It’s our last week of work and I’m amazed at how quickly time has passed. I’ve loved my time at Amantaní but as its getting close to our departure date I find myself reflecting upon my work at the Hogar especially in regards to what my time here has meant to me and what I think the impact of my work has been on the house.
At every worksite there is a distinct and personal need that we as volunteers have been able to fill. At Amantaní that need was child care and help around the Hogar. I’ve changed diapers, I’ve fed babies, I’ve washed dishes and I’ve played and laughed with the kids. I feel Gianna and I have been a much needed set of hands at meal times and when putting kids to bed for a nap, but at the same time we are a supplement. The Hogar does function without us there and the kids are taken care of so well by the permanent staff. I think where Gianna and I have stepped in are in the moments such as when a kid is crying after falling and they need a hug or a baby needs hand holding to learn how to walk and luckily these are moments that the staff alone doesn’t always have time to support without extra volunteers due to other critical duties. Yes these moments are awesome and it feels so good to help, but the kids will get up from their fall and the baby will learn to walk even when Gianna and I are not there. I think that I understand now what Gianna and I were meant to do at Amantaní. We are there as aid to the staff, to try and make their lives easier and also to add a little extra fun to the kids days that is sometimes hard for the staff to provide when they are alone with the children. I am so happy I was able to help in the ways I have at Amantaní and I really am proud of Gianna and I and the work we have done at the Hogar.
When doing service work it’s so easy to just want to fix it all. I so wish that my work could get all of the little ones adopted, could stop newly abandoned children from arriving at Amantaní every few weeks and could make these kids lives infinitely easier and happier but that’s just not the case. My biggest takeaway from my experience at Amantaní has been trying to keep myself checked in with reality. I think in the U.S. with volunteer culture we are bred to want to help which is great, but we are also bred to think we can change it all, our work will drastically change lives and that doing volunteer work makes us heroes. We are only here for two months and although that seems like a long time it isn’t necessarily enough time to change our volunteer sites incredibly and only being at these sites for two months definitely does not make us heroes. What’s gonna happen when we are gone? Who is going to take on the roles Gianna and I have as “Mamis” to the little ones at Amantaní, who is going to be fixing fences, who is going to update websites, who is going to teach art classes? It’s amazing many of us in our respective sites took up these roles but the chances of refilling these roles is not very high because the sites don’t necessarily have the resources to do so. Also, despite these being roles that need filling, each site functioned without these roles filled before we arrived and WILL continue functioning in our absence. I have worked so hard since I’ve been at Amantaní and have loved helping in all ways I can and I know that I have filled a need. At the same time I am always reminding myself that although our work has helped it has only been one drop in the large pool of challenges our sites face. There are systematic issues that contribute to the abandonment of children in Peru and how adoption is perceived in the country and unfortunately in my two months here, I haven’t even been able to directly confront these issues in the slightest. While our work here in Peru probably won’t have the most dramatic, long-term impact on our sites and the Cusco community, that doesn’t mean our work here doesn’t matter. We came, we provided our hands, our ideas and our work ethic and we have helped in our best capacity, which is just about as much as we could possibly do and is definitely all the service sites could ask for.
The importance of staying conscious and staying humble during our work has for me, been the most important take away from my time here and I think it is something that needs to be focused on more in the U.S. in regards to volunteer work. I am already getting anxious about Thursday and having to say goodbye to all of the kids and the staff I’ve spent so much time with over the past two months but I hope to just laugh and enjoy the next few days as much as possible before we go! See ya soon N.C.