Travelling for more than 18 hours to Cusco, Peru from Italy was an adventure all of its own. I was nervous, excited and did not know what to expect. My experience of volunteering in Peru was one that I will never forget and I miss Urubamba every day.
Deciding to go to Peru was the outcome of a mixture of reasons. I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, as I have been learning it for six years, so I thought I would be able to put it to use. I also looked forward to going to a country I had never been before, and Peru had always seemed absolutely fascinating to me. On top of everything, it offered the volunteer programme that I wanted to work on, helping out and working in kindergartens.
Staying with a Peruvian host family
The idea of staying with a host family at first was a little intimidating at first, but it was something I easily got used to and enjoyed. I was welcomed by my family and stayed with three other volunteers, which was an additional bonus. That environment encouraged me to practise my Spanish, and in occasions where I was stuck, I just spoke Italian. I stayed with Norma’s family and felt comfortable from day one, every day I got to meet a new family member that was coming through the door. I also had the chance to play with her son Gabriel, who was six years old, with some games that I had brought over from Italy, which he loved. Every meal was a surprise and I found myself tasting a mixture of flavours that I had never eaten before.
Impressions of Urubamba and Peru
When I arrived and stepped out of the airport, the sun was shining and that set the tone for the rest of my stay in Peru. The first day walking through Urubamba it was lovely to see how much a small town had going on. Every morning going to the office was an adventure and we often found ourselves surrounded by really sweet dogs and children going to school. Some days the market was on in the middle of the street, and we were surrounded by townspeople selling vegetables, it really felt like the village was coming to life.
Another very sweet component of Urubamba were the moto taxis that rushed by every second, that sometimes we had to take because we were way too tired to walk home. During the second week, we experienced the festivities of the Peruvian Day of Independence, kids were walking around with badges and costumes, getting ready for the parades.
My Care & Community placement
My project experience was incredible. The first week we spent every morning in the local school, helping kindergarten teachers with their classes and then organising our own activities to do with the children. The kids were always fun and full of energy, and this is something that they transmit to you when you are with them. You could see that they loved having a volunteer there and always wanted my attention. When I had to organise my own activities I tried to vary them, sometimes working inside and other days playing outside, introducing them to games that they had never played before. I did this because they were so full of energy that making them stay seated inside often made it harder for them to concentrate.
In the afternoon, we painted walls, murals and games on the floor at the same kindergarten we taught in. The most satisfying element of this was that the next day we could see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they saw all the new colours, shapes and games that had been painted in their courtyard.
The second week we spent a couple of days with the special needs school. There, we organised a nice afternoon that involved playing games and football, and eating fruit salads. On one afternoon, we also had an English teaching session with the teachers of our schools, we taught them propositions and other songs that would be useful for them to use with the kids in class.
Memories and experiences in Peru
My time in Peru, even if short, was very sweet and left me memories that I will always remember! I went alone, something which I was scared about at the beginning, but actually turned out to be the best option and really helped me with my confidence. On my programme, I had the chance to meet some really wonderful people, who I still talk to this day.
Throughout the trip there was so much laughing and the process of meeting new people and working on a project together is something that I really enjoyed, especially when the work to do was long, it was good to know that we were working as a team. When we weren’t working in schools and teaching or painting, activities were organised for us like salsa, cooking classes and playing basketball with the local school team. These were some of the best memories, salsa dancing was by far one of the most hilarious things I have ever done and playing basketball was tiring but it felt nice to connect with the local people of Urubamba.
On the weekends, when we weren’t volunteering, we had the chance to go to Cusco, sight-seeing the ruins on the outskirts of the city but also exploring the centre, going to Plaza de Armas and the amazing market in which one can get lost in for hours. One of the most memorable sights of my journey was undoubtedly Machu Picchu, it isn’t a world wonder for nothing. Despite waking up before sunrise, the experience of being there was extremely surreal and I felt so privileged to be able to see such a beautiful place. It is definitely something that I would do a thousand times over.
Leaving Peru – back to reality!
Leaving Peru was hard, and I’m not going to lie, I shed a few tears. Thinking about the memories, places and faces I was leaving behind also made me realise what I wonderful experience I had. Coming back home I was bombarded with questions about my days there and in answering them, I learnt that my experience taught me a lot. I lived in a completely different environment for two weeks, tried new things and spoke a different language. In my opinion, these are things that help you always keep an open mind.