A day in the life at the Centro Esperanza Office

September is well under way. This is my first September of not being in an educational institution since I was two years old. And while most of my friends are either finishing the last year of their undergraduate degree or beginning their Master’s degree, for me, it somehow feels natural to be out of school. Besides last Tuesday when classes began in Canada, I haven’t felt too strange about not being in the routine of another semester. I am so busy here that I don’t have time to miss homework, essays, group projects, tests and exams. 😛

I am thrilled to be living in the “real world”, doing tasks that yield results that are more than marks on an assignment or exam. My normal schedule consists of about 20 hour/week of homework help sessions, English classes, art classes and youth sessions at three program sites, at least 15 hours/ week doing various tasks (planning, translating, coordinating with others) in the office and at least a few hours associated with the Mesa de Concertación para la Lucha contra la pobreza (Roundtable for the fight against poverty) that I have been a volunteer member of since my first week in Peru. I also spend several hours planning my workshops/classes at home since it is tricky to concentrate on any task for long in the office without getting asked to help with something.

Below are pictures from the conference held by the Round table on Tuesday about ‘Buen Trato para la Niñez‘, or good treatment of kids, where themes such as anemia, domestic violence and lack of quality educational opportunities were discussed. About 70 government officials who work in various sectors, NGO workers and professors were in attendance. I was the administrative assistant who had to sit just outside the room for most of the time to help with registration, but spent the last hour or so inside the room taking photos and soaking up what was being discussed.

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Eva, one of my compañeras de trabajo from Centro Esperanza (CE),
gave a compelling speech about some of our work in Chosica del Norte.

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I also enjoyed reading the documents distributed to attendees…some interesting info: the regional rates of anemia of kids aged 36 months to 6 in Peru in 2011: 44.8% in Lambayeque (of which Chiclayo is the capital), 71.1% in Puno (in the south, on Lake Titacaca) and 27.5% in Lima (the lowest in the country); Peru’s regional average in 2011 was 41.6%, compared to 60.9% in 2000. OK, so there has clearly been improvement, but I was still shocked by the high figures. One day I will post pictures from my visit to a rural elementary school where the national nutrition program Qali Warma is working to reduce malnutrition. [By coincidence, the kids at the Antonio Raimondi site where I spend many hours are having blood tests this week in the free public clinics to see if the nutrition programs Centro Esperanza offers them (and cooking classes it offers their mothers) are helping to increase their iron intake (among other vitamins, minerals and protein).]

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International development is everywhere: this women had on a jacket from the Safer Streets program,
apparently sponsored by the City of Philadelphia, USA.

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On Thursday it seems that we started a weekly activity in the CE office: eating a freshly prepared meal together. The meal below was prepared on Thursday by the lovely Ludi (in the black shirt behind the table) and included papas a la huancaina and a delicious chicken/pasta dish. I am already excited for when it’ll be my day to cook for the team, which is usually bigger than it was on Thursday, although every single day in a NGO office seems to be different, quite unpredictable.

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After eating I somehow got into a laughing fit. One of those in which you are not really sure what sparked your laughter, but in which you know that you cannot stop laughing, and eventually get a sharp pain due to a lack of oxygen. I was tired and felt like a siesta after the meal…why not lean up against my compañera Harumi?

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(OK, so I thought she had her eyes closed, that we were going to pretend we were sleeping, but apparently she didn’t think so, making these fotos even funnier).

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I am learning so much everyday, trying to soak it all in and record my thoughts and observations as they come on a little notebook I carry around. At night I write in my journal, but sometimes I am simply too tired. I blog when I have the patience and time to do so. Of course I email people, but I have been particularly bad at replying to emails since getting here.

One of the best ways to reflect on what I am doing has been to chat with my friend and fellow violinist, Christian. Since he is not connected to CE, explaining to him what we do is valuable, not only because he was born and raised in Chiclayo, but because he understands the causes of poverty in his native city and is truly interested in discussing, in asking and answering questions, in offering suggestions. He is one of the few people I know in Chiclayo who considers himself a bookworm. Christian is also allowing me (to begin) to understand complex issues outside of this region since he know about the realities of the remote Amazon region bordering Brazil (the Loreto region) where his mother is a biology teacher. It is fascinating to chat with him about the differences between the cultures and lifestyles of the people of the selva (jungle) and sierra (mountains), who live many unique (seemingly harsher) realities as compared to those people here along the costa (coast). [Note the important division of Peru’s geography, as did kids in this elementary school I visited: costa =yellow, sierra =brown, selva =green].

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Another interesting way to ponder my internship is through Skype conversations with my friends, especially those in Canada, the USA, Mexico and France. Telling people what I am up to in English and French is an ideal way to recall and come to better reflect on my actions. Sometimes just translating the objectives of programs (or of common phrases used here in Spanish) is the best way to really understand what CE is trying to accomplish (or what is valued in Peruvian culture). Questions, comments and reminders from my multicultural and genuinely curious friends make me look at things in new or deeper ways and I am definitely taking more out of my experiences here thanks to their long-distance support. ¡Les agradezco mucho, amig@s! 

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