"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do"
- Leonardo da Vinci
Prior to leaving for my six month trip, some of the labels I used explaining my new journey to Peru included... Community service. Post-graduate volunteering. Mission trip. Charity work. Production assistant intern.
As I sit here on day 27 of my 180 day stay in Peru I realize that none of those explanations 100% accurately depict what this experience is and will be. I realize that this is not about labeling, it is about doing. I am doing something out of my comfort zone. I am doing work that will help me develop my passion. I am doing something to make a difference and expand my worldview. I am doing what others say they wish they would have done at my age. Most of all I am doing this adventure to bring action to my constant "talk" about living my life with purpose and fun. So yes, all of those labels fall into the realm of what I am here for, but they do not give justice to what I am doing here and why I am doing it.
This first month in Peru has definitely challenged and excited me in many ways. My trip to Lima started in the most predictable way, the word CANCELLED flashed next to my 6 am flight to Newark, and a plane change caused a four hour delay on my outgoing flight from Houston to Lima. My flight finally landed on Peruvian soil at 3:08 am, but thankfully my KKp country director and new friend, Blake Goodfellow, started his Father's Day morning off by greeting me with a big smile right outside of customs. Moving in to my new home at 5 am went swimmingly and so began my life in Peru.
I live within Lima's District of Barranco in a great apartment on the first floor of a bed and breakfast with four of the other interns. Ryan, Annie, Dana, Jackie. Very quickly we have fallen into different roles: Dana and Ryan are mom and dad, Jackie and I are the children and we have Aunt Annie. Needless to say we are one big happy family and we are becoming great friends. You can read more about us on the Krochet Kids Intern Blog. Our accommodations are a lot nicer than I expected as a volunteer but I am not complaining. Barranco is a very nice district of Lima and it is situated right along the malecón, the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I have already enjoyed several nice runs along the malecón's picturesque trail. We are walking distance from the grocery store, restaurants, the bus stop, beautiful churches, the beach and any other entertainment we may think we need. The food is delicious and very cheap; a meal of ceviche, seafood pasta and a coke at a nice restaurant costs 13 Soles or $4.81. I can definitely get used to that! However, I am not used to the gloomy weather yet. Cloudy and chilly. All day, everyday, and it's not heating up anytime soon. I have pretty much entered into a year of winter because right when I head back to the states it will just be getting hot here. Who needs sun anyways? All in all, I would say I am adjusting well to Lima and can navigate through my neighborhood for the most part.
Krochet Kids Peru
Two and a half years ago Krochet Kids Peru was born. Krochet Kids has been operating in Gulu, Uganda for just over six years and has empowered over 150 women by giving them hope and and a purpose through crocheting and education. When the KKi team was looking to expand beyond Uganda, Lima seemed like a very practical location. They wanted to locate in a place that had great textile and shipping options, and they wanted to empower a diverse group of poverty stricken people. Uganda has been recovering from a span of wars resulting in many impoverished citizens, however Lima's poverty is more generational. Lima is a city with a large income gap. The middle class barely exists resulting in a huge inequality in wealth. So, to address this issue, Krochet Kids hired my boss Blake Goodfellow and he moved, along with his wife and four awesome kids, to Lima to bring action to a dream and vision. The Goodfellow's drive and faith has been beyond refreshing to be around. Check out the Goodfellow's story on their blog. They truly are a prime example of a family doing life for and with others.
KKp has come a long way since its beginnings in one lady's tiny one bedroom house. KKp operates as an official NGO in Peru and has three different buildings; a two story office and mentoring space, a three story production facility and a childcare center. KKp is located in the Chorillos district of Lima in a town called Nicolasa, which is about a thirty minute bus ride from Barranco. Right now there are twenty ladies, called beneficiaries, in the program and starting next week there will be ten more! The ladies come from different backgrounds and rough pasts but they are all proactively wanting to make their lives better by being a part of Krochet Kids. I am overfilled with joy being around the ladies and seeing the positive gains they are making towards their goals. In addition to the ladies there are full time Peruvian social workers, seamstresses and management all on staff. With the force of about forty-five people, KKp is a busy place. From financial and health classes for the ladies, to making our latest shipment, to cutting fabric for our new "cut and sew" program, to remodeling the mentoring center, there is never a dull moment. Unlike Uganda where all products are made by hand, our ladies have all been trained to use knitting machines which allows for more variety in product and design. My mind was blown when I realized how much work and how many steps each product requires. Also, if you purchase a KKp shirt or sweater rest assured knowing that it was completely made at KKp. The new "cut and sew" program has given more jobs and more opportunity for growth. From cutting the fabric from large rolls, to sewing the shirts together, to adding pockets, to adding labels, to tagging and bagging and finally shipping, it is all done by our team. I could go on for days about the new and exciting things happening at Krochet Kids. Most importantly, the energy is contagious and even though we are all either learning Spanish or English, the spirit and unity is phenomenal.
The Gringo's #sewperu Top Ten
1. Waking up to sunshine finally!
2. Steaming shirts to dewrinkle.
3. Cuatro de Julio celebrations at KKp.
4. Buy a Hat. Change a Life.
5. Checking surfing off the bucket list!
6. Cooking fresh food in our kitchen.
7. Hanging out with these awesome people 24/7.
8. Touring Pacifico, home of most of the KKp ladies.
9. New KKp signage. "We are the future of change."
10. Looking out the window of KKp and feeling at home.
This experience thus far has exceeded any expectations I had coming in and continues to challenge me every day. I am more than excited to see what the next five months have to offer! Oh, I almost forgot! My Spanish is coming along "poco a poco". Each day I have been learning new words and phrases but it is still an uphill battle. Cheers to becoming fluent in six months.
Credits: Photos from Ryan Merkwan Dwyer and my Instagram