“In Peru, when somebody visits you in your home . . . it means they value you.”

That was the sentiment expressed by one of our partners during Heart-Links’ recent and first-ever Solidarity Trip Reunion. Last Saturday, alumni of our Solidarity and Work/Awareness Trips connected by zoom with some of the people they’d met during those visits to share memories of their time together and what it meant to each of them.

We also talked about our lives today and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities.

screenshot of 23 people in a zoom meeting, galllery view showing faces and names

Friends from our partner organizations in Zaña, Chiclayo and Cajamarca spoke about their memories of sharing their work and their daily lives with visitors from Canada, noting that such exchanges have strengthened their organizations and enriched their work. Delicia Romero recalled that she has never missed a single one, from the very first visits led by Sister Janet Zadorsky in the 1990s to the 2018 Solidarity Trip—the last before the pandemic hit.

Zaña artist Dimas Gil also dropped by to say hello, as did Lucho and Cristina and family, tuning in from the hostel where trip participants often stay.

woman and two children stand together in playground in Peru
Playground build in Nuevo Mocupe, 2009 Work/Awareness Trip.

For the Canadian visitors, the trips have also had a profound impact. Whether working in a community kitchen, helping to build a community-designed playground or climbing a sacred mountain in Cajamarca, trip participants said they learned as much about themselves and their communities in Canada as they did about the people and places they visited.

Several participants said they were awakened to “the power of community,” a lesson that led them to greater community involvement on their return home. Susan Price, a librarian herself, was especially impressed by the work of the Rural Libraries Network. “They’re exactly what libraries should be,” she said. For other participants, the trip informed or inspired their career choices.

Peruvian man in wide brimmed hat stands next to Canadian women with sweater tied at waist in front of house with corrugated roof
Librarians from Canada and Peru find common interests and goals, 2016 Solidarity Trip.

Concern about the ravages caused in Peru by the pandemic was top of mind. One of our partners is currently recovering from the illness. Another had to miss the reunion because she was busy trying to buy oxygen for sick relatives and to get a friend into the overcrowded ICU. In Cajamarca, the virus has now spread to the remote mountain villages. The hardship and pain the pandemic is causing our partners, their families and friends and their communities was clear.

But the affection among these old acquaintances and the joy of jointly revisiting significant moments in their lives was also palpable. It’s one reason Heart-Links is finding ways like this so we can listen to and learn from each other and express our solidarity even when in-person visits are not possible.

Two women stand over plastic bowls containing fish to be fried
Working side by side in a community kitchen, 2008 Work/Awareness Trip.