We’ve added to our GSW program this semester by initiating sports classes in a safe-house for pregnant teenage mothers called Casa de Acogida Mantay (Mantay Welcoming Shelter). Although the home is in a part of Cusco called San Jeronimo, nearly all of the 13 girls housed there come from the surrounding campo, or rural countryside. The fates of a legal mandate or the social order have forced each girl to leave home, whether because her male aggressor remained too close in the house or community, or because the girl’s family refused to support another child. To us, the house seems to be a haven of order, stability and love for our students. Since all of the girls are aged between 12 and 18 and thus have many formative years ahead, the Casa gives them the opportunity to finish high school while benefitting from a safe place to raise their new babies in the company and support of others. Each mother collaborates to make the Casa function by carrying out her rotating duties around the house, such as cleaning, cooking and caring for the babies and toddlers in the guardería.
When we began classes at the Casa, we didn’t know what to expect with regards to the girls’ behavior. Judging by their ages, we thought they would act as least as mature as our younger city students or our similar-aged students from Pacca, the rural high school. Instead, we were shocked by their lack of maturity and cooperation skills. We treated this discouraging conduct as a challenge to improve our teaching skills and to create a fixed routine that the students could come to expect, follow and eventually respect. After a few weeks of mildly unpleasant and frustrating classes, upon returning to the Casa last week we have begun to find just that—the group motivates itself to do our warm-up run that has increased from 10, 11 to now 12 minutes, and all participate and make their best effort to finish, regardless of their physical condition. Furthermore, their skills in the three sports we’ve covered so far—kickball, baseball and Frisbee—have improved wildly, simply because their growing enthusiasm and commitment have fueled their improvement. Feeling heartened and hopeful, we look forward to rewarding these students with a field trip in a few weeks to the local pool in Cusco.