Posted by: eeb | May 28, 2010

the orphanage

playing outside

Last week was aimed at getting all of us Spiders adjusted to the city of Cusco, Peruvian culture, the altitude, and our first class. This week was Phase 2 of our adjustment, part of which was for us to get aquatinted with El Arca Orphanage, the orphanage where we can volunteer in the afternoons after class.

An American family runs the orphanage, and, along with raising their own eight or nine children, have taken in about 40 Peruvian children, mostly from the Cusco area. What is so heartbreaking about this situation is that many of these children do have parents, but because of their economic situations, believe that El Arca is capable of providing a better home for them.

The orphanage is on the outskirts of Cusco, and we take combis to get there. Combis are a  unique transportation experience, to say the least, and I will do my best to describe them. Combis are basically huge minivans that cost about 25 cents each way, and drive into and out of the heart of Cusco, picking people up and dropping them off along their route. There are two workers in each combi: the Driver, and the Yeller (the unofficial but not inaccurate name I have given them). The Yeller stands by the window and door of the van and yells the upcoming stops to us passengers inside the combis, and if we would like to get out, we yell “¡baja!” back. As the Driver approaches a stop, the Yeller yells the upcoming stops to anyone standing outside. If people want to come in, the Yeller ushers them inside, squeezing them into seats, and then yells again, this time shouting, “¡vamos!” to the Driver, who begins to drive away as the Yeller closes the combi door. After being squeezed like sardines for about 40 minutes, it is our group’s turn to yell “¡baja!” and we jump off of the combi and head to the orphanage.

The kids at the orphanage are so much fun. They were not at all shy, and once they found out we were there to play with them, they jumped all over us. Some of us brought coloring and art supplies, and we set up a huge art station, full of construction paper, markers, stickers, stencils, and paints. The kids loved it; I bet we had over 20 kids drawing and painting. Spanish is the primary language for all of the children, but some of them know a little English, too. Talking to all of the children about all of the objects they were drawing definitely helped my Spanish vocabulary! The orphanage also has a huge yard, and we played soccer, jumped around on the trampoline, and played on the swing-set with some of the kids. When we had to leave they kept asking us when we were coming back, and fortunately (for us too, it was so much fun!) we will have students going back every day for the next four weeks.

I don’t have any pictures of the children from the orphanage yet, but in general, Peruvian children are so cute! They have huge brown eyes and sweet little smiles. Here are some pictures I’ve snapped so far:

juice box tot

chasing birds in the square




  1. It’ll be very interesting to see what the impact(s) of your experiences in Peru will be in your life. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for writing.

  2. Your days are so busy and interesting! Thank you for taking the time to describe your experiences. Keep sharing when you can. I love the photos and the “word pictures.”

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