This is where it began, the love for getting away from the ‘normal’. It has to start somewhere; you might not be able to pinpoint the latitude and longitude of your enlightenment, or even feel it, but you’ll know when it’s happened. Mine happened in Peru. In January 2009 I was receiving the unbelievable news that I had been chosen to represent Girlguiding Cymru (that’s Wales to the rest of you) as part of a charity group project. Fastforward to August and I was in the small-ish town, Urubamba, in Southeastern Peru.
We were working with Kiya Survivors, a small charity that supports families in poverty and children with disabilities; sadly something common among the poorest of families there. In our afternoons we would spend time at The Rainbow Centre in Urubamba, a place for the local children to play, make, eat and learn and I wish my school had been as happy-looking and calming as The Rainbow Centre did. You could see that every child loved the place and loved having funny-speaking white girls there. I’ll always remember my little pick-pocketing friend Gonzalo who would come running over to sit on my lap and I’d later find him with extra change or my lip salve; trust no one.
Our main project was based deep in the Sacred Valley, a small village called Chinchero where we were putting the final touches of paint to the newly renovated physio and learning centre, The Pasistos Centre. Being responsible for the images that will stay on those walls for (hopefully) quite a few years, viewed by numerous charity-doers and more importantly the local families is pretty daunting. I took the challenge like a man and this is what happened….
…well it proved a hit in Peru and my 16 year-old self seems pretty chuffed with my underwater ‘work of art’. I enjoyed it and most of all I enjoyed seeing the absolute joy in the families’ faces when the ribbon was cut and the centre was opened.
Without getting too emotional, I don’t think I’d ever cried with happiness and sadness at once but leaving both centres was heart warming and breaking. The beginning, your first love for a place that isn’t home.
No, diolch yn fawr Kiya