My third project in Peru was volunteering at El Centro La Recoleta, an elderly home of about 150 senior citizens who were either abandoned by their families or happened to outlive them.
La Recoleta is a Catholic establishment run by six nuns and consists of four separate pavilions that house the elderly. Our day started with feeding breakfast to those who couldn’t feed themselves followed by some time outdoors so they could enjoy the sunshine.
One day, when I brought a certain man to his allocated chair outside, he grabbed my hand firmly and didn’t let go. He looked me in the eyes and planted a kiss on my hand. I was so touched by it, but more than that, it showed me how lonely these people were and how much it means to have people who spend time with and care for them. It was heartwarming but heartbreaking at the same time.
Afterwards, we did the dishes, folded the clean laundry, and helped with the lunch preparations. It was encouraging to see the number of Peruvian youngsters showing up on their off days to volunteer. I was impressed at how those kids decided to help those in need instead of enjoying their free time somewhere else. They set a good example.
Overall, it was beautiful to see what a close community the people in Cusco are. It is obvious that people support one another: those more fortunate bring food to the poor and organize charity events to collect money for those in need. Many of the people I met were supporting in one way or another.
It’s important for everyone to realize that there are so many people in the world who aren’t as fortunate as us. And once you realize that, find a way to support them. Even the smallest contribution, like holding and old man's hand for a morning in the sun, can make a world of difference to some people. This is how we can all work towards making the world a better place.