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Location: Cusco

Dear future GoBeyond students,

After two rough days of climbing up the stairs back to the hotel and altitude sickness – that were worth it – we went on our first day of volunteering at Casa Mantay. As we arrived in front of the wooden door, the curiosity and excitement were at their peak, we were not sure what to expect and if we would be welcomed by the mother and children. Once we arrived in this beautiful, colorful complex, the director explained to us what Casa Mantay is. This non-profit organization welcomes mothers from ages twelve to eighteen that have been victims of sexual abuse and trafficking, they are given a safe place to eat, take care of their children, sleep, get an education, and mainly to heal from their traumatic experiences. After learning the goal of this organization, we played a game to get to know the mothers. We all gathered in a circle and tossed a ball, whoever got the ball said their name, where they were from, how old they were and what their favorite food was. Afterward, we separated into four groups one doing demolition, another at the daycare, another one with older kids and the last one in the kitchen. Today I did demolition with ten other students, together we destroyed an old oven that was preventing the director from building more housing for the mothers. It was a tiring experience but working hand in hand with the mothers was rewarding and allowed us to bond with them more. After two hours of hard work we went to eat in the common room where everyone mixed up – mothers, children, volunteers form GoBeyond and other organizations, and staff from Casa Mantay – it was a joyful moment. In the afternoon, I went with two other girls to the daycare to play with the kids. When we arrived, the children were very excited and we played with them for two hours. We read them stories in Spanish, took pictures altogether and gave them their “merienda”. The kids were very happy to have visitors. One of the moms came to talk to me and asked me to show her the pictures I took of her and her child earlier that day, she seemed very happy to see them. When I was scrolling through my pictures she made me stop on a video of a plane, she told me she had never been on a plane before and she seemed amazed to see her city from the sky.

We left at four o’clock, by the end of the day everyone fell asleep on the bus. This day was hard but fulfilling, I can’t wait to continue our work at Casa Mantay. The stories of those mothers deeply touched me, essentially, they were all fifteen years old with a child of at least two years old, therefore being two years younger than me but their joy and enthusiasm gave me strength and envy to continue our work.

Bests, Emma