Service, spirituality, and community: three words that appear repeatedly upon applying to become an Augustinian Volunteer. Throughout my application process, orientation, and the months leading up to our actual departure I learned about these values and began to understand what they meant to me as a person and as a volunteer. Of these three values, the one that made me the most apprehensive was community. Up until this point I had interpreted community solely to mean the group of individuals that I would be living with, two people who I barely knew, who I had agreed to live with in a foreign country for a year.
Of course, looking back, the fear of living in community is laughable. My community is made up of two other wonderful, strong, fearless women and in just two months we have bonded in ways I never could have imagined (i.e. sweeping toads away to access our laundry, being locked inside our house, navigating the meat section of the market in Chulucanas). However, what I have also come to realize in my last two months in Peru is how much more the word community means as an Augustinian Volunteer.
Community in Chulucanas refers to not just my wonderful house-mates and gal pals but also the larger group of Augustinians who were some of the first to welcome us to Peru upon our arrival in Lima and again in Chulucanas. Community here is also ever-present in our host families who welcomed us into their homes for an entire month without even knowing who we were, and have become a family in a country far away from any biological relatives. Community exists in the people at our service sites who have received each one of us as members of their staff, including us in lunches, gatherings and celebrations because 15 years of past volunteers have paved the way for us. And finally, community is found in the AVs, past, present, and future. A past Peru-volunteer visited last week with a group of nursing students from Villanova, and despite only having met her once briefly before our departure, seeing her face was like seeing an old friend.
Although I’ve only been in Peru for two months, the community that exists here thanks to the Augustinian Volunteers already makes Chulucanas feel like home. I still miss my family and friends in the U.S., but it certainly helps that a group of people have welcomed me into their lives and communities, reminding me that being a world away doesn’t mean you ever have to be alone.
Chulucanas, Peru 2018