By Dianne Cornish, REVIEW STAFF
An elementary school in Lima, Peru has a Flamborough flag, a daycare centre in Pacifico de Villa has a new wall to facilitate its expansion and 21-year-old Janine Matetich of Mountsberg has warm memories of a gracious and welcoming people in the wake of her recent mission trip to the South American country.
Even though she has been home for two months since taking part in her first mission trip to an underdeveloped country, the honours history student from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo is still awash with vivid recollections of her visit and the Peruvian children who made her trip truly memorable.
Children living in poverty were particularly endearing as they were “extremely grateful and welcoming” when the 22-member mission team from Mississauga-based Solidarity in Action visited their school to teach them English or distributed toys and other donated items at the village’s community centre. “At first, I didn’t understand why the children were so grateful, but I soon learned they appreciated that we had come from such a long way to help them and, by doing so, were showing respect for them,” Matetich said. The level of trust and respect among Peruvians is very high, she learned.
Their sense of family is also very strong as was evident throughout the Mother’s Day festivities staged while the mission workers were visiting. The mothers of all the students were invited to a school assembly, where they were entertained by the school band and made to feel very special. “It was a big event,” Matetich noted.
Sense of community is also strong and was shown on the first day of the mission visit when a house in the shantytown of Pacifico de Villa caught fire, prompting neighbours to run to the scene and help extinguish it. The displaced family was offered food and blankets and neighbours quickly banded together to rebuild their home.
During much of her visit, Matetich worked with the children; she also helped with the construction project at the daycare and spent a day with special needs children. “I really did enjoy it and liked the connection with others,” including university students from Laurier and the University of Guelph who made up the mission team. The students discussed their experiences every night and, before completing their stay, agreed how best to give away donations of toys and hygiene products that they had packed into their suitcases. The donations were distributed during a mini carnival, which included games and a barbecue for the children.
Time was also allotted for a bit of sightseeing, with the beautiful scenery of Lima and the village of Cusco beckoning. Particularly spectacular was the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu, located just north of the village. The giant walls, terraces and ramps of the Incan site made an impressive backdrop for photos and the Matetich took the opportunity to brandish Flamborough’s flag above her head while visiting the impressive site.
While attending Grade 11 at Waterdown District High School (WDHS) five years ago, the Mountsberg resident joined fellow students in Nathan Tidridge’s history class on a Battlefields Tour of France, Belgium and The Netherlands, where she learned a great deal about the conflicts of the First and Second World Wars. Her love of history led her to volunteer to serve on the steering committee that helped design a coat of arms and flag for Flamborough last year.
This summer, she is working at a part-time job in Waterloo, but come the fall, she’ll be entering her fourth year at Laurier, where she is majoring in history and minoring in religion.
Her uplifting mission experience has whetted her appetite for travel and she hopes to soon visit other parts of the world. She plans to travel when she takes a year off after graduating from Laurier next spring. She then plans to return to complete a master’s degree and hopes to land a job as an intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
But, for now, thoughts of her recent two-week stay in Peru remain vividly in her mind, especially her experiences with the children, which invariably cause her to smile. “I enjoyed my time in Lima with the children the most,” she confided, adding that she hopes to visit Peru again someday.