Volunteer in Peru Llama Love

Peru Cusco Volunteer Review Emily Silverman Child Care Program

Peru Cusco, My favorite memory with my host family is when Maria Elena, the two other volunteers living at the house, and I went out to dinner at a nice Peruvian restaurant. We stayed for hours laughing, talking about everything, and enjoying the delicious food

Volunteer Peru Cusco Child Care Program

1.- What was a daily schedule at the program, hours volunteered?

 I worked in 2 different places during my time in Cusco so my daily schedule varied from week to week. During my first week and half, I volunteered for 5 hours in a kindergarten where I taught English to 5 year olds. During my second full week, I continued volunteering for 5 hours at the school during the morning and began volunteering in the orphanage for 3 hours in the afternoon as well, giving me a full 8 hour day with a break in the middle when I returned home for lunch. After that, the school had vacation so the orphanage became my primary volunteer location and I volunteered for 5 hours in the mornings during my final week and a half in Cusco.

Volunteer in Peru Llama Love
Volunteer in Peru Llama Love

2.- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?


Host Family: I absolutely loved my host family. Living with Maria Elena is the best! However, I was a little surprised by how many volunteers stayed there at once. At one point there were 5 volunteers living in the house along with Maria Elena and her father. I had expected to be the only volunteer living with the host family or that there would only be 2-3 volunteers maximum. Although this was a surprise, I really enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers who lived there and it was fun to have people to explore Cusco with.

Program: I was surprised that I was expected to teach completely on my own at the school. I anticipated serving as a teaching assistant and having more of a supporting role in the classroom. Instead, I was asked to completely lead the classroom activities on my own and create lesson plans and activities based on an English workbook the students had. This was a really exciting opportunity for me! It was really fun to come up with new ways to engage the students and teach the colors, parts of the body, family members, etc. I had not anticipated having such freedom and control over the class. It was a great way to get to know all of the students in each class and really feel like I was playing an active role in their education.

The students were all eager to learn English which made teaching really fun. It also helped me practice my Spanish because I had to speak entirely in Spanish other than when I was teaching very basic English words and phrases. Additionally, the teachers were so helpful and supportive while I was teaching. They helped me give instructions to the class, make sure the students remained focused, and often participated in the activities because they wanted to learn English too. There were 3 classes of 5 year old students and I rotated between them during my time at the school, teaching English for the entire morning (or at least the majority of the time) I was in each class. It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget!

Oldest Inca Bridge
Oldest Inca Bridge

Country: I was surprised how easy it was to meet people in Cusco. Everyone here is so friendly! In planning to come to Cusco for a month on my own, I anticipated that I would be spending a lot of time alone while exploring the city. In reality, I only spent a few days exploring completely by myself because it was so easy to meet people on my tours or spend time with other abroader view volunteers. Even though I signed up for most of my weekend excursions alone, I made friends on every single trip I took and never spent the tour alone. I kept in touch with people I met on tours or through other activities and met up with them in Cusco for museums, dinner, or just to hang out. While I also really enjoyed the time I spent exploring alone, I loved being able to meet so many new people and make so many new friends. I never felt lonely!

Volunteering in Peru

3.- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?


Host Family: There were no challenges with the host family. I could not have imagined a betting living experience for my time in Cusco.

Program: Overall, my volunteer experience was amazing and I had very few problems. The only challenge I experienced was with the language barrier because nobody in the school or orphanage spoke any English and I occasionally lacked the vocabulary to have complicated conversations in Spanish. This did not limit my volunteer experience overall because I had sufficient Spanish to communicate and form relationships with the students and the girls at the orphanage; however, I occasionally needed to find new ways to explain something or fill in the gaps with hand gestures. My Spanish improved the longer I was in Cusco and I rarely had this problem during my final weeks.

Girls Orphanage Cusco
Girls Orphanage Cusco

Country: My main challenge in Cusco was finding food that I felt comfortable eating. Because you are not supposed to drink water that has not been boiled, I often avoided fresh vegetables (except in the house because I knew Maria Elena washed them safely). Also I wanted to make sure the meat was safe and had not been left out or not cooked well because one of my friends got food poisoning from alpaca meat at a restaurant.

I didn’t avoid eating out but I was always careful to choose a restaurant that seemed trustworthy. It was all about finding a balance between not spending too much money but also making sure the restaurant was reliable. I loved the Peruvian cuisine and luckily never had problems with the food and I think it was because I made sure to always be careful.

4.- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, money, internet)


When it is summer in the US it is winter in Peru and although there may be a high in the 60s (Fahrenheit), it can get really cold at night (30 degrees Fahrenheit). It is really important to bring warm clothes, a real jacket, a hat, and gloves — especially if one plans on hiking. I wore long pants and a sweatshirt everyday and needed an additional jacket at night. I didn’t bring enough warm clothes and ended up needing to buy an extra fleece and a hat/gloves while I was in Cusco.

