I was raised with the notion and creed, if you will, that it takes a village to raise a child. Growing up in Jamaica, we were taught to respect our elders, address them always upon passing with a “Good afternoon Mister,” or “Good morning Miss.” Our elders were also expected to keep us in line and to reprimand us without much ado or major conflict if they saw us doing anything wrong. We raised our own dynamic girl, Alika, within these same mores.
When she told us she was going to Peru to work with young girls and to help them become game-changers in their communities, we knew she was keeping the mantra of “it takes a village” and acting upon it. She not only adhered to what we taught her, she is living it, and it’s almost an innate part of her.
I went to Peru at the end of October to visit Alika, and I knew I wanted to meet her students. Wow! Meeting the Chicas Dinámicas was such a blessing to me personally. They immediately surrounded me with hugs, love, laughter, smiles, and a million questions. Of course it didn’t register to them that I only spoke English as they excitedly peppered me with questions from “What’s your name?” to “How old are you?” My favorite little fourth grader was a cute little boy who asked me that last question and, after I told him, smacked his forehead with the back of his hand and went into the overly dramatic act of feigning a faint. It made my day.
There was Mimi, who pretty much never left my side as she asked me about my favorite things growing up as a child, what Alika was like as a child, and how I met my dynamic husband, to name a few. Then there was shy and thoughtful Claudia who stole my heart with her bashfulness and maturity beyond her years. She reminded me of my sweet Alika, so humble yet so measured in her speech because she wants her words to have meaning. Impish Liz never failed to try and trick me into asking for more candy. Katryna, so pleasant and friendly, seems to be the little ambassador in the group. She takes charge and the kids seem to flock around her, branding her the unspoken leader. How could I forget Leydi? So quiet yet so endearing – one smile from her and she has your heartstrings. Little Tati was the absolute darling little sibling of Katryna who played a game of marbles with me for ten minutes – ten minutes of incessant chatter as she explained the rules of the game to me and I still only understood the words “pequeño” and “grande” (the sizes of the marbles). I loved that she never quit talking to me, even though I barely uttered words beyond “bueno” or laughed.
These kids are so kind, complimentary, genuine, pleasant, full of life, friendly, welcoming, and just unabashedly endearing. They remind me of my own innocence and zest for life when we would have missionaries from America come to visit my small community in Jamaica, and I would talk to them for hours, asking lots of questions about America, and what life was like there. I actually am reconsidering the career I have now because I would definitely give it up to travel and mentor children in programs like GirlSportWorks.
I am confident that Alika and Lydia are making a huge impact on these dynamic girls’ lives. I still remember fondly my first grade teacher who was extra kind to me when I got sick in class one day and she went home to make some tea for me. From seeing the interactions between Alika, Lydia, and these girls, I can guarantee there are more than a few who will have the same fond memories of this program and these two teachers.
I am currently planning my next trip to Cusco to see these young ladies again before Alika’s and Lydia’s year is up.
I came away more blessed than I think these Chicas Dinámicas will ever know. I left feeling like so much a part of this village of dynamo young ladies. I am reassured that the lives they lead and impact will be one small part of the circle of love and compassion and gentle chiding in which I was raised.
– Fiona Keene, Project Manager Alika’s mom