Jessica is 17 years old and enjoys writing, sleeping, making videos, and coming up with crazy ideas to do with her friends. She also writes for freelancing and for fun.
I’ve been involved with travel throughout my life. My parents have taken me to places such as Walt Disney World, Hawaii, Mexico, and numerous national parks. When I was twelve, I went on my first out-of-state trip without parental supervision. When I was sixteen, I went with my class to the other side of the country to tour D.C., New York and Philadelphia. But none of my travel experience could prepare me for my adventure to Peru.
July 9th, 2007. 4:30 am. I grabbed my suitcase, said good-bye to my mom, and joined 32 other Peru-bound people at the airport. We had been preparing for this day since September, but we still had no idea what to expect. All I really knew was that we were going to help at an orphanage called Posada de Amor (“The Inn of Love”) in Cieneguilla, which is a town outside of Lima. I spent the looooooong plane ride imagining what this place could possibly be like.
The plane landed in the middle of the night in a crowded airport. My group made our way through the sea of humanity to find Cesar, the head director of Posada de Amor. He took us to our bus, and we began loading our luggage. As I stood outside waiting, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, expecting one of my fellow Americans. Instead, I saw a young Peruvian girl, with her mother standing off in the distance. She asked me a question in Spanish. My mind raced. After one year of Spanish class, I still couldn’t understand a word she said, since she spoke so fast. I told her “No comprendo”, and she and her mother walked off. A few moments after they had left, I realized that I had just had my first of many encounters with Peruvian beggars.
It was well past midnight when we got to our hotel, so we quickly settled in to our lumpy beds with scratchy blankets. (Of course, this was after we used our toilet that didn’t even have a seat!) Everyone wanted to be well-rested because we were going to meet the orphans the next day.
What an amazing time it was when I first met the orphans of Posada de Amor! At that time, there were just over thirty kids. All of them sang, danced, and introduced themselves. And, of course, they made their rounds to hug all of us. Some even kissed our cheeks, as that is a common custom there. Then, they took us all on a tour of their grounds. The children lived in rooms according to their age group. Preschoolers lived in one room and grade school children in another. There was also a room for older girls and a room for older boys. Each room had appointed “guardian-tutors”, which acted somewhat like parental figures. We were then taken next door to their school. Eliel Christian School was open to community children from kindergarten through third grade. It was a very modest building, with four classrooms and an office. The children joyfully showed us all that they had, which wasn’t much.
The next two weeks were the best days of my life. I bonded with many of the children, though teaching them English at school and playing with them at the orphanage. Our team painted the school, designed a large mural, put up some walls, hosted a Vacation Bible School, and helped cook meals. I’d love to go into detail about what all of these projects and activities meant to me, but it is something intrinsic and personal. You’d have to go yourself in order to understand.
I loved being with these kids. They were so happy to simply spend time playing with toys or singing songs together. I was shocked when I learned about the lives they lived before coming to Posada de Amor. One boy came to the orphanage only able to communicate through animal sounds, because he hadn’t had the chance to learn human language. Another boy was found in a box on the dirty streets. If they hadn’t been rescued by the caring, loving, dedicated staff of Posada de Amor, many of these kids probably wouldn’t be alive today.
Perhaps you’re assuming that my family has plenty of money to spend on whatever traveling program my heart desires. Far from it! I was able to go to Peru, and many other amazing trips, because I took advantage of the opportunities I had in front of me. If your teens want to get involved with mission trips in traveling, or if you yourself are a teen interested in this, look for opportunities in your own community. Join a class or club at school that has the potential to take you places. Get involved in a church. Not only do many churches and schools offer trips that teens can take, but they usually also plan fundraisers to help with expenses. Even if you do end up having to pay, the experience is invaluable. What better way to learn about history, geography, or culture than hands-on experience? Peru opened up a world of opportunities to me. I learned about serving the less fortunate and how money definitely does NOT buy happiness! It encouraged me to work hard in my Spanish and Global Studies classes. I was even motivated to start writing and creating videos because of this trip.
All thirty-three of us Americans cried when we had to leave Posada de Amor. We had made such great friendships, and now we had to say good-bye so that we could go and continue our lives in another continent. I spent several months wishing that I was still in Peru. But now, I’m happy. I get to go back this summer!