This July thirteen members of Church of the Good Shepherd in Vancouver, Washington, and thirteen Jesuit High School Students from Portland, Oregon, partnered together to build a court in Kuntur Wasi, Peru. Our youngest member was 8 and our oldest was 70+, proving that age is only a number when it comes to a court building project. Our cute blonde eight year old was a little celebrity in the community with kids flocking around her to touch her hair and play with her. Our 70+ member drew attention and respect from both our team and the community as well. Word quickly spread that a 70+ year old woman with Parkison’s was shoveling rock and sand all day to help build the court. Community members came just to watch Barbara work and one made the remark to our Peace Corp volunteer, “Watching her makes me want to help!” And so help they did. No one wanted a 70+ year old woman to show them up and soon there were community members of all ages and genders from the community helping out with the court!
Not only did the team work side by side in building the court but both our group and the community contributed to the finances to make this dream a reality too. In a rural community where the average person makes $6 a day and a bag of cement is around $9, many families in the community made a huge sacrifice by donating a bag of cement. All week long people came to the court dropping off bags of cement or bringing whatever they had. For one elderly woman it was 2 Soles which is about 77 cents. Another elderly man brought the group to his house so he could donate carrots and beets from his garden for a meal. The generosity and love of the people of Kuntur Wasi was truly awe-inspiring.
In addition to building the court, the group participated in hiking to some pre-Incan ruins, as well as getting to see the gold found in the graves, displayed in the Kuntur Wasi museum. On the last day the community hosted an opening ceremony complete with dances, songs, and speeches. We ended by eating together and playing friendly games of soccer, volleyball and basketball on their new court. This experience was such a memorable and eye-opening one for everyone involved.
A big thank you to The Church of the Good Shepherd in Vancouver, Washington, for funding the court in Peru (along with the community) and donating most of the sports equipment to make this dream a reality for the children and adults in the Kuntur Wasi community.
The more profound memory will be of the moment I realized that while this was an exciting and rewarding 1 week vacation for us, what we experienced as challenging was normal life for those we met. While we all are returning to our more comfortable lives and modern conveniences these come at a cost- perhaps a little less time for family, friends, a more hectic pace of life, more stress, and society’s message that things equal happiness. I hope I can carry with me a little bit of the Peruvian spirit of hospitality, appreciation for hard work and a resourceful “make-do” spirit, generosity and gratitude with me. -Kelly, Good Shepherd Parishoner from Vancouver, WA
I began to see that the kids in Peru aren’t so different than the kids in the US. On this trip I learned that the people in Peru have less than us but they are happier than us. Now I appreciate the little things more than the big things. – Colleen, 8 years old
I was amazed at how content and able the people were in Kuntur Wasi, given how little they had and the conditions they lived in every day. . . . I wish myself and all of America was more like the people of Kuntur Wasi, life would be simpler. – David, High School Student from Portland, OR
It felt like we were both doing something great for each other, we being the “gringos” and the locals. They taught us and we taught them. The court I felt like really was the bridge between us and Peruvian culture and people. – Claire, 10 years old
Friendships were forged, perceptions expanded, and a history and culture of another people was made real . . . I have gained far more than I gave; tested myself in ways I haven’t in years, becoming part of a greater good. – Tina, Good Shepherd Parishoner from Vancouver, WA
Coming to Peru was one of the most rewarding trips of my life . . . The community is pretty poor and trash covers the streets; water is scares because of the mines and chickens roam the streets. All of that, however, seemed to disappear when we were welcomed to the community. The welcome party made me feel like a part of their home. . . Here , the poorer they are the more they give. They don’t always worry about technology and the conversations are so genuine because these people live in the moment. . . . Everyone says hi to each other and I felt a great sense of community here than I ever did in my neighborhood at home. From this trip I have realized to live in the moment. I shouldn’t always worry about new clothes or a cellphone when I already have them but instead be gracious for the opportunities I have. – Alison, High School Student from Portland, OR.
Even though the Peruvians don’t have many of the things that I enjoy, such as warm shower, iPods, and TV’s, they are happy. Seeing the Peruvians living with so little makes me realize that many of the things I think are important really are not. Because of their lack of material things the Peruvians have more time for relationships. . . . Another thing I noticed about the community was how welcoming and friendly they were. The welcoming ceremony they had for us was really special. It made me realize how important and special something as simple as a court was for the community. – Sabrina, High School Student from Portland, OR
When we were hugged and kissed by the parents, teachers and kids on the first day, in no way did I feel different or foreign. I felt as part of the community and part of the Kuntur Wasi family. –Andrew, High School student from Portland, OR