By Erika Frommer (USA).
I’ve been living in Ollantaytambo volunteering at MySmallHelp Peru for a little over a month now. Before moving to the volunteer house I saw the Facebook posts about the work MSH Peru is doing and was excited to be joining a team I could tell is active in the lives of their beneficiaries.
My first week at MSH Peru was definitely a whirlwind and gave me a glimpse of what’s to come in my 3 months here. To put it simply, we work a lot. Most days are long and some of the visits can be taxing, but our objective is to serve our beneficiaries and truthfully I think that’s what makes this all worth it. All of the volunteers come from all corners of the globe and are here for a finite period of time. In that time, not only do we get to help people but we all end up inadvertently learning about ourselves and different cultures. We meet new people from all walks of life and I imagine we all come out of here a little more humble and appreciative for what we have. I’ve only been here for a handful of weeks but it feels like it’s flying with all of the work we’re putting in. I keeping telling people I still can’t believe I’m here and a part of this. It’s been awesome. I’m trying my best to take advantage of my time at MSH Peru and pour of my energy into this. I truly believe all of us here are receiving much more than what we’re putting into this. The slogan is true, ‘your small help can make a huge difference in a child’s life’. We’re not changing the world but we are definitely bringing some happiness into our beneficiaries’ worlds.
Although most of our beneficiaries are children, we do have adult, Natividad who we affectionately call Nati. I always feel happy and warm leaving Nati’s house. At 78, she’s our oldest beneficiary who’s paralyzed from the waist down and army crawls to get around her living space. I ask you here to take a moment and picture that as your life. Now picture that as your life for 62 years. That’s Nati’s life. Despite the circumstances Nati is remarkably independent — she lives alone, cooks delicious meals, sows her own clothes, and can start a fire faster than anyone else I know. Nati lives close by to our house so we visit her often to tidy up, clean dishes, wash clothes, and help with her at-home medical treatments. We also water the veggies other volunteers have planted in a garden by her house so she can have better access to fresh produce since it’s not easy for her to go to the market. We even attempt to start the fire for her stove…but I’ve personally never able to so she usually takes care of that (thanks Nati). The other day I helped her sew a new skirt she’s making for herself. It was a lot harder than it looked but I’m happy to report Nati was able to teach me how to do a proper pleat. What I love about Nati is that she’s so happy to have company and will partake in the Peruvian tradition to keep offering food to keep us around longer. I also love her smile because it’s genuine and contagious. She’s a stoic woman who’s been through a hell of a lot but still seems to appreciate the simple things of life. I love that!