Tag Archives: Peru

Time and Team Work

22 Apr

In volunteer time, I think five weeks is really short. It took me about two weeks to really get used to the environment, altitude, culture, language, people, food and the work. Then when I finally felt settled, it was about time to be uprooted. My relationships started to deepen but there was always the ominous feeling of the end. I found it hard to get completely settled knowing I was going to leave so soon.

That being said, five weeks was still enough time to meet all of the children from Quilla Huata and learn their names and find out about their lives. Sometimes I wonder, “where did all the time go and were we actually effective?” It seemed like we did a lot but until I compared the before and after shots of what we built, did I realise just how much we had accomplished.

We built:

  • 2x perimeter security fences out of mud bricks

Wall #1 - before

We had to get down and dirty building those walls


Wall #1 - after

We are so proud of our wall!

Wall #2 - before

Wall #2 - after

  • 2x classrooms

Classroom #1 - before

Team work!!! 🙂

Classroom #1 - after

Classroom #2 - before

Classroom #2 - after

Classroom - before

Classroom - after

All the building was by all means a TEAM EFFORT

We also taught:

  • English
  • Sport
  • Dance
  • Art
  • Health
  • Hygiene

For the NGO, we:

  • Redesigned and built a whole new website
  • Wrote a social media plan
  • Wrote a marketing policy plan
  • Did house visits and wrote reports on families and how the NGO can help them better in the future

I loved working in a team and bonding with my friends through construction. We were all forced out of our comfort zones, there were up days and there were down days. There were days where only 6 of the 19 volunteers were on site because the rest were struck down with parasites and were cooped up in the hospital. There were days when all hands were on deck and there were days where we toiled in the blazing sun or the unrelenting rain. But in the end, we all got there together.

In retrospect, five weeks was a good amount of time. It was long enough to do something effective yet short enough that we did not have time to get so sick of each other.

How long did you volunteer for? Was it long enough? Were you over it at any point and genuinely contemplated leaving or actually left? How did you adjust to working in a team with strangers? How long did it take you to get settled in your country and volunteer position?

Still Struggling

17 Apr
My home in high up Cusco surrounded by green, lush mountains

I am still struggling to get the hang of blogging about my experiences. For how does one describe the most challenging, life changing and best moments of my life? How do I take all of my memories and put it on paper in a way that others can understand and hopefully relate. The last couple of months were a whirlwind of emotion and newness. I met unforgettable people, which cause me to continually question when and if I will ever see them again. It is still hard being back. I wonder if this feeling will ever go away?

I went to Cusco, volunteered and left. While they continue to live in their mud brick homes waiting for a new batch of volunteers. I wonder if they think about me everyday, like I think of them. It is hard when there is no way of communicating with them. In the day and age where communication with my international friends is easily facilitated through Facebook and Skype, I have no means of this kind of communication with the people in the villages that I grew to love like my own family.

I promised Doris, my favourite 9-year-old girl from Quilla Huata, that I’d be back in three years. Was that foolish? I have every intention of returning but overtime things can change. Volunteering goes far beyond the five allocated weeks. Being immersed in a rich culture was difficult yet fulfilling, satisfying yet tiring. Long after returning to Sydney, the experience still enriches me yet leaves me with a longing to be back in the lush mountains. I miss the hard labour, early mornings, sore muscles, the eager kids’ hugs, the food and everything else. The songs that I heard over there now have new meaning when I hear it here. It seems that every little thing reminds me of Cusco.

Sometimes I feel like I am the only one out of my friends who went that still feels unsettled here. They don’t talk about Peru as much anymore. I know they miss it too but I somehow feel on my own right now. I frantically stalk Peru’s Challenge’s (the NGO that I worked for) website, Facebook and Twitter page just to feel like I am still a part of what goes on.

Overlooking Cusco

Doris on the first day

Doris and I on the last day

How did you guys cope when you returned from your trip? Or have you? Are you like me, knowing that your time here is just space and time filler until you can return?

The difference between them and me

12 Apr

Generous hearts

Camera happy kids

I love these girls

I want to be more generous. Over the past couple of months, I have seen people with close to nothing pour out their hearts and kindness to me. The concept of generosity is not limited to monetary benevolence but extends far greater like time, energy and attitude. Giving my time to people is often contested within the gregarious part of me and the comfort of my introversion. Naturally, I am a sanguine character that enjoys my friends, coffee and quality conversation yet on the other hand, I am perfectly content to rush through crowds of people, head bowed, sunnies on and evasive to people’s invitations to find an empty room where I can read alone for hours. In that state of mind, I do not give people the time of day that they deserve. Countless times my attitude to others is appalling and selfish.

A simple smile of acknowledgment goes along way and it costs us nothing. I believe these little acts of generosity can make the world a better place. One moment that seems so fleeting can mean the world to someone. I want to start treating people better.

When I was in Quilla Huata, the villagers were amongst the most generous people that I have ever encountered. They not only sacrificed their time for me but their money and their trust. Me, a girl they hardly know, yet majority of the village showed up on our farewell day and celebrated us. They bestowed us with bouquets of beautiful flowers, hand made personalized cards, spent the entire day cheering us on and giving us words of encouragement. They made the girls necklaces and the boys woven bracelets. These are people living in utmost simplicity, yet they never complained.

We students were treated like royalty. We spent five weeks in a rural town giving our time and efforts but when the time elapsed, we went back to luxury and comfort in developed Sydney. It’s not fair sometimes but we have to make do with what we have. Without words, their lives encourage me to live more generously and humbly. Since I am a poor uni student, I guess I must start with what I do have, a smile and time. Generosity is not about what you wish you had to give but what you do have to give.

Always smiling

Generous mother

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