Through selfless fundraising efforts and a collaboration of resources the Girl’s Orphanage San Judas Chico in Cusco, Peru inaugurated a beautiful new playground on Sunday, September 16th! The PC5 and the North Ogden service expedition groups raised $2,400 for the construction of this new playground. Through the accomplished coordination of Ascend Alliance, Ascend Travel, and these dedicated service expedition groups that came to Peru last June, the girls at San Judas Chico now have a safe place to relax, exercise, play and be kids in a place they can finally feel at home.
There are three orphanages in Cusco that take in boys and girls ages 5 to 17. These brave young children are either orphaned, have impoverished families that are unable to support their children, or are victims of domestic abuse, social risk, or sexual abuse. All three Cusco orphanages are directed by Señor Luis Alberto Palma Gonzales, the President of the Sociedad de Beneficiencia Publica del Cusco (a state run organization that serves neglected youth, the mentally challenged, and a retirement community). The Hogar de Niñas San Judas Chico Girls Orphanage where the playground humanitarian project was installed is run by Señora Maruja, and hosts 36 amazing, intelligent, and inspiring young Peruvian girls.
As an intern with Ascend Adventure Travel, I have had the pleasure of working with these girls in their vegetable garden over the past three weeks, and I have never seen them so happy as the day we first opened their playground! The ceremony itself was a congregation of children from all three orphanages in Cusco. When Timothy Marti, the CEO of Ascend Travel and Regional Manager for this project, cut the tape to signify the opening of the new playground nearly 100 children went bolting for its castle, monkey bars, and teeter-totters! Tim and I where both relieved that it was finally inaugurated, yet scared for the children’s lives, hoping our Chief Operator Señor Felipe had made the castle feature strong enough to withstand 50 enthusiastic Peruvian children! We looked at each other with a slight grin, both thinking “no better way to test it out than this!” As I savored my delicious, authentic Peruvian lunch with all the children and their mentors, celebrating our new playground, I felt accomplished, gratified, and most importantly I felt like their friend.