Volunteers, Alicia and Joseph East, contribute their story-telling skills to Something New all.the.time. Here is what Alicia wrote about the current crisis that is unfolding in Peru and what she is committing to.
It’s been five years and 3 babies since we made our first documentary. The next story we’re following is unfolding now.
My how things have changed—both on a personal level for Joseph and me and for the world, as you very well know. My body is a little rounder and we both have a few new lines on our faces, but Joseph and I are still committed to telling stories that matter. One of those is unfolding in front of us right now and many of our friends are in the middle of it—stuck in Peru.
When we had this conversation, I cried. Hard.
We started watching this story unfold in Peru last year. There—with support from Something New—70 displaced Venezuelan refugees were forming a community in 2 apartment buildings and one house. It had all the elements of a documentary-worthy story:
- Protagonists like Mary and Kelvin—eating painkillers instead of food so they could feed their 3 young daughters.
- Budding entrepreneurs facing overwhelming odds—their hearts filled with hope for a different future.
- Harrowing journeys—like a young woman who walked 11 days while pregnant—through 2 countries and across a river—to escape her abuser and establish a new life.
- This young woman’s miracle baby—who was born 3 months early and is now thriving.
- Also, hope, love, and dancing (of course!).
The story had to be told. We both knew it. This was exactly the kind of thing we committed to doing when we got married. But that didn’t change how hard it was because I was very, very pregnant. I cried. Hard. And then I got on that computer and booked his flight. I was 34 weeks along when the older two kids and I kissed him goodbye.
It was a story we couldn’t ignore.
We will never pretend to be objective observers of the people whose stories we follow. We love them! Our kids “met” them on video calls and fell in love, too (especially Brayan–the one holding the camera below). Joseph hopped in the car and went into the streets (Yes, I’m talking about the dangerous ones, sorry/not sorry!)—without a translator and with thousands of dollars of equipment—to film one young man paying off debts so he could move into one of the buildings and start his new life. Joseph captured interviews with people whose lives were once much like ours before their home country descended into chaos and they went from three meals a day to two. And then from two to one.
I was 36 weeks pregnant when we decided together that he needed to extend his trip two more weeks—putting us well within the normal range for full-term delivery. With each decision, we knew there was a very real possibility he would not make it home for the birth. I was one day shy of 38 weeks pregnant when I welcomed him home. There were grateful tears this time.
The story has changed to life and death stakes
Meanwhile, a pandemic was brewing. The day we welcomed our new baby (together !), the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. I read the updates between contractions. We went home to a brand new reality of social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
Our friends—the Peruvians, the Venezuelans, and the gringos who are there volunteering—are now stuck. They’re stuck in the country, which closed its borders. They’re stuck in their buildings—where they can only leave during certain hours and certain days. The budding entrepreneurs have halted their plans. No one can work. They are working on consolidating into two buildings. The gringos are figuring out how to rotate their 3 weeks’ worth of clothes through the one washing machine the entire building shares. They have all adjusted to two meals a day as food has become even more scarce throughout the already-struggling country.
What was a compelling story has now become life and death.
We can’t feed the entire country, but we can feed Brayan, Kelvin, Mary, and our gringo friends
Gwen and Ronald—anchors in the I Will Dance story—went there with a 3-week itinerary and are now there indefinitely. These are our friends. We know we can’t feed everyone. But we can feed every single person in those two buildings.
Everything in Peru is shut down and food prices have gone up by 300%. A generous donor has offered to match up to 10K to feed our friends. I’d like to reach that goal today to ensure they can continue to eat twice a day.
This food does nourish their bodies, but it does so much more. They say their thank yous daily for the generous people who are making sacrifices here to ensure people they’ve never met can eat.
Seven (!!!) years ago, your generosity made it possible for a small team to tell a story we cared about. We are endlessly grateful. Please join us in following (and being a part of) this one!
Let’s choose to let this bring out the best in us
Just like any crisis, this thing is bringing out the best and worst in people. Sure, we see people fighting each other with a broken wine bottle over a case of water, but we also see health care workers coming out of retirement to save lives.
Let’s all choose to let this bring out the best in us. For some of us, that means staying home unless it’s absolutely essential. For others, it means going out because it’s absolutely essential. For many, that means being generous out of love when we have every reason to pull back out of fear.
Here’s a link once again to the documentary that brought us all “together” those years ago. Its message remains true.
For now, I’m staying home. Because in this moment in time, that’s how I can best show my love.
#IWILLsocialdistance and #IWILLSTILLdance,