Reflection on our time in Lima – PEBAL La Immaculada by Ari, Adian and Spencer

Written by Ari Anderson, Aidan Brown, and Spencer Pozun.

Señor Cordova gave us this prompt for our journals for our first day working in PEBAL: “Where did you see God today?”  Like every other Bronco on this trip, we wrote the words down in our notebooks and disregarded it. However, the knowledge and wisdom that the prompt has given us is enough to fill more pages than this blog allows.

We began our first day of work with PEBAL La Immaculata on an exhilarating bus ride. On the bus we met Emilio, the operations manager of PEBAL, Liz, and Sister Sylvia, a nun from Italy who has worked at PEBAL for the last three years. PEBAL was founded in 1978 by the Jesuits. The mission of PEBAL is “to improve personal abilities through education, health and social commitment so that the nearby communities are enduring.  PEBAL is summarized in one word:  Transformation.”  PEBAL offers services for health, classes to learn a trade, and school for the children of the community.

The traffic in Lima is incomparable to anywhere else. Speed laws? Non-existent. Right of way? Nowhere to be seen. Police moderating the streets? A funny afterthought.  And, the traffic is constant. Constant as the grey clouds that loom over Lima. It would become something that we came to both enjoy and dread. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying when you see a cab driver turn a two-lane freeway into a three-lane freeway with merging cars on all sides.

After about a twenty-minute bus ride, we arrived at the base of operations for PEBAL. We were greeted by two small kiosks, each selling similar wares of gum, candy and soda. We barely had time to purchase gum before we were ushered back onto the bus. The bus ride over to San Juan de Miraflores was something that will always be with us. As the bus climbed the mountain, our preconceptions of poverty were shattered. The old buildings surround the base of PEBAL seemed bad until we saw the actual neighborhood of San Juan. The brick turned to corrugated steel, and the asphalt of the streets turned to dirt. Our previously gregarious bus went almost silent as we traversed the slippery, muddy streets of San Juan de Miraflores.

We worked on PEBAL’s casitas; safe places for children to go after their school day is over. We broke up into groups and were sent off to do specific jobs. These casitas were all on the side of the mountain, and muddy roads were the only way to get to there. In one casita, we repaired, repainted and reinforced the doors, walls, and furniture.  Another group painted the walls, both inside and out, and sanded and painted chairs for the children. The last group swept, cleaned and organized. The work was monotonous but fulfilling, and we left the casitas feeling accomplished at what we had done.

For lunch, we went back to PEBAL La Immaculata to eat. There we were able to play some games in the courtyard and bought snacks from the vendors. Once it was time to get back to work we were assigned the task of sanding down 200 rusted chairs to get them ready to be repainted.

The next day we went back and continued our work.  However, during the night it had rained.  The entire mountain was covered in a misty cloud. We finished the work from the previous day and were getting ready to leave for lunch and continue our afternoon work back at PEBAL. As one group was leaving their casita for the last time, a man named Fernando approached them. He began conversing with Señor Cordova and we learned about the neighborhood we were in.

The hills that we stood on were previously the land of pig farmers, but at the city of Lima expanding, it became a dumping ground for the garbage of the city. The residents of the neighborhood of San Juan de Miraflores remained in their homes, despite the increasing levels of waste. The pig farmers also remained, and the pigs began to eat the garbage that was discarded there. The residents ate those pigs and got sick. According to Fernando, their skin began to peel, and when they realized that the pork was the source of the sickness, it was too late. The pig farmers are gone now, and heaps of trash take their place on the mountain. San Juan de Miraflores does not have any running water or plumbing, and will probably never have either. Water trucks bring fresh water to the houses where large blue barrels are filled for the weekly water supply. Word cannot describe our feelings, but the opportunity to assist and give hope to this community will always stay with us.

After lunch the second day, we cleaned abandoned shacks that used to be greenhouses  off the roof of one of PEBAL‘s buildings. We moved pallets, enamel buckets, and wooden beams. We also worked on the future plans for the complex which will include adding an additional story to the building.

At the end of the day, Ari had the opportunity to talk with Emilio who is also an alum of El Colegio De La Inmaculada where we lived during our stay in Lima. Through “Spanglish”, they discussed many different topics but arrived at this conclusion: Our job is not to be saviors, nor teachers or prophets. Our job is work and live WITH the people of Peru. As much as we do for them, they do for us.


Ari, Aidan and Spencer

7 thoughts on “Reflection on our time in Lima – PEBAL La Immaculada by Ari, Adian and Spencer

  1. This blog brings tears to my eyes….. tears of sorrow in the way this community has been seemingly tossed to the side by its country but also tears of happiness that this group of Brophy boys are finding a higher purpose on this journey.❤️

  2. So impressive! I wish that there had been opportunities like this when I was at Brophy 32 years ago. These young men are gaining so much valuable experience and exposure to a world many of us could never imagine. Very proud, as both a Dad and a Grad!

  3. “Find God in all things…” — and it seems they truly are.
    No words to adequately express how grateful we are for this experience for all of these young men —accessing the knowledge and wisdom mentioned above as well as the obvious transformational thinking.

  4. Nice job on a well-written and thought-provoking write up, thanks for sharing these thoughts. You all are doing good work, God’s work, in your adventure – for Peru, for Brophy, and, equally important, for yourselves. Each of you (chaperones included!) will absorb your experiences, reflect on them in your own way (jk I know BCP’s got the reflections on lock), and carry them with you long into the future. When ‘Peru’ inevitably resurfaces in your mind, you will recall your experiences and appreciate how valuable a learning experience it was, about the world and about yourselves.

    Surely there are a great deal of sacrifices you’re making, from super important stuff like no phones, no WiFi, no Instagram, no In-N-Out, no sleeping in, no Uber Eats, to minor inconveniences like a solid chunk of your summer, traveler’s sickness, doing manual labor for hours, fleeting moments of how-safe-am-I-right-now, etc. Carry the memory of those sacrifices with you too. You will remember your time in Peru and seeing growth in sacrifice, love in sacrifice, and compassion in sacrifice.

    Soak it all up, enjoy the exquisite super baby alpaca, stay positive, and take care of one another!

  5. Each day of your trip I have anxiously checked for a blog post and have been following your journey and your experiences closely. Today I am going back and reading all of the posts again. The paragraph about your arrival at San Juan Miraflores was so very gripping in its description, I felt as though I was there on the bus with you. The image of this moment of your trip stays with me. I have wondered if you ever feel frustrated at the end of work day in Peru that you could not do more….fix more things, build more things, clean more things, if only there was more time…but Mother Teresa says “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love” In reading your posts, I see many things being done and accomplished with great love. Makes me feel very proud of each one of you.

  6. I am late in reading these blog posts, but they bring back the times I too walked up the muddy roads of the Pig Valley in the garua fog of Lima, the dusty, steep roads up the side of the basin surrounding Arequipa, to be met with cheering children in clean green uniforms, sanding and painting in upper rooms in Cusco to prepare a place for teens to congregate.
    Thanks to all of you, Brophy men for others, who have carried on this noble tradition.

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