It is hard to believe that a month has passed since first arriving in Peru! My time in Cusco has been a whirlwind of new faces, sights, tastes, and experiences. During my first weeks here, I overlapped with the old amazing Program Managers, Lauren and Kim. Seeing our girls interact with their Profes from the past year, it was clear that the group had a strong bond; both student and teacher seemed to have learned much from one another. I was also fortunate enough to spend a week with Jane and Sarah, who worked during the 2006-2007 project year and are now GSW Board members. During their visit, the kids, as well as the administrators, had a chance to reflect on GSW’s work. Through interviews, Jane and Sarah gleaned good information on what has been effective and what we could do more of. Nutrition education, more English classes, and additional team building activities will factor into the future.
Walking to class with my equipment bag full of balls and pinnies, I get more bewildered stares than the woman from Campo leading her llama down the same street. This makes my work here that much more relevant. Each school is unique. The girls at Los Nogales and Santoni greet me with smiles and kisses, and their enthusiasm for the game at hand is always extremely gratifying. At Pacca, the girls share their field with grazing animals. Shrieks of excitement as they pass and kick their way down the massive pasture draw local town people out to watch the game. As sheep sprint away from errant soccer balls, I can see how this school is special. Casa Mantay is a truly remarkable place, with bright colors and a sense of solidarity; we encourage camaraderie among the girls in this community.
August brought challenges but also great rewards. From Body Pump class with the Mantay girls led by Katharina, a sporty German that elected to help out, to Susan, a Peruvian who plays basketball for the local University team and lent a hand to the Santoni students, my fellow volunteers have added to the program in unexpected and delighting ways. Happily, the project is up and running as strong as ever. I miss my original partner and look forward to the second Program Manager arriving, but have certainly enjoyed getting to know the city and the students in my own way. Every time I see a school-aged girl now, I start devising ways to bring GirlSportWorks to her. I look forward to the coming months with high hopes and expectations.