Heather Volunteer in Cusco, Peru

My Favorite Memory:
Wow, there are so many to choose from! I have so many amazing memories here, but I think those most dear to my heart are the most simple: I took a ceramics class with the girls from the orphanage where I had the chance to learn about Peruvian culture from the class itself, but also to bond with the girls and Ceramics teacher. We talked about everything from love to politics and even Justin Beiber (apparently he really is universally popular among teenage girls). Also, my time with my host-family was so much more than I could have asked for. I will forever cherish the many conversations with my host-mom Maria Elena, as well as my afternoon strolls with my host-grandfather. I truly feel like I now have family in Peru.

I was surprised that….
I was able to use so many different skills that I never would have thought to use. For example, I was asked to teach art to fourth-graders at a little elementary school and, though I do not currently study art in any capacity, I was able to use my previous education and love for art in general to help these kids harness their creativity. I never expected to be an art teacher in Peru for my summer, but it was one of the greatest surprises of my trip.

Heather Volunteer in Cusco, Peru

The most difficult thing I experienced was….
Actually, for me I think the most difficult thing was having to say goodbye so frequently. I was in Cusco longer than each of the other volunteers who came and went, and while I loved meeting so many new people, I ended up having to say goodbye to lot of dear friends which became somewhat emotionally draining. Still, over all I am incredibly thankful for all my many new friends from all over the world.

My best received lesson… Always be mindful of others. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable when you embark on an adventure like this all on your own, but instead of allowing yourself to be inundated with your own struggles and negativity if you can manage to turn that inward focus outward, and even serve others in your weakest moments, there is so much relief and joy in bringing a little positivity into the lives of those around you. In practical terms it can be as simple as doing the dishes for everyone, or taking an elderly man for a walk. Personally,I have found that I end up benefiting more from others than I could possibly help them.

Tip for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
For one thing, they are not kidding about bringing layers. If you come to Cusco during their winter months there really is a huge range in temperature throughout the day (my wind-breaker-material over-coat was absolutely a life saver for both the chill and the rare but occasional rain). You do not need to stress too much about bringing every little thing, you can purchase pretty much anything you would need here and it is probably cheaper too. In addition to bringing casual, work-appropriate clothing, go ahead and pack a couple of nicer outfits for going out as well. You will definitely want to look nice on occasion for dinner etc. Finally: I would suggest doing a little research about what sights you want to see that can be achieved in a week-end trip. I wish I would have thought through opportunities for travel a little bit more, as amazing as Machu Picchu is- there is so much more to see as well!

Personal Paragraph (Testimonial):
I strongly believe that for those who have been given much, much is required. When I use the word “much” I am not simply referring to money- I have had the great fortune in my life of being healthy, well loved, and educated and out of gratitude for this abundance I am determined to pour out the same for those who have simply not been given the same opportunities. Coming to Cusco I have had the immense fortune of seeing just how great a fire a single spark of love can make. Cliche’s are easy, but it is difficult to describe just how truly meaningful this experience was in my life. I am incredibly grateful for A Broader View for making it so easy, affordable, and safe to spend my summer (or winter depending on how you look at it) in the beautiful city of Cusco. I have grown more here than in any other season of my life, and I keep telling everyone that my heart now lives in two places- at home in the States, and here in Peru.

Heather Volunteer in Cusco, Peru

How would you rate your experience working with the ABV staff, both in the USA, and in-country?
I truly have no complaints about the ABV staff. Whenever I had questions for the USA staff, they always answered my e-mails and/or calls quickly and with sufficient advice for my questions. As for the in-country staff, I cannot thank my program-coordinator (and host-mom) enough for all of her help and INCREDIBLE hard work. Maria Elena went above and beyond to help each of her volunteers feel at home, find a niche at work, and even plan weekend trips. No matter what was going on in her personal life, she was always there for her volunteers both professionally as a Coordinator and personally as a “Madre Gallina” (Mother Hen).

How would you describe your accommodation (ie: host family, on-site, shared housing etc)

I stayed with a host-family which turned out to be one of my absolute favorite aspects of my entire trip. I have grown so close with my entire household as well as each of the volunteers who passed through during my stay. The food was always fantastic (almost too fantastic- I ended up joining a gym with Maria Elena for my last few weeks), pretty much every volunteer I lived with maintained positive and flexible attitude, and each family member went out of their way to make me feel like I was part of the family.

Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Absolutely! I’d love to answer any questions.

Heather Volunteer in Cusco, Peru

Heather Volunteer in Cusco, Peru

Volunteer Name: Heather Smith
Project Location: Cusco, Peru
Program Dates: May 15th- August 10 2012
Volunteered At: Orphanage and Education

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