Sunrises with Rotary

Generally speaking, I consider myself a morning person. I like experiencing the progression of morning, afternoon and night and waking up has never been very arduous, as non-morning people presumedly experience. However, waking up at 5:00am is not something that is an entirely welcome idea – there are very few things that I would do that require waking up that early. Really there are just two: going for a run (it’s what I’ve been doing lately because of the grueling heat that blankets all of Lima beginning at 8:00am) and going to Rotary meetings.

When I would attend Rotary meetings during the school year (specifically the one that sponsored my home Interact club) I would wake up at approximately 5:00am, catch the sunrise as my mom drove down Highway 1, arrive around 10-15 minutes early for the 7:15am meeting (Shout out to Santa Cruz Sunrise Rotary!) and I would still have enough time to speed my way to school in time for my first period class. It was a routine that required a little extra effort in the morning, but was always so worth it.

For those who don’t know, during the latter half of high school I became really involved with Interact Club. Interact is a youth program of Rotary International, an international service organization that fosters collaboration between business and professional leaders to promote goodwill and peace throughout the world. During my involvement in Interact, I attained a plethora of leadership, networking and public speaking skills that I continue to utilize. Regarding my time and work in Peru, I have received unwavering support from the friends and mentors that I have met via Rotary. With all of that said, researching the Rotary clubs in Peru seemed like a no-brainer and deciding to visit at least one was a definite must. This was how I found myself waking up at 5:00am on Thursday morning to go visit the Rotary Club of Lima Sunrise.

After an hour bus ride and a short detour through San Isidro in a taxi, I finally arrived at the meeting place of Lima Sunrise. With about five minutes to spare before their 7:30am meeting time, I did a quick cell-phone-turned-mirror hair check and then knocked on the door. Upon entering, I clumsily introduced myself in some sort of combination of Spanish and English because I wasn’t sure which I was supposed to use, considering I read they were one (if not the only) English-speaking Rotary club in Lima. Nevertheless, introductions were made and after awkwardly figuring out how to socialize and internally remembering that I had handled moving to a foreign country with some form of ease and therefore, I could definitely handle meeting a few Rotarians of all people, I felt more comfortable. It was a small meeting of about eight members with one of them being the speaker for that day. Of the people in attendance, it was about a fifty-fifty split between Peruvians and expatriates. Everyone spoke English throughout the meeting, with an occasional phrase or two in Spanish.

One of my favorite moments was at the end, when the entire club recited the 4-Way Test together as a way of closing the meeting and I couldn’t help but join in. That moment as well as my visit as a whole, reminded me of how much I respect and enjoy the company of Rotarians and just how special it was be able to experience Rotary’s influential spirit while abroad.

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One of the activities planned by that morning’s speaker, Dario, was centered around his presentation about experiential learning. The challenge: create a tower as tall as possible with a bag of marshmallows and spaghetti, in under 15 minutes. (A winner was not announced, but I think that we won.)

Although it may seem like I went to visit Lima Sunrise just for funsies, I did go with more professional intentions. The purposes for my visit were to learn more about Rotary in Peru and to share my experiences regarding of youth international service, a theme that I will be addressing as a speaker at Santa Cruz Sunrise Rotary when I return to California. Throughout my time in Peru and even beforehand, I’ve learned how important it is to build a network of connections that can help you in the future. Visiting Lima Sunrise was a big first step for me in my mission of learning how to navigate the expansive and important skill of networking. Tomorrow morning I will be waking up to my alarm once again at that ever-special time of 5:00am so that I can attend a leadership workshop that is being hosted by Rotary and Rotaract representatives. Undoubtedly it’ll be an adventure and I will be sure to share it with everyone as soon as I am able. Until then, I should probably get some sleep.

Warm Fuzzies

While it has been rather chilly lately, hearts were warmed this evening during a meeting of Voces de Joventud aka Voices of Youth.

This particular program was, for lack of a better phrase, a selling point during my research for non-profits to work with during my gap year. Voices of Youth is one of two leadership programs that Building Dignity provides to this particular community. The other is a program for adults.

Voices of Youth meetings are held every Thursday and Sunday evening from 4-6pm. There are two meeting days so that older kids who go to school later in the evening have a chance to participate on the weekend. On a broader level, the semiweekly meetings also provide more opportunity to connect with the kids.

Earlier this week, Emily, Hannah (BD’s new program director) and I had a meeting to discuss today’s lesson plan. I didn’t realize until then how involved I would be in creating the curriculum. For the upcoming year, Voices of Youth is being re-vamped in a way, by integrating principles of the Montessori philosophy. For those who are unfamiliar, the Montessori education is one that recognizes the impact that a student’s psychological, physical and social environment can have on their ability for development and that nature can provide the best means for such growth. One of BD’s the most important goals for its youth and the program in general, is to not only foster an appreciation of giving back to the community, but to also express the importance of being just as benevolent to themselves. Essentially, a healthy community is fostered by a healthy people.

One of the first activities we did this evening was called “Abrazos” or the English equivalent of “warm fuzzies”. All of the kids take turns giving put-ups or compliments to one of their peers and the recipient of the kind words receives a token to symbolize the exchange. In this case, it was a smiley face sticker. (I don’t want to boast, but I did end up with three at the end of the night.) At a retreat a couple of months ago, the kids were first introduced to this activity – they loved it! The enthusiasm was not dampened tonight, as the stickers were flying. It was a great way to build a positive atmosphere for a later activity; creating a código.

This código is essentially a list of principles that the group collaborated on abiding by. We asked the kids to write down one or two phrases or ideas to put on the código and then we pinned them to a string that hung across the room. After reading them, the kids categorized the ideas into similar themes and the código was born. They jokingly created a group of papers that were related to food. One of the papers simply said “torta”. While they thought that was super funny, the BD staff were internally smiling because another one of our goals is to establish monthly communal meals. They ask for food, we give them food.

It was interesting to observe the social dynamics of the group. They were a bit rowdy tonight, but from what I heard, it’s not always like that. For my first Voces meeting, I think it went pretty well. I also can’t complain that on Thursday nights, the program following Voces is “Colectiva de Vecinas” during which women in the community come to the center to make chocolates. I got to try one tonight and it was easily one of the tastiest chocolate bars I’ve ever had. It was like the best Mr. Goodbar ever. I think I’ll try to send some home to friends and family. Watch your mailboxes. (Although not yet, because I still don’t really know where the post office is…)

Tomorrow I’m going to Miraflores with the rest of the BD staff for a marketing meeting. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Lima, as I’ve been staying primarily in Villa El Salvador. We’ll be taking the Metropolitano there. I think it’ll be a lot of fun, as we all know that I am now a pro at the metro.