Monday, July 25, 2011

A nursing home is still a nursing home

Cross Cultural Solutions, the organization that I traveled to Peru with in 2009, offers several different volunteer options, ranging in duration from one week up to three months. Volunteers who are staying for a longer period of time are assigned to an area in which they are interested and their daily volunteer work concentrates on that, such as health care or teaching. Since our little group of four was only staying for one week we had the unique opportunity to experience a little bit of everything, by going to a different volunteer placement each day.

Our first day, we were assigned to the nursing home. It was a clean and efficient facility, men and women on completely separate wings. We worked on the women’s wing and when we arrived, they were all dressed and out in the courtyard for the morning. Just like the nursing homes back home, they were pretty much left to themselves until lunch. And if we hadn’t been there to try to entertain them, well, they would have had no entertainment. We played catch with them, colored with them and even danced with a few who were agile enough. One little lamb, carrying a plastic bag full of her stuff, told the staff worker who had brought us from our home base that she was waiting for the bus to take her to Lima. Sounded just like some of the nursing home residents I know.

And they were all so cute. And short. I don’t think any of them was over four foot ten. The native dress of the Peruvian women is multiple skirts and sweaters. And let me tell you, these ladies were layered up. They all wore hats too. Not just these women, but most of the older population who were out in the streets. Such a different culture.

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