My Favorite Memory:
My favorite memory was the feeling of returning to the school the second day I volunteered. While I was originally going to work in the medical clinic only, I switched on my second day to help in the school for children with special needs in the mornings for variety and so that some other pre-med students could have the clinical experience. My first morning at the school was surprisingly difficult, but I felt like I was really needed and helpful there to the teacher. I left exhausted, but it was a truly sweet memory when I returned the next morning. I was greeted with ´´Buenos dias, amiga´´ and abrazos. Working in the school was overall a great learning experience and awesome to get to know the children and their needs and have them warm up to me as well.
I was surprised that….I was surprised by the busy city life of Cuzco, but probably only because I hadn´t researched it well enough and the guide books only talk about the historic center. Otherwise, I have lived abroad before and was not too surprised by anything cultural. Of course there are differences, but the Cuzquenas are very friendly, warm people to help you aclimate.
The most difficult thing I experienced was…. My first day at the school! I was asked to sit with the more difficult girl so that the teacher could concentrate on teaching the others more than the behavior of one. Lesly was a strong, thirteen year old and I had my hands full. Hiking on the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca was physically difficult due to the altitude!
My best received lesson… My best received lesson was the value of patience with children with mental disabilities. I learned a lot about their limits and how to approach their needs and discipline. It was very valuable for a potential future pediatrician.
Tip for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
If you are volunteering in the medical setting I recommend asking ahead what would be best and bringing donations from home if you have space. While many things in Peru are cheaper than the United States, I didn´t think the medical supplies were. If you´re coming to Cuzco I recommend 3 weeks to have at least a couple weekends to explore. I squeezed a lot in my 2 weeks thanks to Maria Elena´s advice, but it felt rushed for someone who loves exploring new places. Machu Picchu is a must, and schedule a trek there ahead of your departure if you are interested in the adventure; Lake Titicaca was definitely worth a tiring weekend trip with overnight buses; and Cuzco and the Sacred Valley also deserve more than the day I was able to give both.
Personal Paragraph (Testimonial):
I volunteered in Cuzco at a medical clinic and school for children with special needs. It was a great overall experience. My host family was warm, fun, and always helpful. Maria Elena, the program coordinator was a wonderful contact for anything I ever needed. I worked in triage at the medical clinic and some afternoons was able to work with different physicians in general medicine, pediatrics, and cardiology. I was able to both learn and feel that I was helping. Importantly to me I also was always practicing my Spanish in the medical setting. I also worked half the day with children with chronic illness and special needs. I learned more than I could imagine from them and their incredibly patient teacher. While I stayed busy working in Cuzco, I was also lucky to squeeze in travel and sightseeing too-a must for traveling and living abroad.
How would you rate your experience working with the ABV staff, both in the USA, and in-country?
My experience with ABV was great. It came highly recommended to me and I quickly learned why. In the US they were very responsive to all of my questions and I knew I would be in good hands when I arrived in Cuzco. I was. Maria Elena was welcoming, helpful, and fun! I was well placed in my volunteer work, and home. My host family was perfect. The mother, husband, and daughter truly felt like family. And the food was always delicious and Peruvian! I also really appreciated Maria Elena´s efforts to introduce me to other volunteers, host a July 4th party and going away dinner, and especially help me travel around Peru more than I thought I might have time for.
How would you describe your accommodation (ie: host family, on-site, shared housing etc)
As I wrote above, my host family was perfect. Socorro, David, and Ana Luz felt like family. My bedroom was great and the food was too! Socorro was also just very helpful with any need we expressed. She helped me get a cheap cell phone and camera charger for example which just made life easier. The whole family gave great advice for living in Cuzco.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? Yes, I´d be happy to.
Elizabeth Volunteer Abroad in Cuzco, Peru