My name is Katie and on the 1st of July 2013 I began my journey to Peru which would last two weeks. I participated in a project which involved working at a building site on a morning, building a classroom for a local poverty stricken area and volunteering on an afternoon in a local children’s home. After a full day of travelling I arrived in Iquitos and until I was actually in the city I hadn’t known what to expect.
I don’t really think anything could have prepared me for the sights I began to see, even the basic things such as cars and houses looked completely different from anything I’d seen at home. Many houses had to be built on water due to the lack of space and money, and in the same area I saw many children with swollen stomachs due to parasitic illness. I found that many didn’t even have sheltered beds and families had to earn money for food on a meal-by-meal basis and didn’t know when their next meal would come. The image that really first opened my eyes to the poverty was seeing a lady fill her cup with dirty river water in which people were urinating just metres away and take a drink from it. This image caused me to feel great anger at the way people were allowed to live in this way without basic human rights. Nobody should have to live like that.
After seeing such images I was nervous that people in the city would be angry with us and jealous of us considering what we have and the way we live in comparison to themselves, I thought they would be patronized by the way we felt the need to come and offer help. When I met the people of the city I found it to be completely opposite. The people of Iquitos were all full of joy and had constant smiles on their faces, they were extremely welcoming and it wasn’t long before I realised some of them were the nicest people I had ever met. At first I was confused at how joyful they were considering the suffering they faced each day. I thought we would be bringing joy and hope to them however I was humbled at the amount of hope and faith the Peruvian people instilled within me. This particular experience deepened my Christian faith as in a place where it is difficult to find God and a place which makes it easy for you to question your beliefs I found God within each of the joyful faces I saw. This gave me a greater understanding of my faith rather than eliminating it which is what I first feared would happen.
In the children’s home we made crafts with the children, taught them English and played football. I met a girl called Daniella, we both shared a passion for football and despite the language barrier she was a genuine friend. It was satisfying that even though we had completely different lives I felt that we were on the complete same level. When I had to say goodbye to her I felt deep sadness. We hugged each other and Daniella would not stop crying, which brought me to tears. I had known her for barely a week yet it was so upsetting for us to leave each other. I felt like I had brought her hope and now I was leaving her without any. It was awful to leave her as I knew she wouldn’t have the opportunities I have in my life and I knew her talents would go to waste.
On a more personal level throughout the trip I developed skills which I can take with me for the rest of my life, such as basic Spanish, working with children and I have gained more confidence to become involved in things I wouldn’t have before this trip. I particularly enjoyed playing football with the children and getting to know the local football team and having a match against them. We bet on the match and expectedly lost the match. However, this wasn’t such a bad thing as the money is going to be used by the local football team to make improvements to their pitch.
I have been challenged both mentally and physically by this trip, mentally in the new feelings I have encountered throughout the trip and the emotions I have dealt with during my time in Peru and for the rest of my life because of this trip. I was challenged by the physical work on the building site however seeing our final project and the happiness we brought people in the local area gave me a sense of satisfaction and felt I had really gained something on the trip.
Throughout the trip I began to feel less angry and was filled more with guilt. I felt selfish because the things I have at home I don’t fully appreciate, I didn’t realise how lucky I was. I made more of small issues and worried about the slightest of things and I felt guilty because these people who have nothing are always happy and make the most of what they have. Why do I deserve the life I have and why do the people I saw deserve the lives they have? I’m no different to those people. From my trip I have definitely gained a sense of great appreciation for what I have, for my basic human rights and my stable family life. The trip has also developed me as a person, in general I feel motivated to make a difference, I want to do more for people living in the ways I have witnessed. I have the desire to speak out about what I have seen and do as much as I can to make a change.
Thank you for helping me make this wonderful experience possible. I won’t let the images I have seen be lessened by my return to normality. I will hold it in my mind for the rest of my life and I feel what I have seen and felt on this trip will make me a better person and drive me to do more to work against poverty.