A Drumheller couple has returned from charity work in a remote village in the mountains of Peru and say it was the experience of a life time.
Joanne Dumaine and her husband Ray were in Pamparomas, a hilltop village in the Andes at 9,000 feet altitude with a population of 500 people. They were working with the St. James Church there, touching up furniture in school houses and preparing a small museum for the locals.
Leaving on May 12, to Lima they then spent 12 hours on bus travelling to the village, up hill for the last leg of the journey. They spent three weeks there.
“One wrong move and you’re a goner,” says Joanne of the ride, driven by British Columbian Father David Johnson of the church who has been working in Peru for 20 years. Joanne and Ray travelled with her brother and his wife.
“It wasn’t easy. First, it was hard to get used to living in a small town like that and not having the conveniences of home. That was the hardest part,” says Joanne. “But once we cleaned up our little living quarters it was quite fine.”
She says the Andes were beautiful, “lush and green”, after arriving there shortly after their rainy season. “It’s a very interesting country, there is just such a variety of climates there.”
The men worked with the school for a week, repairing desks and chairs for the kids and building shelves and stairs for the parish. The women cleaned, painted, varnished the small museum they were just starting there, containing artifacts from the Peruvian days, says Joanne.
“There was nobody there to do repairs, it took about a week because everything was so broken down and just old.”
They spent time sorting donated clothes as well.
“It wasn’t a vacation at all, the only day we had to roam around was our last day in Lima before we came home,” says Joanne.
Ray and Joanne, both in their early 60’s, had been thinking about a trip like this for a while, and when her brother called to see if they wanted to join them, she couldn’t turn down the “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“We wanted to do some mission work for a long time, it was something that wouldn’t come up again soon.”
“Just to be able to be amongst people who were so appreciative, and such a different culture, it was probably something we’ll never do again. It’s not the same as going on the mainland. When you go up to the Andes you get immersed in the real culture, the real Peru.”
The main source of living for the locals is step farming: grains, corn, potatoes, carrots. Joanne even had a chance to try a Peruvian delicacy – guinea pigs.
“It was something like rabbit, it’s like a dark meat,” she says. “They always say it tastes like chicken, but it definitely tastes like rabbit. It’s got that wild taste to it.”
Most people think of building houses when people are off on missionary work. All the houses there are built out of brick with mud and straw mortar in between. “As crude as they are, that’s what they are used to. They are happy – probably happier than people with million dollar homes in North America,” she said.