Brave new women podcast
When Susi Prescott's 30-year marriage came to a sudden end, she found herself teaching in a school in the slums of Peru.
Amidst the trauma and sorrow of the end of her thirty-year marriage in Sydney, Susi Prescott’s wild imagination did not lie idle for long. Four children now adult and independent, no husband around any more . . . she could now venture out into the world to follow some dreams, and perhaps even make a difference! But . . . did she dare?
Still unsure, she went trekking with friends in Peru where, on a freezing day, high up in the Andes, a tiny, shivering child changed her life forever. She decided that, somehow, she would return to use her skills to help in whatever way she could.
After short periods teaching in Nepal and then Rwanda, she returned to the town of Arequipa, in Peru. Although she had given up her job, home and life in Australia, she had little idea how her vision would unfold if, indeed, at all.
Susi relates how serendipity led her to a struggling school, Colegio Elohim, in the desert squatter settlements surrounding the town. She describes the work that she did there, the living conditions endured by the children and some of the best and the worst moments she experienced. Having intended to stay for a year, she ended up spending twelve, working in the dusty slums, where seventy percent of the population of Arequipa eke out an existence.
Talking to Susi left me with vivid images of valleys filled with refuse, families living in stone shacks with dirt floors, violence, snow-capped volcanoes . . . and two women - Susi and Rosa, the school’s director - giving their all to help students and families alike. Unforgettably, 250 children putting their arms around Susi’s neck to wish her happy birthday. And the joy and passion of the Latin culture which permeates every level of society - its flamboyance, its irresistible music and most especially for Susi, its exuberant dance.
They managed to begin a secondary school. Of the first (and only) graduation year of nine last year, three (all girls) have already applied for university, with possibly more coming later. An amazing achievement, particularly in that terrible year of Covid lockdown. Although the secondary school has not survived due to lack of funds, Susi radiates with the satisfaction that at least these nine adolescents have brighter prospects for the future.
Susi’s memoir of her time in Peru, “Where Hummingbirds Dance”, was published in 2017. Her second book, “Beyond the Priest’s Cottage”, about her origins, was published in 2020. The books, together with more information on the project, are available on her website at www.susiprescott.com and all proceeds generated by sales go to Colegio Elohim.