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A Dose of Reality in Pachacutec

Written by Waleed Aljehani, 2014 Peru: Amazon Adventure. 

Nothing could describe my happiness when I stepped out of the plane to find myself in Lima, Peru to begin my volunteering journey in the depth of the Amazon. After one of my program leaders, Lynn, took me to our hostel, she explained the outline of the program briefly. The plan was that the group would spend 4 nights in Lima, then head to Iquitos in the Amazon rainforest where we will spend most of our time volunteering before going solo for our Independent Travel Time.

Lima was phase 1 of the trip. Most of the group would call it “the honey moon phase“. It was the time when we got to know each other as a group, discovered the tourist attractions of the city, and most importantly, relaxed and prepared for the hard tasks that lay ahead of us.

The group spirit was fantastic in Lima. It seemed like we had known each other for much longer than a couple of days. We took Spanish courses for 3 hours for 4 days. After the classes, we usually roamed the city of Lima as a group to do some activities, such as taking a jaw-dropping bike tour along the coast of Lima, enjoying delicious Chinese dishes with another volunteering group, walking around the main markets and the centre of the city. Nonetheless, my personal favorite activity was watching the World Cup Final with the Latin locals — my Spanish teacher being one of them — as it really gave me the experience of the Latin football passion.

However, the day that made the biggest impact among the members of the group was the trip to Pachacutec, an impoverished area in the northern part of Lima. Most of the group was shocked by what we saw. The poverty and the lack of necessary services was beyond anything we have ever seen. The area lacked services such as a sewage system, roads, clean water sources, and much more than that. Moreover, the houses there were either made of aluminum sheets or wood. This was the very first moment when everybody had a brief idea of how much work lies ahead and how important volunteering is.

Later on the same day, we met some representatives of the youth community and it was another shocking moment for the group. Young people in that community spend their energy and time in the best possible way. For example, they put on their own circus performances, spending most of their free time perfecting their shows and techniques. In addition, they are raising funds to build a youth center in the community to serve more and more young people. They face many financial, mental, and physical obstacles, yet they never give up and their spirit was on the moon.

Pachacutec Circus
As a group, we were surprised yet happy to see youth just like us spending their time on such productive activities.  After the meeting with the youth of Pachacutec, we met one of the leaders of the community, and had a deep talk about the problems that the community is facing. The biggest problem was funding. The area had a population of over 250,000 people, yet the Peruvian government allocates very little in the budget for the services in this area. The community we visited was in extreme need for help, yet people were happy and enjoying their simple life. One day in Pachacutec taught me much more about poverty and human rights than what I could learn in university for years. It was simply an outstanding experience.

Next up? Iquitos, where we get our hands dirty and start our volunteering!

Waleed Aljehani
2014 Peru: Amazon Adventure.

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