April 10, 2014

by Cathy Liu in

After more than 9000 miles and 100 days on the road, Team Last Responders finally reached Trujillo, Peru, home of our charity partner Vive Peru, where the vehicles would be donated to Melissa Guadalupe, the region coordinator gave us a warm welcome and settled us in one of their lovely hosting families The next day, we got a tour of the city, and the following day, we shadowed Vive Peru staff to get a closer look at how this charity operates Melissa kindly incorporated the team into the daily routine so that we could experience Vive Peru’s work first hand.

Our day started with a visit to a boys’ orphanage in the morning We brought a simple travel printer which could print one 4x6 photo per minute to take pictures for the boys We were told the boys rarely have printed pictures of themselves When we arrived around 10:30 in the morning, some of the boys went to school, and some were playing soccer on the field I was very impressed by the  orphanage facility, a standard sized outdoor basketball field was converted into a soccer field, there were beautiful sun flowers and neatly trimmed trees, and four large buildings hosted a total of less than fifty boys. Everything was much better than my elementary school in China.



While Stephen Alexis and Martha joined the kids at the soccer field, the rest of us hang around the benches to take pictures.


A teenage kid came up to Paul and asked Paul to adopt him Paul said that he has two children at home and could not have more, then this kid inquired my availability, to which Melissa answered that I’m too young I silently disagreed, while I was quickly calculating what age I would have to give birth if I were to have a teenage son, a younger boy came to sit next to me, held my hand, and  asked me to adopt him This boy was about 7 or 8, definitely not too old to be my son, so I said, if I were to take him, he would have to leave his country and live in a foreign place far far away This younger boy was very attached to me during our entire stay He played with my iPhone while Mike was taking pictures for all the boys, then followed us to the director’s office where Steve and I printed the pictures He actually kind of looks like me I thought about taking him back home and leave him with my parents.


It was almost two o’clock in the afternoon when we finished printing all the pictures and left the orphanage, our next stop was the moms’ club in Progresso, a rural community on the outskirts of Trujillo Melissa mentioned earlier that the mission was to plan future activities with the stay at home moms in the community Naively, I thought we were going to discuss health, education, or economical development issues, instead we got a nice long introduction about the community.

We were first greeted by 4 or 5 moms in a small single-room meeting building The moms’ club has been established for more than a year, the moms were serious enough to dedicate a space for the meeting and not use someone’s living room.


The moms all identified themselves as housewives, but most of them have part time jobs outside of their households An old woman with white hair arrived 45 minutes later, introduced herself as a long time (23 years) resident of the community, and told us a very long story about land disputes between the current community residents and the son of the previous land owner Most women wanted the government to assist the community in building infrastructure or resolving legal matters, I believed their concerns were very reasonable, but I did not understand the role of Vive Peru in accomplishing their goals In my mind, Vive Peru has worked with these women for over a year,  there should be some mutual understanding on the expertise of this charity; I imagined that the moms would demand tutoring for their kids or other types of educational, medical, or economical development workshops It would be extremely important to listen to the community’s needs, but after a certain period of time, shouldn’t the community also have an idea on what the charity is able to do for them?

On our way back, Melissa kindly shared a story which expanded my understanding of Vive Peru’s charitable work When Melissa came to educate this community about health care benefits provided by the government, she discovered that many residents did not have their citizen identification card which was required to register for health care and other types of public benefits Some residents were born in areas where identification cards were not distributed at birth, some didn’t have the cards either because the cards were left in the highlands where they migrated from, or their cards were destroyed by bandits After a visit to the local government branch for instructions on replacing citizen identification cards, Melissa conducted a workshop issuing new cards and gave instructions on how to apply for replacement/duplicate cards Helping the the under-privileged people was not always straight forward, the charity often has to jump through many extra hoops to obtain a seemingly straight forward goal It takes a very long time and a lot of patience to build a trusty relationship.

My third and final station of the day was English class with Krisa, Vive Peru’s volunteer from Arizona The course was designed to be three months long, Melissa who has a degree in English education as a foreign language helped to structure this short course My parents also studied English education and taught English as a foreign language for 10 years before they left China to pursue their graduate degrees in education in the US.   I was very curious to see this course The course was scheduled for about an hour, perhaps because school has just started, we only got 2 students One student came late, stayed for 15 minutes, and left early without taking any notes The other student took the class more seriously, she stayed for the whole session and carried on a conversation with us after the lesson Once again, I admire the volunteer’s patience and endurance in such an unstructured setting where progress and success are difficult to measure.


Shadowing Vive Peru for a day gave me many new perspectives in how a charity operates In the US, I have volunteered for many different organizations I always want to donate my time for matters that I feel connected to and people who really need my help All my voluntary works were well structured where I clearly understood my role in the charitable goals Before this trip, I didn’t envision so much obstacles in executing charitable work and the amount of patience needed to achieve a seeming straight forward good-will goal Vive Peru is still young, and there is a long road ahead of them, good luck.