If families are lucky enough to travel, they usually fill their days up with adventures: They swim in oceans, hike up mountains, see amazing art, go to historical sites, eat different foods, and speak new languages.

But our friends (and former Kids Give co-columnists) Addy and Maia McDermott, taught us that giving on vacations is adventurous and fun, too.

This spring, Addy and Maia took their parents on a six-week trip to Peru. First, they explored the jungle (and saw a huge rodent called a capybara), rode horses through a valley of ruins, walked through Machu Picchu (and imagined being an Inca building a terrace), and took language classes.

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For the last part of their trip, they volunteered: five hours each day, five days each week.

Every day at 2 p.m., they walked 20 minutes to Aldea Yanapay. It’s like the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe in Kings Beach, only smaller and poorer. It has cracked concrete walls and floors and is mostly held outside in two courtyards. Maia said, ‘Aldea Yanapay gives free hugs and kisses to the children. Besos gratis y abrazos.’  

Addy said, ‘It is bright, brilliant, colorful, and full of happy humor.’ One of the things that impressed Addy the most was how parents were so desperate to place their kids in the school that they exaggerated the kids’ ages.  

Arriving early with the other volunteers, Addy and Maia swept classrooms, turned on lights, prepped art supplies, and set up benches. At 3 p.m., they unlocked the doors and children started trickling in.  Children spread out into the homework room, tutoring room, art room, or stayed outside. Elizabeth, their mom, tutored while Addy and Maia played tag, danced with the children, and helped everybody get ready for their big festival.  

Everybody’s favorite time was circle time, ‘Circulo.’ At 5 p.m., everybody joined together and ‘choo-choo-trained’ their way into the big courtyard, where a volunteer waited with a guitar and founder/director Yuri would lead the circle of communication on the theme of living without violence.  Addy said, ‘Circulo time is singing — one hour of singing and talking about living with joy and happiness.’  

Everybody’s goal is to create a happy environment for kids struggling in poverty. ‘Any time they can make something fun, they do, like dancing from one place to another,’ Elizabeth said. Aldea Yanapay’s themes are peace and happiness, or paz y alegria, and the whole environment shows that. There are handprints and suns painted on the walls, flags flying, and the international volunteers come to work with their faces painted.

‘If we didn’t volunteer,’ Addy said, ‘we could have traveled to other places, like Lake Titicaca, but then it wouldn’t have been as interesting. I feel like our vacation was just right.’

We asked Addy to give some advice to you kids who want to volunteer when you travel:  ‘You have to be friendly and willing to meet people.’  

We are proud of Addy and Maia, but we are sad, too. They will not be writing this column with us anymore; but we know that when they go back to school they will always read it, and that they will always be kids who give. Learn more about Aldea Yanapay at aldeayanapay.org.

~ If you know any kids who give, please let us know: itstime4kids2give@gmail.com.

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