I gazed out the dusty, plastic window of the taxi as it viciously accelerated down a narrow path littered with jagged stones. It was the morning of August 13, when the break finally ended and children went back to school. The compact buildings and busy streets were slowly replaced by unrealistically beautiful mountains as my mother, brother, and I traveled from the bustling city of Cusco to the peaceful town of Andahuaylillas. It was my second year going down this familiar path, as I came to Peru last summer with the same purpose. However, it was different this year. This year, I knew exactly what the kids liked and needed.
The cab stopped in front of the back entrance to the gated elementary school. My heart raced as I climbed out, grabbing my large suitcase filled with the various gifts I bought with the generous grant given to me by the CSGC. As I entered the small elementary school, I was greeted by energetic children and warm smiles. “Hola, hola!” they yelled, waving their small, dirty hands as we walked by. I felt a wave of sadness when I saw them, as it reminded me of what I was told last year. Most of these children do not have both parents, and all of them live high in the mountains, where the walk can take an hour long. However, their energy contrasts their situation. It was surprising to see how happy these children were. They even seemed happier than me, a high schooler studying at one of the most prestigious private high schools in America. I never heard them complaining once about their situation, or moping around because of their limited facilities. In fact, they seemed to make use of what little they had.
Last year, I found out that the school did not have many art supplies. I originally went to teach English, but that quickly changed when I realized that they did not have paint, markers, or crayons! (Last year, we brought some art supplies ourselves, but we did not realize their limited supplies). As a passionate artist myself, I desperately wanted to share what made me the happiest with these children. Last year, my art lessons were a success, and the children loved being creative. It made me happy sharing what I love the most with the young kids.
This year, with the grant, I bought magic model (as the children loved working with clay last year), origami paper, strings and beads (for bracelet making, markers, crayons, drawing books, and color pencils. I purchased what I thought was necessary, as well as some materials that I knew the children would enjoy working with.
This morning was my first day teaching, and I wanted to start with something simple but fun. I was in charge of teaching the first graders, and I thought bracelet making and drawing would be perfect. I had help from the teachers, my mom, my brother, and a volunteer from Spain, who thankfully knew English. The volunteer helped with translations, and the class went by smoothly.
There are so many things that we, as privileged students, take for granted without knowing. I, myself, am guilty of doing so. When I first arrived on campus my freshmen year, I recall disliking the magnitude of the campus, especially the “tedious”, 5-minute walk from the village to the dining hall. Now, knowing what the children have to endure just for some education, I came to be more aware of my feelings. It was ironic how last year, I went to Peru with the intent of teaching, yet I learned more from the children than they probably learned from me. I am hoping that my next two weeks with them will enlighten me just like it did last year.