Read what previous volunteers to Globalteer's Peru Children's Project have to say about their experiences in Cusco and Oropesa (children's names have been changed to protect their privacy).
“It had its challenges but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Kiri Backhouse was just 18 when she volunteered at Globalteer’s Peru Children’s Project at Picaflor House for two months in 2011. Inspired by her godparents’ tales of South America and Cusco, and encouraged by her godmother’s accounts of volunteering with Globalteer in Cambodia, the decision to volunteer with the children at Picaflor was an easy one for Kiri:
“I just love the energy, playfulness and curiosity of children. They need to know everything right in that moment and I love the never ending questions. And of course…children are the future and knowledge is power so anything that I could do to possibly brighten a child’s future...who wouldn’t want to do that?”
Having done some voluntary work with disabled kids back home in Australia, and helped out with children’s sports during a school trip to East Timor she had an idea of what was in store for her when she embarked on her trip to Peru. Here she recounts her experience. First impressions
“I’m not sure what I was expecting, I had seen lots of photos of Cusco and the real thing did not disappoint. I had already spent several days in Chile before arriving in Peru, so I was already over most of my culture shock. I had chosen Globalteer as it was much cheaper than other companies that offered basically the same thing and for me as a student on a gap year that was really important. I also had a very high recommendation about the company from my godmother who had volunteered with Globalteer in Cambodia.
“The journey for me was quite hard as I was alone and spent 4 days in Santiago (Chile) before travelling to Peru. I was in culture shock and I experienced some anxiety in such a big strange place completely alone.”
But once Kiri was in Oropesa things soon slotted into place.
“The bus to the project was fine, the first day Annie took us and then the next couple of days Denise (one of the other volunteers) showed me around Cusco and how to get to the bus stop etc. There were always volunteers there that you could organise something with in the morning and travel in together so there was never any issue. I knew absolutely no Spanish when I arrived but I had no problems with communication – you would be surprised at how much you can get across with hand signals and a couple of words.
“The best part about the volunteer accommodation was being in the same place as all the other volunteers that meant there was always someone around if you needed them. The wi-fi was also great because I could Skype with family and it didn’t feel like you were completely at the end of the world.” Highs and lows
“I had so many highlights. Meeting such amazing people from all over the world who you know will be lifelong friends. There were too many highlights with the kids to count. One day we took them to a wildlife rescue centre, another day we got a TV and watched The Lion King in Spanish!
“There were also a lot of challenges, probably the biggest for me was not having my family around as a support unit when I got sick, had my wallet stolen, also when my Auntie passed away and I wasn’t at home to support my family. Skype was great and I had a phone for emergencies. The best thing that helped me through were all the other volunteers, whether it was giving me crackers when I couldn’t eat dinner or coming with me to the tourist police or even just there for a good hug, the other volunteers helped me through so much.
“I think the best impact we had with working with the children was just being there. Giving them a reliable safe-house where they could learn and play with their friends after school. Also that there were constantly new volunteers with different strengths from different places - that made the kids really curious about the world around them.” The final farewell
“Leaving felt strange because I had lived there for 2 months. It was really hard to have to say goodbye, especially to the children. It had its challenges but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Thank you so much for the great experience and special thanks to Annie because she was a fantastic project manager and has done so much amazing work for Picaflor House
Kiri is eager to do more volunteering as soon as she can, and has even started discussing a reunion with some of her fellow volunteers at Globalteer’s Children’s Project in Cambodia
“Of course I love volunteering so I will definitely do it again...soon.”
"An amazing experience both in terms of the teaching opportunity and the country"
American David Schwartz, 52, volunteered with Globalteer's Peru Children's Project
at Picaflor House
for three weeks in January 2012. When we asked him if we could tell his story on our website his response was pretty emphatic: “I would be happy to share this experience with anyone”. Here is his story:
“I have wanted to do something that was less physical and more intellectual as a volunteer for a while. I have done physical volunteering, helping build things, but not teaching. I looked on the internet to see what various opportunities were available and I liked what Globalteer was doing at Picaflor House. The opportunity to go to Peru really appealed to me – it’s somewhere fascinating and it helped that I have some rudimentary Spanish skills.
