I wrote a short article for Lara to include in her newsletter. Here is the article - my thoughts and feelings in this my week here:
As I’m preparing to leave Huaycan, after six short weeks of living here, I realize that I am surrounded by family. We may speak different languages and come from different continents, but the relationships I have with the people here are as deep as any I know. Two days ago, I was speaking with a woman named Elena whom I have come to love. We spoke about this next week, my last in Huaycan, and she said with tears in her eyes, “You now have family here in Peru, Leslie. You will always have family here, and we will miss you until you return.” These words echo my own sentiments about these people, children and adults alike.
The richness of my time here has moved me immensely. I’ve held the hands of mothers and listened to them tell of hopes for the future and their children’s education. I’ve stood in front of a classroom and taught children their first English words. Just last night, I sat in a meeting of women, many with less than a fifth grade education, and listened to their desires to learn how to read and write and count. I’ve been invited to home meals and to family birthday parties. Everyday is filled with experiences like these, and I humbly know that I have learned far more from Huaycan than Huaycan could ever learn from me. I came here to give, but it is the people here who keep giving to me. Isn’t it funny that is how it often works?
As one of the first volunteers on the project, I have been blessed to see the organization and programs grow from the ground up. It is more than exciting, and I find myself encouraged daily by the visionary perspective of the other volunteers and leaders on project. We started class the first week that I arrived, and I remember a charge that a community member made at our inaugural party. “Ninos,” the older women commanded with strong emotion, “Do not let this opportunity pass. Learn from these people. Learn everything you can from these angels that have come here.” She spoke for several minutes and by the end of her talk many faces, including my own, were wet. The emotions here are so raw, so real, so exciting. Light and Leadership is unique because it is the only education non-profit in all of Huaycan – the children do not have other opportunities like these classes and programs. How humbling to serve in such a context. In little over a month we have gained a steady group of kids in both Zone Z and Zone D who drop everything and run to the classroom when it’s time for class. They want to learn and play and engage with us. It has been amazing to see the community embrace a project that is so new.
There is so much more to learn and share from my time here, but I know that many of the lessons will not take shape until after I am gone. I do know, however, when it is time to leave later this week I will say with confidence, “See you soon” instead of goodbye. I am leaving part of my heart, part of my family, in Huaycan, so I must return.