PUBLISHED: 4:13 PM on Wednesday, November 2, 2005
All smiles: Dutton volunteers in Peru

Courtesy photo
  Mickie Dutton teaches English to high-school boys while volunteering at the Puericultorio Perez Aranibar children's home in Lima, Peru.
Juneau resident Mickie Dutton traveled to Peru and brought home the best souvenirs of all - memories of the sweet smiles and bright eyes of children at the largest orphanage in South America.

Earlier this month, Dutton, a USDA Forest Service employee, was part of a nine-member team of volunteers who ventured to Lima to work on childcare, teaching and construction projects at Puericultorio Perez Aranibar, a children's home housing 600 vulnerable youths.

Situated along the oceanfront in Lima, this former government compound now is home to hundreds of children who have been abused, neglected or orphaned.

The service program was coordinated by Global Volunteers, a nonprofit organization that offers short-term service programs in communities around the world.

At the PPA, Dutton taught conversational English to high-school boys and middle-school girls and also befriended children at the orphanage's infirmary.

By immersing herself in the day-to-day lives of ordinary Lima residents, she gained rare, non-tourist perspectives on the culture of Peru.

"I learned that person-to-person contact can overcome stereotypes," Dutton said.

Most of all, she learned that children are children the world over.

"The children responded to our hugs and love," Dutton said.

"I truly enjoyed the unconditional love they showed us."

Volunteers are sorely needed in Lima, a metropolis of nine million, nearly two-thirds of whom live in poverty.

Social services are severely strained as this bustling city copes with a continual influx of campesinos seeking better lives.

In fact, Dutton and other volunteers toured a slum area on the outskirts of Lima that was once the home of many of the PPA children.

She said it was a truly sobering experience.