1. How would you describe your experience working with ABV staff in the USA?
My experience working with ABV staff in the USA was very positive. They were very thorough and professional in answering questions and timely in their responses. I sent many emails on the weekends and received a response from the emails the same day. There was no question too ridiculous. I had questions answered ranging from the needed documentation to the specific types of disabilities I would encounter at the job site.
2. What was your favorite memory of the trip?
There were so many “favorite” memories; it is hard to narrow it down to just one. However, working with the students on a daily basis was by far the best part of the trip. I am a special education teacher by trade. Being able to work with special needs students in another part of the world and seeing that their needs are the same as the needs of the students where I work was humbling. The reality is that kids are kids regardless of the continent or language.
3. What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
The most difficult aspects of the trip were the challenges in communication. I speak limited Spanish at best. Communicating with people about my needs was a challenge. For example, interacting with taxi drivers was always a little humorous. I would tell them where I needed to go and pray that I had said it well enough that I would get to me destination. At times I ended up somewhere I hadn’t planned to be.
4. What was one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
I wish I had brought cold medication. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that most of the students I would be dealing had colds. I ended getting a pretty good one. The pharmacies carry antibiotics but not just cold medication.
5. Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sight seeing)?
Be flexible and willing to become a part of the culture. Embrace what’s happening around you. Get out and see the sights (Machu Picchu, Saqsaywaman, Sacred Valley, etc…). Eat the food, not on the streets but in the restaurants and at your home. Bring sunscreen with a high SPF and wear it every day regardless. The sun is very close in Cusco. If you bring donations, make sure to know which age group the donations are for and give them directly to the teacher. June, July, and August are winter in Cusco. It’s around 65-73 degrees during the day and 40-50′s in the evenings. There is not central heating in the houses so bring a jacket.
6. Personal Paragraph
Being in ABV in Cusco, Peru was an amazing experience. Being fully submerged into another culture while volunteering in a classroom with special needs students was something I will never forget. It was humbling for me, as an American who basically has everything at her fingertips, to see how another culture survives with so little and they are so happy. The kids are amazing! Their disabilities limit them so much but they continuously press on and continue on their journey. They laugh loudly. They have next to nothing but live like they have everything. I am hoping to adopt some of their perspectives on life.
This experience has made me more grateful for what I have, and I would do it again in a heart beat.
7. Are you willing to talk to other ABV volunteers? Yes
Kendalle Volunteer Abroad in Cusco, Peru