Young adult finds calling in Peru mission
By David Kilby | Correspondent
A young parishioner in St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood, has decided to spend her first years after college doing missionary work for the Capuchins in Peru.
Laura Dwulet, daughter of Mary and Martin Dwulet, has been commissioned as a Cap Corps volunteer, and has been serving since August in the school of Ciudad de Los Ninos in Lima, Peru.
Dwulet, 22, a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, N. Y., will be providing service to the Ciudad de Los Ninos boys school for 18 months.
“In searching for an international volunteer program, I found the Franciscan Volunteer Corps to be a nice fit for me,” Dwulet said. “Cap Corps stresses living out the Franciscan tradition as well as the importance of social justice and the understanding of different cultures.
“I was attracted to the Peru program after reading of the impact that the volunteers make on the lives of the children in Cuidad de Los Ninos,” she added.
But in traveling to Peru, Dwulet found that she had to immerse herself in a culture foreign to that of the United States. She explained that the school year ends in December for the boys at Ciudad de Los Ninos.
“Normally we get into the dorm bright and early, straighten up and get children ready for school. Then the volunteers have a break, have lunch, then we tutor the boys for a few hours. Hours of school are shorter (than in the U.S.). But they have a lot of homework each day,” Dwulet said, adding that once their homework is done they have an Alabanza dance Monday through Thursday nights before going to bed.
The school teaches about 300 children ages three to 17. Many live on the same site, but many also come from the outside, and they all have some sort of family they go home to every two weeks.
“It felt right because I have the chance to live with kids, and live in community with volunteers while at the same time growing in faith together,” Dwulet said. “I knew I had to volunteer abroad. After three semesters of Spanish classes, I thought South America would be the greatest place to develop what I learned.”
She said the volunteer program is not just about helping others but, also, trying to live in accompaniment, getting to know people, and getting to know what their reality is like.
“That’s why I like that it’s longer than most programs. With this it’s more like you get to know the kids. You can’t get the whole picture when you’re there for only a week or two. It’s something that I think gives a broader perspective and prepares you for whatever you want to do next.
“Just being here and seeing the poverty, I feel I need to do something about it, and maybe get involved in other programs,” Dwulet acknowledged.
When growing up she said she had a few missionaries visit her school to share the stories of their work, and the work sounded interesting to her.
“After a while I was thinking ‘When am I going to do it if not now?’ Right after college is the best window of opportunity,” she said. “An important part of this program is it’s a community of volunteers. Working in community is great. We all get the opportunity to share our work experience during the day and we have a great support network. I learn a lot from the other volunteers and their faith.”
Dwulet noted there are five American volunteers, and another five from Germany, Britain and Italy. The American volunteers pray together every Tuesday night, talk about the week and support each other in any struggles.
The school year starts in February, so when Dwulet first came in August she overlapped with previous volunteer groups and they helped get her started. The young volunteer teaches Math, Spanish and some English to boys ages nine to 12.
“I feel getting to know the kids has been the best aspect of the program so far,” she said. “Even when I was rusty with my Spanish they came to talk to me. They’re accustomed to the volunteers.”
When they turn 15, the boys do different workshops that are similar to apprenticeships.
The school has an auto shop, tailor shop, metal shop, carpentry shop, a bakery, a shoe production and repair shop, and an animal farm for the children to learn different trades.
“Most of them come from pretty tough backgrounds. Ciudad de Los Ninos prepares them for whatever next step they might take,” Dwulet said.
She had her training before coming into Ciudad de Los Ninos, too. Her training began with orientation in Milwaukee for two weeks. Then she had language school for two weeks in Peru before starting her mission work.
“They pay for housing, food and insurance. It’s good for those just coming out of college. It’s something that’s very doable,” she said.[[In-content Ad]]