With heavy hearts, the WGC immersion trip team is preparing to say goodbye to Chimbote, Peru. Our taste palates have been forever spoiled by all the AMAZING Peruvian dishes we’ve enjoyed: fresh ceviche, fried yucca, papas a la huancaina, pollo a la plancha, fresh fruit smoothies, the coveted and spicy ahi sauce – oh! – we could go on and on!!
Then, of course, there are the people. On Thursday, we were honored to visit Tierra Prometida (“Promised Land”) preschool just outside of Chimbote. WGC’s Early Childhood Program provides training for its teachers and we support the school in other meaningful ways. Between 8 and 15 children (it varies daily), ages 4 and 5, attend this tiny, one-room school situated in the middle of one of the Peruvian desert’s poorest areas. It’s on the outskirts of Nuevo Chimbote, and the entire residential zone – resembling the colonias on the Mexico-U.S. border – lacks basic services such as running water. Homes consist of used plywood or crude bricks. Roofs are almost always made from large thatched grass mats, since it rains less than three times a year.
Tanya is the primary teacher here, and she and her supervisor Angelita hosted our group for the day. We loved that they asked us to help out in the classroom, from participating in games on the playground (a sand-and-gravel lot), teaching the kids the colors in English and overseeing an art project where the kids painted a Christmas tree to hang in the room.
Angelita explained that the students represent a tiny slice of the overall preschool population in the area, but most parents find it difficult and costly to send their kids because they must pay for their own school supplies and lunches. The government-sponsored school is run on a shoestring budget, with Tanya almost working for free. But you can see that money is no object in her care for the kids – they adore her and respond so well to the routines she lovingly sets up in the classroom. There seems to be a fun song for every transition – from cleaning up to eating lunch to washing their hands in the bowl of water serving as the “sink.” The games she leads outdoors emphasize taking turns and counting. And Tanya knows the personalities of each child – how Alvaro has a hard time staying in his seat yet loves attention, how Jason’s moods mask his intelligent sensitivity, and how Cielo likes to spend most of her time in the pretend station “dressing” the red-haired baby doll in towels and rags.
Tessa Cornally, an Incarnate Word missionary in Peru for WGC, is working in Nuevo Chimbote and at the Tierra Prometida school during her 2-year term. As a volunteer with Sembrano Infancia – an early childhood nutrition and development program started and supported by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word – Tessa will help begin a new project aimed at promoting child health and parent education. The goal is to raise health and development literacy in the community while training local promotoras to advocate for better and more consistent health and public services. We will soon leave each of the three IWM missionaries — Ada, Tessa, and Jackie — and hope they know just how many of us are lifting them up in love and prayer!