In September 2016, you did your internship at Oye LENA. You worked on a project where we were doing co-teaching with teachers in two mountain villages outside of Curahuasi. It took some time to figure things out, but the result was fantastic. Till Corona, this project continued.
Like many, you fell for the charms of a Peruvian boy. A classic story, but not less real. I had by then known my dose of problems with the Peruvian system and you started with a clean slate and a lot of energy. As a result, we sometimes jumped into projects that I might have hesitated about for longer. But soon I felt and realized that I was no longer alone and that I had found a buddy who also always put the welfare of the children first. If something came our way, we never hesitated and we went for it. Together. Almost literally, day and night. The years flew by and we learned to adapt well to each other. We each have our strengths and weaknesses and are very complementary. The ideal duo for Oye LENA.
In 2019, I was forced to stay in Belgium for a year and the organization of the project fell mostly on your shoulders.
I realized more than ever what you meant for me. What you meant for Oye LENA. Unfortunately, the pressure of the project became sometimes a lot for you to bear. The problems of our students and their families are huge. Domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, poverty and its consequences are our daily reality. This weighs on us and too often we forget ourselves in the process of helping others.
You then made a difficult, but wise decision. You felt it was time to return to Belgium, ready for a new phase in your life. Still supporting Oye LENA, but now from Belgium, surrounded by your loved ones.
That you would wait for me to return was the best gift you could ever give me and Oye LENA.
However, fate decided differently, because even before I could return safe and sound, a new obstacle came our way: corona. What was that? Something unknown, unpredictable and uncontrollable. From one day to the next, all the volunteers left and you were the only one left who wasn’t Peruvian.
You felt abandoned, alone and again I stood on the other side of the world watching helplessly. All I could do was encourage you and help you as much as possible. Once AGAIN I was so glad that you had stayed. And you did that wonderfully. Many projects in the world had been stopped, but not Oye LENA and that was only possible because of you.
From day one, you, along with some staff members who also had the courage to work in these bizarre times, went to distribute food packages. But for our families, you were much more than just the one who delivered the food. You were the person they could go to in a world full of panic. After a few months, home visits were allowed and you went for that too with great dedication. Maybe even too much dedication. You had the feeling that it was never enough and you passed yourself by. You were livid about the rules that were imposed (including that children were not allowed outside for a WHOLE DAY) and you knew that Oye LENA was the only bright spot in their day.
In November 2020, after a year and a half, I was finally able to return to Peru and just then we were allowed to teach again at the project. The ideal timing. This time I was the one with more energy, but that didn’t matter. We were both so relieved to see those happy faces again every day ! The municipality did not make it easy for us and our schedule really changed every week. But each time we sat together to make it happen.
Many new staff members started and stopped, and Peruvian volunteers came and went, but we had each other and could turn to each other. Together we – sometimes literally – yelled at the Peruvian education system and then boldly developed our own reading method. Again, we were complementary and I am SO PROUD of what we accomplished together and no one will ever take that away from us.
Sara, you have given your all for the children and families of Oye LENA and you have grown into a wonderful orthopedagogue, a wonderful friend and a wonderful woman. I am sure you will achieve many great things in your life, but for now take some time for yourself and enjoy your family and friends.
Lots of love from your teammate,
PS: Perú es cerquuuiita nomás. 😉