"Travelling to Cusco is a long trip and I had to overnight in Lima. I was met by the driver at Cusco airport which was great, so it went fairly well, even if my luggage didn’t arrive with me and got there 7 hours later! When I finally arrived everything was better than I had expected. The accommodation was nothing special but it was close to the central Plaza which was nice and getting the bus and the walk to the bus stop were great.
"The eagerness of the children to learn was the highlight of my experience and I think my ability to show them that I was truly interested in them and helping them to learn probably had the biggest impact on them. Also, I speak some Spanish so I was able to communicate with them OK.
"Leaving was an emotionally hard thing to do. It was an amazing experience both in terms of the teaching opportunity and the country. I will definitely do this type of thing again although probably not in Peru - as there are so many places to go in the world! I would possibly volunteer at another Globalteer Project
"Those two weeks I spent volunteering in Peru were the happiest of my life."
Erika Palomino volunteered at Globalteer’s Peru Children’s Project at Picaflor House
near Cusco for two weeks in 2011. In her early twenties, Erika lives in Texas but is originally from Peru, so had an idea of what to expect from her trip.
Her ambition is to work full time with children in the future so she saw volunteering as a great way to get started. But it was Erika’s father who discovered the Globalteer website on the internet, and as soon as she read about Picaflor she “knew this was the kind of experience I was looking for”.
A short bout of altitude sickness - soon cured with liberal servings of coca tea - and the chilly mountain mornings did not faze Erika who really appreciated the friendly staff and the hot showers at the volunteer accommodation. Getting down to work
Once in the classroom Erika soon worked out ways to deal with some of the situations that volunteering in a developing country can throw at you.
“Usually what I had to do every day was to encourage the children to read different stories and get them to talk to me about them. Let’s just say there were some kids who were more willing than others. ..One day I noticed that one of the kids would get done with his reading a lot quicker than the rest of the group and he would then proceed to start chatting away to kill time. At first I tried assigning him more reading, but by the time everyone else had finished reading he wouldn’t have enough time to tell me about his stories.
"Toward the end of my stay at Picaflor I finally figured out how I could make it all work. I created a system where each kid had to stop by a table once they were done reading to talk to me about their story, and if one of them got done earlier than the others they would have to go and pick up another book.
"I also assigned a big book to the kid who was a fast reader. The book was about dinosaurs. I figured that he would continue on distracting the other students if I let him sit with them on the floor and therefore that day I made him sit with me at the table with his book about dinosaurs and told him to tell me about everything the book taught him. He did just that. He compared the different kinds of dinosaurs there were, thoroughly enthralled by all the details in the book, and once I got him started there was no stopping him. I’ve never been a big fan of dinosaurs, but I just had tons of fun sitting there listening to him.” Rewards and challenges
For Erika the best part was just talking with the children, although she found trying to help resolve their arguments could be a bit of a challenge.
“The part I loved the most about it all was my conversations with the children. My favourite conversation with them was when they told me that I should quit learning all the languages I know and just focus in on Quechua (the indigenous Peruvian language). They even tried to teach me some useful phrases!
"There were challenges too. I’ve always been a bit of an impatient person and there were some days when the kids had arguments I had to help them resolve. It was a big adjustment for sure, trying to think of ways to teach them how to always respect one another. I think that during moments like those all I really needed was just more experience working with children. So I tried to think of what worked with me when I was a child or even what worked with my brother (who was a bit of a difficult case anyway), but with time I started figuring out what worked and what didn’t.”
Although most volunteers only start to learn Spanish when they get to Peru, being able to speak Spanish to the children helped Erika to settle in to her role quickly, and her language skills were a useful addition to the volunteer team’s skill set.
“At first I wasn’t sure how to handle so many children at once, but with time I figured out that these children didn’t have a lot of opportunities to bond with the volunteers in Spanish. So I took that as my chance to be the one volunteer they could really relate to. We joked around and some of them felt more at ease around me than others. Given that I know the culture pretty well, I think that the one thing I was able to do fairly well was to make everything relatable to them, because I did feel that was one thing they were missing...I tried to explain them things in their own words, with concepts they would understand.” Future plans
Erika would love to return to Picaflor House, and is even thinking about going to Globalteer’s Cambodia children’s project
. Whatever she does next, she is keen to do another volunteer trip just as soon as she can, as she explains,
“I was happy with my experience, but I was sad to leave it all behind. Two weeks felt too short - Those two weeks I spent volunteering in Peru were the happiest of my life.”