Location: Casa Mantay (Cusco)

Today was our last day of working at Casa Mantay with the teenage mothers and their children. It had not hit me that I would not see them again til the end of the day. Meaning, that the day consisted of casual fun and spending time with the family and community that lived there. Immediately when we arrived, we began playing with the babies and the children so that the mothers could study and do their school work. We ran around and would play throughout the playground outside of the house under the sun. In a way, I felt guilty because I thought that I wasn’t doing effective community service which was what I came here to do. But what I didn’t realize was that these girls had to grow up so quickly, and do not have time alone without their kids. Thus, by us taking care of the babies and toddlers, we are granting them the little free time that is given very scarcely to them. Playing with the kids was a lot more exhausting than I thought it would be. I don’t understand how they have so much energy! While other volunteers and I are panting with our palms pressed to our knees, three little boys are ready for four more rounds of tag. The trust that the mothers gave us was something I wasn’t expecting. I was holding a baby boy when another mom just handed me another one. I was carrying two babies at the same time! I will never forget this moment; it changed my life. After the mothers returned from their studying, everyone, including both the volunteers and the locals from Casa Mantay, initiated the annual volleyball game. Although shy, the mothers were honestly better than most of us. I remember multiple leaders at Casa Mantay explaining to me that the girls were always very excited for the volleyball tournament and talked about it long after we leave. I did not understand why the last day out of all of them, was so crucial to the mothers and children. They were especially excited for this one day. However, as I was sitting on a stone ledge with baby Jeremy sleeping in my arms, I watched the moms laugh and dance to their favorite song on the radio. I never really valued the ability to have a childhood. Being the youngest, I was slightly babied growing up but looking at the young mothers smiling as if for once they didn’t have to take care of anything else other than themselves and focus on having fun I realized that they had to grow up so fast entirely against their will. Taking care of the children and assisting the mothers installed a deep appreciation for not having to be an adult so young and I am happy that I granted them a small amount innocence that I stole from them. We ate lunch outside today. The kitchen staff worked outside using a self-made oven to cook the potatoes. The cooks used a pickaxe to crush the steaming hot rocks and stones onto the raw potatoes to prepare them perfectly. While Devon and I were standing there watching them work, I thought it was interesting to see how there wasn’t a distinct job for everyone staying at Casa Mantay. They ran the house in a way that if someone was struggling anyone else could join in and help them out. Meaning, that everyone was educated in every aspect of working in the house. Casa Mantay was not helpless; they had instituted a community where everyone was equal and helped each other out. The boy toddlers would sometimes play and take care of the baby girls and boys. What our team did was give the mothers a little break from the life that they didn’t have a choice to live, and I am grateful that I had been given the opportunity to accomplish that in the little time that we worked at Casa Mantay.