A letter from YAV Sarah Chancellor in Peru
April 6, 2010
Email: Sarah Chancellor
Greetings and Saludos from Peru! Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for having an interest in work I am involved in here.
First, a little bit about me. My name is Sarah Chancellor; I am 23 years old and a recent graduate from Oklahoma State University with a degree in psychology. I first felt the call to mission during my adolescence, working and serving not only in my own community, but also in others around the U.S. and Puerto Rico. This call turned into a full blown passion by the time I had finished college and had had the opportunity to travel and work in the Gulf Coast area (twice) and in the Czech Republic. As a young person still unsure of my vocational call and with a passion to serve others, when I heard about the Young Adult Volunteer program, I knew it was where God was leading me to take my next step in life.
Learning another language and getting to know and live in another culture is something that I’ve always wanted to do, so while in the process of applying and discerning my YAV placement, I really felt called to work in the Latin American community. So here I am in Peru! I live in a small town called Huánuco (Wah-noo-co), about a 9-hour bus ride north and east of Lima, and I work with an organization in the Joining Hands Network (Red Unidos Manos) called Paz y Esperanza or Peace and Hope.
Paz y Esperanza is a very appropriate name for this nongovernment organization, because that is exactly what they are and what they do for the community — they are a beacon for and a force of peace and hope. The region of Huánuco is one of the poorest in Peru and is also one with the highest instances of domestic violence, including sexual abuse against children. Paz y Esperanza is a response to that. Here lawyers, pastors, counselors, journalists, and other professionals meet the needs of those victims who come to them for help. They offer counseling, both psychological and spiritual, and provide legal help for those who wish to press charges and legally separate from their abusers as well as provide social services to help meet the basic needs of the families who are in their care. But in addition to these services, they help raise awareness and educate the community on everything from human rights issues to safe sexual practices. They have programs for everyone from the graying abuelitas (grandmas) to the babies strapped to their mother’s backs by brightly colored manta shawls.
I work in the Psychological Rehabilitation department. While I am not a licensed psychologist (something that is hard to explain to people here when I tell them I have a degree in psychology), I’m grateful that I get to use my knowledge and my great capacity to care for others every day in my work. Some of the projects that I’ve gotten to work on have included camps for the adolescents and the children who we work with, who are victims of sexual abuse. We spent three to four days learning Bible stories, singing praises, making tie-dye T-shirts, playing games, being silly, and just allowing the kids to act like normal kids outside and away from their home lives. I also help out with a group of adolescent girls who meet every Saturday at the office, called the Collectivo Tamar, and we make art projects to help in the emotional recovery of these girls. From time to time Paz y Esperanza will have a citywide campaign or information fair that they are participating in, and I will help with such things as the distribution of food and flyers. I’ve recently added a few more projects to my work load, including working with two individuals (one adolescent girl, another grown woman) both of whom are victims of abuse, giving each separate focused time twice a week to do creative art projects, as well as doing some sort of exercise activity. I also have the opportunity to work with the few children (eight as of when I’m writing this) that live in our shelter, La Casa de Buen Trata, or The House of Good Treatment, that is located on an organic farm about a half hour outside of the city of Huánuco. I get to spend one afternoon a week with the kids at the shelter, first teaching and helping out with English lessons, and then taking some time to play games and run around.
Seven months into this journey as a YAV, and I’ve already learned so much about myself, the Peruvian culture, the Spanish language, and God’s presence in the world and among the poor, that it’s sometimes hard for me to believe how much God is changing me and shaping me into the person, into the disciple of Christ I’m supposed to be. I want to thank everyone who as supported me on this journey thus far, and I ask for your continued prayers for the work being done at Paz y Esperanza as we expand our shelter to be able soon to serve around 40 kids and adolescents as well as the work being done by the other organizations in Peru, and all around the world.
Dios les bendiga a todos! God bless you all!
Paz de Cristo (Peace of Christ),