Volunteer Abroad 2018
Panthera Sanctuary, Peru
What We Did
Although our VA trip was ultimately bound for the heart of the Peruvian jungle, we spent the first night in Cusco with our host mother, Josefina. As the group began to arrive on that first day, we explored some of the city’s landmarks, shopped for souvenirs at the alpaca store, and napped to recover from our travels. On the second day, we attended orientation for our program, explored more of the city, and later that evening, we boarded a bus bound for Puerto Maldonado, the closest town to the sanctuary. 10 hours later, after arriving in Puerto Maldonado, we boarded a boat that took us another 2 hours down the river to our final destination: the Panthera Sanctuary.
We met several staff members at the sanctuary that warmly greeted us and took us on a tour of the camp that was to be our home for the next two weeks. Once we were acquainted with the camp and had settled into our hand-crafted dormitory-style rooms, we met in the “comedor”, or the main gathering area, to learn about the work we would be doing during our time here. Each day, we broke up into smaller groups and worked with the camp staff on sanctuary projects that ranged from mammal monitoring to trail restoration to new dormitory construction projects. Every evening at the camp we spent time playing games, telling stories about our days, and bonding with one another and our hosts.
By the end of our two weeks, we were sad to leave the camp staff and their pets (including Armageddon the peccary and Cappuccino the monkey), but we were all looking forward to a warm shower back in Cusco. Our last two days of the trip were spent on some great excursions near Cusco. We traveled to Machu Picchu one day and hiked up Rainbow Mountain the next. When our trip finally came to an end, we were all exhausted and ready to get home, but we were all thankful for the incredible experience that we had had those past several weeks.
In addition to gaining a much better understanding of the Peruvian culture, both urban life in the city and a more rural existence out in a city such as Puerto Maldonado, we feel that we had a positive impact on the sanctuary. All of our projects were important daily chores that took place at the camp and that, without our help, may have taken significantly longer or may not have been completed at all.
The Panthera Sanctuary is a fantastic cause to support because it’s mission is to preserve and protect the incredible biodiversity that exists in the South American rainforests. We had a great several weeks supporting this cause and had the opportunity to learn so much in the process.
What We Did
Our time in Lisbon was an incredible blend of exploring the city and helping a community in need in a meaningful way. After arriving in Portugal, we spent the first few days of our project building a new roof on an existing house. Once that task was completed, we moved on to working on an entirely new house that was to be constructed nearby. Through our volunteering, we were able to engage with the local community, since many of the neighbors, including children, are eager to help with the renovations in their community.
Outside of volunteering, our group had a blast exploring Lisbon, enjoying both the sights and the gorgeous weather. One day, we all took a surfing lesson at the beach of Cascais. Despite the intense winds, we managed to enjoy a full hour of great surfing. In addition, we toured a castle fortified by the moors in the eleventh century, lending beautiful views of both the city and the river. Lastly, we even went to an SL Benefica football (soccer) game at the Estadio da Luz. In addition to the amazing experiences we had on our trip, our two weeks in Portugal also served as an incredible opportunity to grow closer with one another and really get to know our fellow EGL students.
One of the most positive and unexpected impacts of our project was the extent to which our volunteering brought the local community together. The neighbors were so excited to see the renovation going on that they were all eager to help and we got to know many of them well. When we left Lisbon, it was clear that the houses we worked on would remain and help the families that would live there. What was less apparent, however, was how much our project could help the entire community.
To follow the EGL students’ Portugal experience day by day: visit their Portugal Blog
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