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Things are never dull in Casa Mosqoy. It is incredible how much we always accomplish in such a short amount of time. These past two months were full of activities – among the many were family meetings, nutrition workshops, clothing exchanges, and birthday celebrations. There were three events that were really special to me. The first was a short workshop series we did with a Cusqueñan psychologist named Joel. Since he is relatively young, he really knows how to relate to our students and create age-appropriate workshops that allow them to express themselves in an artistic manner. This artistic expression seems to strike close to home with our students because the communities they come from incorporate artistic expression (such as dance, song and weaving) into their daily life.

The first workshop we did with Joel was a drawing workshop where the students were required to break up into two small groups. Each person had to draw a scenic landscape that included a river and various things one might see alongside a river, in order to, in some way, express their life so far. After they had drawn their masterpieces, they were asked to individually describe what they had drawn and the significance each object in the picture had for them in terms of their life experience. After each explanation, the presenter then separated him or herself from the group and waited as each other group member individually approached them to give positive words of encouragement and admiration. The second workshop focused more on stress-relief and loving words. To begin, Joel had everyone hand-shred hundreds of old newspapers as a way to relieve stress and forget about any outside stress-triggers. He then broke everyone up into two smaller groups and told everyone to design their heart from the shredded pile of newspaper. We all (including Ashli and Cara) spent about half an hour personally designing and constructing an artistic interpretation of our heart with only the newspaper shreds and tape. We were then asked, one-by-one, to describe our design and the personal significance the design had for us. After this reflection process, we all united in one big circle to personally hand our heart, with loving words, to another person. It was really an amazing way to unite the students of Casa Mosqoy and to remind each other how much love really exists within our small family.

The other two activities that really stood out to me were organized by Ashli. First, we had an incredible movie night at the local cinema that was just recently built here in Cusco. This event was extra special for me because I was able to watch some of the students go to the movies for the first time in their lives. The majority of the students come from under-privileged backgrounds and are unable to afford basic living expenses, let alone luxury experiences such as paying 18 soles to see a movie. Ashli was also kind enough to buy popcorn and drinks for everyone, making the event even more special for the students.

The second activity was a music night hosted by Ashli and Trent. Both have extensive musical experience and were able to play about two hours worth of tunes for the students. Trent also introduced his 100-year old fiddle to the students. We all had a blast trying to play the fiddle, but I’m surprised someone didn’t break a window while creating such a ruckus! I think we all ended the night with a greater appreciation for the individuals who are able to produce beautiful sounds with such complicated and delicate instruments as the violin and fiddle.

Unfortunately, my time with Mosqoy has come to an end. I have put my whole heart into the project for the past year and have formed so much love and respect for the Mosqoy family. It is a strange feeling to think that something that has been such a huge part of my life for the past year is now coming to an end. But MAN, have I learned a lot! Living with the Mosqoy students has been an incredibly emotional and intellectual experience for me. I have learned so much about the world the students come from, who they are as individuals, and where they derive their passions. Orlinda, although a bit shy and timid, maintains an impressive type of subtle leadership in the house by leading through example. Deniss is as sweet as can be and loves to constantly remind those around her how much she cares about them. Nataly, with her bright smile and positive attitude, is a constant burst of sunshine in the house. Cristian, always affectionate and patient, acts as “big brother” to anyone under his protective care. And Fernando is just the opposite – a goofy younger brother type with an intense passion to learn, a whole world of discovery waiting to quench his curiosity. Marilyn, although petite, is well respected in the house for her big ideas and fearless expression of opinion. Clayda is the most verbally present leader in the house and tries her best to encourage others to always be responsible and give back to the Andean Youth Program. Alex is respected by his peers for the intense passion and perseverance he exhibits, both as a leader and as a student. Raul is by far the most animated, with a contagious laugh only describable as somehow a combination of a boom and a giggle. My dear Carmencita is the perfect balance of spicy and sweet, with adorable moments of absolute affection, sometimes mixed with moments of courage only matched by that of a lion. Lastly, we have Karina – the levelheaded and mature old soul of the house that greatly enjoys the tranquility of living a private life. Together, these students have created the place that we call home; Casa Mosqoy is not just a dorm house with an RA attending to its inhabitants, but rather a family abode that maintains the loving and sometimes hectic environment that any other home would experience. The love that exists among us is evident and I am so happy to have had the experience to be part of it.

- Stephanie Smallshaw

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