Intiwawa: An island of happiness

The Casa Intiwawa in San Isidro is like an island of happiness that often stands in a strong contrast to the world the children come from.

Like most volunteers, I live in the beautiful historic center of Arequipa. When driving for an hour in the bus to reach San Isidro, houses are getting poorer, the streets dirtier and shopping centers are replaced by farmlands. San Isidro is a tiny village in the desert dominated by dust and street dogs who seem to be the major inhabitants. It is also a place of friendly people and one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. And it is the village where Intiwawa is trying to improve the lives of the inhabitants.

The colourful Casa Intiwawa, with its painted walls, stands in contrast to the dusty little houses around it. Inside you find children playing, laughing and fighting, like all other children on this planet. The moment you step inside the house, you dive into the world of Intiwawa, as the children need all your attention: they need help with their homework, with brushing their teeth and washing their hands, talking about their ideas and dreams in different workshops, settling their little conflicts, and preventing them from producing chaos or hurting themselves. It is the world of children, a slightly chaotic world of happiness. It is easy to forget the world these children come from:

Child labour and domestic violence are part of the everyday life of the children in San Isidro. Most of their parents work 10-15 hours a day in the brick production and it is common for children to help them after school instead of doing their homework or playing. For the hard physical work, their parents receive a minimum income without insurance or securities. Therefore, most families live in poor conditions: low hygiene standards and a lack of sanitary facilities cause water pollution and health problems.

This part of the children’s lives is hard for us to understand, as most of us come from first-world countries and none of us has ever experienced something similar when growing up. Therefore, we do our best to give these children what we have received in our worlds: love, affection, education, security, and perspectives for their futures.

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