The other day we conducted our first home visit. A home visit is when the volunteers, along with Ginny and Iris (the organization´s social worker), visit a home in the Pumamarca village to check on their progress. These are typically families who have been (or are) in crisis for any number of reasons—poor health of a family member, abuse, you name it. The family we focused on that day is that of Hernan, a 13-year old boy in the English 5th/6th grade that I help teach. I didn´t know Hernan´s background before that day—all I knew of him is that he is a young, handsome boy who loves art (this I knew because I´ve noticed him drawing when he should be paying attention to his lesson). We learned that Hernan lives with his mother and two younger brothers, Darwin and Juri, in a one-room adobe hovel that has no windows, tarp hanging from a low roof, and barely enough room in which to stand and walk around. The boys´ mother is an abusive alcoholic, at one time threatening to kill them all and then kill herself. That day, the mother was nowhere to be found.
As if this weren´t sad enough, the family is about to be evicted from their tiny home. I have to admit that this surprised me because the idea that they actually rent their little shack—which has no running water, no heat, and no toilet—was beyond my imagination. However, apparently the land on which some of the adobe houses are built is owned by people who live in the city, so the inhabitants must pay rent to live there. Hernan´s family has a place where they can move, but it´s another adobe house that is only halfway constructed—much of the adobe bricks that lie baking in the sun were made by Hernan himself. The mother is too distracted by her own demons to ensure that the new home is finished and that the land on which it sits is adequately prepared for farming. Since the rainy season is almost upon us, it is essential that their new home get finished, so our volunteer group is going to help Hernan and his family by working on their house next week.
The home visit was an eye-opening experience. Hernan´s home wasn´t the only one that we visited that day (just a primary focus), so we were able to see how many of the villagers in Pumamarca live. It´s an existence that I cannot imagine for myself, yet they live it each day and despite what appear to be overwhelming odds, the children of the village appear to be as happy and rambunctious as any child would be. To say that it´s humbling would be a dramatic understatement, yet that´s all I can find to say.
On a lighter note, I am about to head down to Puno and Lake Titicaca for the weekend for a little getaway with two other volunteers. It will be a nice little vacation from vacation :-).