“You want to do some volunteering with us?” One of my friends of university asked. “Sure, but why?” I inquired. “Because we’re good people.” She explained. Well.. good enough, I thought. That’s how I found myself in Villa María del Triunfo on a Sunday morning. It’s kind of funny, or maybe funny isn’t the right word to use here, but before we left we got some breakfast at Starbucks while the volunteering work was only 45 minutes away. It sounds kind of strange, because 45 minutes of travel shouldn’t make that big of a difference in living conditions. In Lima, however, it does. While I was eating breakfast in the most touristic place of whole Lima, called Miraflores, I had no clue that only a 20km car ride there was such a drastic change in view.
I also had no clue what kind of work we would be doing, but the organization said we need to arrive at the meeting place at 8 a.m. on the dot, or they would leave without us. So when we ended up taking a cab at 8:15 a.m. because we somehow messed up taking a bus (which has already happened too many times if you ask me), we were kind of stressed – and hyped up on caffeine, which we desperately needed at that early hour. Luckily the taxi driver gave us some hope by mentioning the “hora Peruana”, which is pretty funny coming from a Peruvian person. “Hora Peruana” beside, we arrived late, as did the other people from our group…obviously. We got lucky though, because the van that was going to take us to our destination was almost leaving. We quickly got in and drove to Villa María del Triunfo where the volunteering work would start.
Once at the site, we got an explanation about the whole project and we got handed the shirts and gloves. The goal of the day was to get as many bags of dirt/sand up the steep hill, to build a source of water for hundreds of families who normally had to go down the mountain to get water every day. Sounds easy, I thought, just moving some bags of dirt with a human chain up the mountain. Two hours in though, I already felt like my arms and legs were going to fall off. The good thing was that the organization often passed with small bottles of water, because the sun was blaring and I was sweating out all the water in my body.
There were also plenty of people from the village itself helping among the many volunteers. During the break in which everyone switched positions, me and my friend got placed in between some older women from the town. When I was exhausted and felt like I couldn’t lift up anything anymore, they kept going without complaining, which I found really admirable to the point that I didn’t want to give up and kept lifting the heavy bags. It was nice to see that many people working together and there was even a film crew trying to capture everything. The fun part about the film crew was that 1) they noticed my foreigner self, 2) they wanted to film me, 3) I looked like a dying tomato – probably.
So at the end of the day, I felt like I did something useful but at the same time I also felt like I was hit by a truck. After rewarding ourselves with some Chifa (Peruvian Chinese food), I went home, crashed in my bed and hoped that the next day my body would be able to get up and go to university.