My Favorite Memory: It is very hard to choose, but I would probably say my favorite memory was when I walked into a classroom to help out one afternoon and the kids began to scream my name. When I sat down with them to help them with their work, they started begging the teacher to let me teach them English. That really made me feel valued and made me smile.
I was surprised that…. I could communicate as well as I could with everyone, even when I did not know the vocabulary pertaining to certain situations. People understood me much better than I thought they would.
The most difficult thing I experienced was…. being away from home while feeling weak and under the weather. Beatriz and Alfonso, my host parents, treated me like their son and helped me feel better, but at times I just really wanted to see my family and seek comfort from them. After calling them, however, I felt much better.
My best received lesson… My best received lesson was the importance of making use of your time. After a teacher strike caused school to go on hold for two or three days, I went to the program director, Maria Elena, and she told me I could spend my time during the strike at one of the other volunteer sites. I spent a day at a pre school and two days at a medical clinic, and I really enjoyed having the chance to work at different sites and experience different kinds of work.
Tip for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations,sightseeing etc)
DEFINITELY see Machu Picchu. It is beautiful and its majesty cannot be done justice by photos.
If you have the time and the money after Machu Picchu, also see Lake Titicaca
Bring a big jacket. It gets cold at night.I sometimes had to wear both my sweater and sweatshirt at the same time
Spend a lot of time with your host family. Get to know them. Bring an activity to do with them. I brought stuff for smores and had a great time eating and connecting with them. I also taught them a card game and really enjoyed that.
Do not pack too much! The laundromat is a valuable asset and the kids at your project site will not notice or care if you wear the same clothes. I wore the same three polos during my three weeks working.
Get to know the city. Walk around and see all that it has to offer
Eat at a cheap local restaurant. The food is good and it is cool to see local people interacting in a natural environment
Personal Paragraph (Testimonial):
This trip really has been such an amazing experience for me. Before I came here, I was so worried that I would not have any friends, that my host parents would not like me, that everything bad that could happen, would happen. But exactly the opposite occurred- I made friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life, and my host parents were two of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, people who really treated me like their own kin and who made me feel loved and cared for. Looking back, teaching English was so incredible and I now realize how valuable of an asset I was. The kids really did appreciate my help and I really loved getting to know them. My favorite thing was seeing a little kid stare at me curiously and then smile after I would wave and greet him or her. Cuzco as a city has so much to offer, and just by walking around you can experience the city’s unique nature. Having the opportunity to see places as incredible as Machu Picchu with its centuries of culture and Lake Titicaca with its otherworldly beauty was unreal. I truly have made so many connections here- with the other volunteers, with my host family, Alfonso and Beatriz, whom I can I only hope that I will see again, with the teachers at the school, with the kids at the school, with the school itself, with the city itself. These three weeks have been three which I will never forget. On my second to last day, Maria Elena’s elderly father- or Papito as we all fondly called him- came home from a walk with one of the other volunteers, one of my dearest friends, and he came over to talk to us sitting at the dinner table. As he told us about his joy in seeing a street procession, he began to tell us how wonderful people we were, and finished it all by saying, with the most serious of expressions that truly conveyed the intensity of his sentiments: Ojalá… que no se vayan, meaning, I hope that you all don’t leave. As I prepare to part from Cuzco, I only wish that I could follow Papito’s wishes, and stay a little bit longer here in Cuzco.
How would you rate your experience working with the ABV staff, both in the USA, and in-country?
Before I left, the ABV staff was incredibly helpful, answering every single one of my questions and giving me all sorts of advice for my trip. In Cuzco, Maria Elena, the program director, was a huge help. She made me feel so at home in the city and directed us to a travel agency to plan our trips to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. But most importantly, I always felt welcome at her home, as she held several parties to help the volunteers get to know each other. When I was sick, she took me to the doctor with my host parents. Sensing my anxiety, she made light of the situation while we waited for a nurse, pretending to be the doctor and asking me all sorts of questions. She really looked after me as if I were one of her own children, and for that I cannot thank her enough.
How would you describe your accommodation (ie: host family, on-site, shared housing etc)
My host family was amazing and I will miss them a great deal. I always had so much fun with my host dad, Alfonso, my host mom, Beatriz, and my ‘host sister’, Madison, who was another volunteer from Boston. I feel as if we really grew together like a little family while I was here. When I was hungry, Alfonso and Beatriz would cook me food; when I was cold, Beatriz would get me blankets; and when I did not feel well, Alfonso would hurry to the pharmacy and get me something to make me feel better. I am so very grateful to them and truly could not speak any higher praise of people than of Beatriz and Alfonso.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? Yes, I would love to tell them about how wonderful of a program this is and the countless benefits of participating in the program.
Alexander Volunteer Abroad in Cuzco, Peru