There is a big discrepancy between the rich and poor in Lima, Peru with over 50% living below the line.
This reality is absolutely astonishing to comprehend seeing the tourist areas of Lima with streets looking very modern, far from the poverty statistics. But go some streets back and that’s unfortunately where the underlying reality of Lima exists.
Whilst looking for a place to stay in Lima, a certain hostel caught my eye. The Zig Zag Hostel offered a unique opportunity for guests to help volunteer cooking and delivering food to underprivileged children in the slums of Lima. The hostel is not for profit with the owner setting it up to give back to the community. I highly recommend this hostel for your stay in Lima – it feels like a family and just by staying there you are already helping out with money redistributed to the less fortunate.
Volunteering and helping others has been a passion of mine so this was something I wanted to do. The volunteering was on a Saturday so my brother and I extended our stay there so we were able to help out.
On Saturday morning, we joined a team of volunteers in the kitchen chopping and cooking food in massive pots. On the menu was rice, chicken and vegetable curry. A chain line was in full swing, dishing the food into containers. In a couple hours, 50+ boxes of food was ready to deliver as we set off to the slums.
A local and respected man from that particular community guided us around as we made our way through the windy, dusty, uphill streets of the slums in a tuk tuk. This particular village is gated to stop people from entering the richer parts of Lima, with Police patrolling the gates and bringing back people if they are caught outside.
For me, that is absolutely crazy. I’ve volunteered in other less developed countries before but I’ve never seen people explicitly outcasted from the rest of society.
Once at the top, we set out the food and drinks while we waited for children and their parents to come visit. It was like a school class with children lined up on seats as we handed out the food. I wanted to interact with the kids but I didn’t know much Spanish so I just played with them. Not learning more Spanish is one of my biggest regrets for South America. The children were so cute and hungry. They were all very keen for a glass of soft drink! We then walked around and handed out the left over food to any families we saw along the way. Although they have very little and dont get treated equally, the people were very humble and thankful.
Throughout this travelling journey, I have seen alot of poverty and homelessness on the streets across all countries and it breaks my heart. You realise how lucky you are to have a roof over your head and to not take things for granted.
Although it was only a small act of volunteering, it was very rewarding to give back and I hope to do more volunteering elsewhere down the track.