By Maya Eyal, France.
I arrived to Ollanta without knowing much what to expect, tired after a long flight, but amazed right away by the incredible mountain scenery, and the ‘mamichas’ carrying heavy bags on their backs looking very comfortable doing it. I never stopped being amazed by this very different culture; full of ceremonies, colors and music.
My first days I met some of the most difficult cases. Miguel-Angel, an adorable autistic kid living in very difficult conditions: with a disable mother and a brother, with more or less no money, and no one to really take good care of him. To me, one of the biggest achievements of the NGO while I was there was to get Miguel-Angel to go to school. It was the first time he met children of his age and was taken in charge by professional teachers who could help him learn to behave around other kids. That was probably one of the most amazing things to me, to see him so happy and excited every time I would take him to school and see him improving over time.
I also met Nati, a very endearing old woman speaking only Quechua, paralyzed of both legs, to whom the volunteers give therapies. She is really one impressive woman, very independent, living alone and having adapted to her condition. To me it was very new to apply a cream on an old woman’s body, and to try to communicate with someone with whom I had no common language. But I got used to her, found ways to understand her and to give her my company, and I could only learn from her and enjoy her warm presence. Unfortunately she is no longer with us.
Another memorable event was the day we took all the beneficiaries and their families to Machu Picchu. Many of them were going there for the first time, although it is only 2 hours away from Ollanta. It was an extremely tiring day since we had so many kids with disabilities to watch over in a very crowded place, but so rewarding. It was also my first time going to Machu Picchu, and to me, it was the best way possible to discover it by giving the opportunity to all these people who could have never gone without us, to come and see this sacred and special place.
I loved the diversity of activities of my volunteering time with MySmallHelp Peru. I got the chance to have powerful experiences at schools with special needs, and to give English classes in local schools in Ollanta. I loved it because the kids were very excited to learn, and although it was very hard sometimes, it was worth it. It was definitely a unique experience to get such concrete experiences in schools and to meet so many different kids. We ended up becoming pretty famous in the area, and I was often stopped in the streets by kids screaming my name and running to me to give a hug!
My last week was also pretty amazing: I got the chance to meet a community that is located in the mountains, where our beneficiary Benjamin lives (and his cousin, Nelson, also autistic like him). He is a very interesting kid, very curious and intelligent, that loves music, painting and dancing!
I also got the opportunity, like all of the other volunteers, to give a workshop. I chose to run a theatre one, since it has always been my passion. It was very challenging to think of a theatre workshop that would include all of the kids, as they have different profiles. But I think I can say it was a success, and I was very happy to see all the kids having a lot of fun with the games we played, the dressing up and getting their makeup done!
Two months with MySmallHelp Peru, are pretty difficult to sum up, but I would say it was an extremely rewarding experience, even though it was very challenging and tough at times, physically and emotionally. I will never forget all the smiles of our beneficiaries and the kids at school, and I will try to keep them strongly in my heart for a long time!