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Manchay Peru - Handicapped Center - 2004

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One of the students cut the ribbon Another, blind, broke the champagne
One of the students cut the ribbon
Another, blind, broke the champagne
Everyone poured in We partied
Everyone poured in
We partied
And then we danced
Dancing with the blind boy was dancing with the Christ

Mountain Musing-Report on Peru
by Deborah Hage

After a week of hard labor during which we sweated much and laughed more the 9 of us took off to various other parts of the world. Some to go home and others to tour Peru. We were invited to return to the building site a week later, by which time it was hoped, the building would be finished. Unfortunately, due to unusual snowfall in Cuzco, Barbara & Glenn Johnson, Christopher and Michael Agresta and Paul Hage were stuck and unable to get back to Manchay in time for the dedication. Since I had traveled in a different direction by myself I was the only one to make it back. My sense of joy at being back in Manchay with all of the people I have come to know and love was dimmed because the others were not there to share in the festivities.

A band of drums, flutes and guitars greeted us as 200 or more people assembled in front of the open door of the newly built center for the handicapped. The small dirt packed courtyard was jammed with people as Father Jose motioned for me to come to the door. There was a ribbon across the doorway and a bottle of champagne hanging down. Father Jose gave one of his famous exhortations. I didn’t know what he was saying, but his people listened with rapt attention. The rise and fall of his voice was hypnotic. When he was done one of the boys with cerebral palsy, a new day resident of the center, was shoved forward. Father and I put a scissors in his hand and helped him cut the ribbon. Then a boy with such poor vision as to be considered blind came forward. With hammer in hand, we helped him attack the champagne bottle as if it were a piñata. To the roar of the crowd those closest the doorway were drenched with champagne. People shoved forward to enter and I greeted each one, with a hug or kiss as they brought me close to them in an effort to convey their gratitude.

I was drawn outside as the dancing began. No celebration in Manchay is complete without dancing. A simple folk dance, clasping hands, arms up, step to the side, arms down step behind, round and round. One by one people joined the dancing, moving in to grab my hand before the next dancer crowded them away, until the circle ran up against the watchers. I was shoved into the middle and one by one the children, for whom the center was built, were brought into the circle to dance with me. Stiff arms up, stumble to the side, arms down, wheel chair spin to the left. Foolish grin, step behind, awkward gait, step to the side. The boy who broke the champagne over our heads was led groping into the middle to dance. When he found me he was so overcome he just put his head into my chest and cried. We continued swaying to the music while the champagne was rinsed away with our tears of joy. We danced and danced until fatigue overcame our emotions.

No one wanted to leave. Father Jose finally began using his exhortation voice to send everyone home with his blessing. No one left. The dancing continued. He tried again. One by one the families began to drift off into the darkness. However, no one left without again, seeking me out, hugging me close, and tearfully expressing their gratitude for all our group and our congregation had done for them. I didn’t have to understand the words to know what was being said. Lord of the Mountains, the volunteers….we are all in a partnership to change lives….the residents of Manchay, the handicapped children, and not least of all…..ourselves. Truly, dancing with the blind boy was dancing with the Christ.

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Deborah Hage, MSW

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