“Full hearts”

And we are all connected to each other in a circle in a hoop that never ends – Pocahontas

As we sit down this evening to write our blog, we are so overwhelmed with so many areas with which we can expand. Morning began as each morning has here at Explorama Lodge. That means a breakfast (desayuno) with some of the most delicious food we have all had the opportunity to taste. After a hardy breakfast we set out on our day to visit one of the local schools, the local library, and the only local clinic.

After a short boat ride we arrived with one of the warmest welcomes we have ever experienced in our lives. The welcoming group consisted of students, the 4 teachers, and most of the community to welcome us and to work with us. We were greeted with smiles and waves, hand-written posters, and so much excitement, we knew immediately today would be a very special day. We went from the dock into the modest schoolhouse and we were welcomed with introductions, short welcome speeches, and beautiful singing from the kindergarten class. We were gifted some of the most thoughtful and articulate gifts from the community consisting of hand woven fans from local materials, cards with poetry for us, and hand carved keychains also with local materials. The love and excitement in the room was overwhelming for all of us. As educators we know everyone is a lifelong learner and that each day brings a new opportunity to learn, grow, share, teach, and love. This trip to Pucallpa only reiterates the lesson we all already knew, but fueled an inner desire for us all to take back to our classrooms, families, and communities. We were welcomed and worked along side of friends despite the language barrier for most. We all had a common goal and desire to improve their school. One group painted the outside of the kindergarten building, one group planted a row of coconut palms and orange trees around and behind the school, and the final group painted all the chairs and desks of the 1-5th graders. The love and appreciation was overwhelming as we painted, planted and participated in a local cultural celebration. We danced to festive Peruvian music around a ceremonial palm tree piñata after eating a traditional Peruvian meal of Juanes.

A few of the young girls made signs welcoming us to their community of Pucallpa

Planting coconut trees with some of the community members

A “Juanes” (chicken, hard-boiled egg, and olive with rice wrapped up with a leaf to look like the decapitated head of John the Baptist)

Our next destination was the local library Sustainability and Education Center. The center is the only of its kind in the area. Not only is the raised structure beautiful, it is well maintained and cherished by all who use the center. The center’s director Fernando Saavedra does a wonderful job at directing volunteers and students to make the absolute most of all of the opportunities the center has to offer. He explained how the center was founded by a visiting American with a love of books and a love equally for Peru. Students and anyone with a love of books may come visit throughout the week. Most have to travel by boat or walk. The center offers not only the opportunity to read various books but the students have access to musical instruments, crafts, computers, and games. We were able to observe multiple students during our time- some students were reading, several were playing beautiful music, and several working with the 3 computers that were available. It was so refreshing to see students going out of their way to expand their knowledge. The love they have for this facility is evident in the care they all take in working within the center. We donated many new books to add to the center’s collection that were collected by students in our own classrooms. We left the center with a desire to continue to give globally, to expand on children’s knowledge by the use of books, and most importantly to remember to enhance the love of learning.

Reading some of the books we brought to donate to the library

Our third and final destination today was to the local community clinic, la Clinica Yanamono. The clinic was founded and is run by doctor Dr. Linnea Smith. She came to the area in 1996 and as many of, she fell in love with Peru and the local area. She has worked hard to maintain accurate records of community members and has seen an improvement in the overall health- a decrease in common illnesses and increase in life expectancy of local community members. She spoke of the evolution of the clinic and future goals. We were introduced some of the staff of 4 and were shown around the clinical rooms. Many of us worked with our students before we left to gather resources to donate to the clinic and at the end of the introduction we presented these to Dr. Smith. We all were very interested in how we could help to facilitate the growth of the clinic and Dr. Linnea gave us the information and website for anyone wishing to donate to support the clinic.

We arrived back at the lodge absolutely covered in mud with sun-touched faces and very full hearts. Today was full of love, appreciation for all of our global neighbors, and an increased awareness/desire to instill within our students the importance of becoming globally aware and friendly. We want to inspire our students not only to succeed academically, but also have the desire to travel and learn about other cultures. By sharing our experiences we hope to create the curiosity of travel and unknown places.

What a day!