraged them to attend church and have faith in God. Seeing the smiles and excitement in their faces was well worth the long bus ride to get to the distribution site. We all wished we could speak more spanish.

It was a long day, but very productive and fulfilling.

Stay tuned as we spend the next 3 days taking a break from volunteering to enjoy the sights of Peru.


Share

Day 1 of Volunteer Service Project in Lima, Peru


Village of Villa Maria

The first day of our group service projects in Lima, Peru was amazing. Our team of 24 spent the day at a mountain side village called Villa Maria. The local school (yellow and blue building behind me in the picture) was the site of the Medical camp hosted by the Alcansa church and Camino De Vida.

Local doctors, nurses, pharmacists and church volunteers along with our team provided free services to the locals in the village.Everything from a physical exam, dental check-up and flouride treatments, to nutrition advice & dispensing of medication was offered at no cost to anyone who wished to come in. Young children had their faces painted and had an opportunity to play and interact with the kids in our volunteer team.


The most unique thing about today was the fact that we actually had to walk or rather hike the dirt roads of the village going from house to house announcing the availability of the free clinic. As we went around the village, we had the awesome opportunity to see how the locals live in the mountain villages of Lima, Peru.

Stay tuned for more as we go through the next week working on various service projects and experiencing some of the amazing sights of Peru.


Share