The title speaks for itself! A lot of happy faces here in Peru. Not only ours, but the kids’ faces definitely too. Expect for a few Instagram posts, until now, we’ve never fully explained about the volunteering we are doing. Therefore this blog, to shed some light onto this amazing project.
We’ve been at OYE LENA for a while now. For those who haven’t followed that closely (that’s totally OK!), OYE LENA is an educational project based in Curahuasi (Peru). A couple of things you should know about Curahuasi; it’s 2-3 hours away from Cusco (depending on your driver and the current strikes going on in Peru…), it has a market where local farmers can sell their produce and a few restaurants. Otherwise there’s really nothing much to do here.
Sometimes that reflects into the households of the local people. There are a lot of stories going around of homes with negligent parents often combined with alcohol abuse. Families living without electricity or houses where there’s only running water for a few hours per day. We don’t like to report such things about places or people, but sadly these aren’t just mere stories, but a harsh reality in Curahuasi. It’s for exactly that reason that OYE LENA was founded. To provide a stimulating, educational and fun environment for children who come from such homes.
Beginnings are hard. Like with every new project or job, it takes a while before you get to know the place, how everything works, the people, and in this case, the children themselves. But once you’re warmed up, you get to enjoy the work. In a project like this, that’s also when you get the feeling of making a real difference. We teach them communication (for the younger children, this means learning the alphabet etc.) and mathematics. But there are also workshops from time to time with global themes like; the environment, religions around the world, bullying and so on. All of this happens on the grounds of OYE LENA, a little outside of the town. The founders really succeeded in creating a safe, enriching and (most importantly) a fun environment for the children. A place away from home, where they can be themselves and have fun!
A typical day for us usually starts with a morning run around town. Curahuasi is surrounded by mountains, so if the clouds permit it, you get a nice view in the morning! We don’t go too far (around 6km), because at 9:45AM we officially start our day with a little meeting to discuss what’s going on that day. Not long after, the fun begins…
The mornings are reserved for the “Specials” (as they are called here). What makes these children so special? Nothing much really, most of the time, they are happy, like to learn and move around. So in a way they are like all the other children, they are special because they are mentally challenged. So the main goal for working either the “Specials” is to teach them useful skills and help them develop. We work on their gross motor skills (i.e play games, do sports, etc.), cognitive skills, communication and those who need it, also get physiotherapy at OYE LENA. Some of them also learn “real-life” skills, like doing laundry, folding sheets, gardening, etc. For them, life can get a little too chaotic sometimes. So we also have a place where we can go to relax a little bit and get some peace of mind. Here are their happy faces.
Lunch is provided by Dioffe, the “head chef” of OYE LENA. She’s also a little feared by the children, so she can come in handy if they need to behave for a while. We can always threaten them with putting them with her for a while. Luckily we don’t have to use this tactic very often, but it’s a nice trick up our sleeves. Ok, we have to admit, we’re also a little afraid of Dioffe (although she’s a very lovely woman!), so we usually avoid using the Dioffe method because we don’t want to involve her... But she makes delicious Peruvian food, which we’re very grateful for!
After lunch, the primary and secondary school children come to the project. They go to their “regular” school in the mornings and come for extra guidance and fun to OYE LENA. So our afternoons are mostly filled with learning ABC’s and 123’s. But also arts and crafts and sports!
It didn’t take us very long to notice that the children love coming to OYE LENA. They’re motivated to learn, have unlimited energy for sports and are almost always high spirited. That's why it is so impressive that these kids can be so happy despite some of their situations at home. Happy faces all around!