Volunteer Abroad 2016
Villa Maria, Peru
What We Did
We spent the first two days of our trip in Cusco before beginning our projects. We arrived safely on Sunday around lunchtime, and upon arriving at Maximo Nivel (our volunteer organization), we went through orientation and soon got settled in. All five of us were fortunate enough to live with the same host family: Marleni, Leo, Thiago y Franco. We spent a lot of time doing puzzles with Thiago, a four year old boy who lives in the house. Another volunteer in our house is from Munich. A typical day in this household begins with roosters shrieking at 4 AM, but it’s okay because they ensure we will never sleep through an alarm. Breakfast is then served and we head over to take a bus to our site.
Our project for the two week trip was construction at the Alina Library in Villa Maria. On our first day, we met our field manager, Daja, at Maximo Nivel and rode a “combis” into the hills of Cusco. Following our specific directions, we “walked until we reached a building” and followed the path up to the library. At Alina, we were greeted by our construction lead, Marco. After brief introductions, Marco put us straight to work plastering a new ceiling for the library. The task appeared quite daunting at first, but Marco insisted that it was “muy facil.” We quickly learned that our clothes and hair would take on a new shade of white and that plastering can be done with rather unconventional methods (for example, “usando sus manos” – even if it had to be behind Marco’s back). By the end of day one, we all agreed that our project wasn’t as daunting as it appeared, but Hannah and Marco disagreed quite a bit on the difficulty of the task.
As the two weeks came to an end, it was amazing how much progress we’d made at the site. The ceiling in “our” classroom was completely plastered and all of the furniture that ended up getting covered in plaster during the process had been cleaned, sanded, and varnished. In only a few days, we became BFFLs with our construction project leader Marco and learned just about every construction related word possible. Beyond that, he started teaching us a few phrases in Quechua and his face lit up every time we use them. For the last several days of our trip, we also worked on a new project constructing a temporary shelter for stray dogs. Some of our favorite excursions during the trip included visiting Machu Picchu, the Maras salt flats and the Moray experimental agriculture site, and the Cristo Blanco statue.
The best part of helping with construction projects is being able to truly see the fruits of your labor. Helping to renovate the library was a great learning experience for us, but it was also clear how this project had a great impact on all of the community and it’s members that would visit the library in the future. Similarly, the dog shelter would provide a safe place for stray animals until they are able to find new homes. Our goal was to have a positive impact on the community, but the experience also had a huge impact on us as well. We learned much about the language, cultures, and lifestyles in Peru, and these lessons will stay with us forever.
Cape Town, South Africa
What We Did
Our volunteer abroad trip brought us to Cape Town, South Africa for an incredible two weeks of exploring the country and helping out in the classrooms of the Floreat Primary School. On our first day, we toured Cape Town with some other IVHQ volunteers and saw Company’s Garden and Greenmarket Square.
Our volunteering began on the second day when we reported to our K-7 school to help out with running computer and physical education classes. Over the next two weeks at the school, we worked to develop lesson plans for the kids with an emphasis on leaving behind useful materials for the teachers and future volunteers. We also spent a lot of time working directly with the kids and learned as much from them about their culture as they learned from us about computers.
We learned an incredible amount about South Africa and its culture on this trip and its impact on us will certainly last. Learning about the impact of the apartheid on these communities was truly eye-opening as as was seeing first-hand the gang violence and troubled neighborhoods that some of the kids came from. We hope we left a positive impact on the community by spending time with the primary school students and brightening their days, potentially even serving as role models. We are so thankful to have had this incredible opportunity and will remember it the rest of our lives.
To follow the EGL students’ South Africa experience day by day: visit their South Africa Blog
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