Other things to pack:

-hiking boots (if one plans on going to Machu Picchu, rainbow mountain, or Humantay lake — all of which I highly recommend)

-reusable water bottles (you need bottled water here and it is cheaper to by large jugs of water to fill your own bottle than to buy a lot of small bottles)

-tissues/toilet paper (most public restrooms don’t have toilet paper so you always need to carry your own)

Other tips:

-Use WhatsApp and download it before you come to Peru because you need to be able to receive a confirmation code via text. I did not have international data for my cell phone and only used WhatsApp to communicate when I had WiFi. It was really easy and I never had any problems because there is WiFi in the house and at most restaurants.

-You have to pay the travel agency in American cash (they do not accept credit card) so make sure to bring enough cash to avoid excessive ATM fees

Ceramic lessons Orphanage
Ceramic lessons Orphanage

Gap Year Peru

5.- Other things volunteers should know before coming here (besides Spanish):


Host Family: The meal schedule is different than the US: light breakfast, big lunch around 2 pm, and a small dinner (basically the same food as breakfast). If you want more than bread with jelly for dinner, make sure to buy snacks, go out to dinner, or talk with the host family about other options. It wasn’t hard to adjust to this eating schedule but it was definitely a change from what I was used to

Program: As cliche as it sounds, the volunteer experience is entirely what you make of it. Take initiative and find ways to help out and get involved. Each volunteer location is different and your role may shift so it is important to observe what is going on and find ways you can participate. No one will ask for your help so it is up to you to determine how to get involved.

Country: It is important to get a sense of how much taxis should cost. Taxi drivers often just put out their hand and expect you to give them the right amount without saying a price and they will charge you more if you ask how much it should cost because they will take advantage of the fact you are a tourist. Maria Elena (the abroader view coordinator) will help with this and it is pretty easy to figure out.

6.- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):


I absolutely loved my month in Cusco! My experience surpassed all of my expectations and I am really sad that my time there ended so fast. My time at the primary school was amazing. I rotated through the three classes of five year old students to teach English. Most of the time I was given complete control of the class for the day and led activities to teach basic English vocabulary and concepts. I tried to make the lessons engaging by having the students act out different words, creating competitions between groups of students, and teaching them songs in English.

Child Care Center Cusco
Child Care Center Cusco

It was amazing to see how interested they were in learning English, how much effort they put into practicing, and how much progress they made over the course of the days I spent in each class. I also loved getting to know the students in a non-academic setting: talking with them before class, eating lunch with them, and playing with them at recess. They were so excited to see me every day and would scream “Profe de ingles!!” and then come running over to give me a hug — it made coming to school every day so much fun. Additionally, the teachers were so supportive and helpful during my time at the school.

I was really sad that the school had a vacation for my last week and a half in Cusco because I did not want to end my time there. My other volunteer position was working at an orphanage for teenage girls. The orphanage did not need much help running activities so instead, the role of volunteers was more to spend time with the girls and be a friend. I spent most of my time in the ceramics room where the girls work for weeks to paint the most beautiful plates, mugs, and vases. They tried to teach me how to paint as well (which I was terrible at) but I had so much fun talking with all of the girls and listening to music while we painted. It was amazing to me how positive and friendly all of the girls were. They were always excited to ask me a million questions, show me what they were doing, give me/each other a hug, or just sit by me.

I tried to get to know as many girls as possible because it was important to me to be more than just another random face—I wanted to truly get to know them on a personal level and be a friend they could feel comfortable with. I was able to go on a field trip with the orphanage during my last week and it was so much fun to spend time with the girls in a new environment, witness their excitement at traveling outside Cusco, and be a part of their special day. The loyalty and love the girls have for each other inspired me and I will never forget my time with them. Outside of volunteering, I was lucky enough to do a lot of traveling while I was in Cusco.

Night out with some ABV volunteers
Night out with some ABV volunteers

I did a tour of the city, visited the sacred valley, the salt mines, the last Inca bridge, Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, and Humantay Lake. I loved all of these adventures, made some great friends on the trips, and was amazed by the beautiful places I got to see. I also enjoyed exploring the city of Cusco. There is so much to see and do: the museums, restaurants, and markets are all incredible, I took a Peruvian cooking class, I visited an Incan planetarium, I went to see live music, and so much more. Throughout my stay in Cusco,

I lived with Maria Elena and I truly could not have asked for a better host Mom. She made me feel completely at home and I am so grateful for how caring she was. The food was incredible, the beds were comfortable, and Maria Elena was the best. They love she shows to all of her ABV volunteers is amazing. She is both a mother figure and an amazing friend. She gave great advice, was so supportive of all aspects of my life, and was so much fun to spend time with. I felt like I had plenty of freedom but also felt like I was always been cared for—it was a perfect balance.

Also, there were often other volunteers living in the house and I had so much fun getting to know them. We did trips together, went out to dinner, or just hung out after a long day. It truly felt like we were a family. Overall, I am so grateful for the unforgettable experience I had in Cusco. It was more amazing than I could have ever imagined.

Volunteer Machu Picchu
Volunteer Machu Picchu

Volunteering in Peru

7.- How would you describe your accommodation: meals, security, friendliness, quality others:


Meals: The meals were always delicious. I have some dietary restriction and Maria Elena was so accommodating. On the rare occasion when the main course was something I could not eat, she always prepared me a separate meal. Lunch was always large, delicious and very filling. Dinner was much smaller, as per Peruvian custom, and I occasionally wanted more food but was usually able to supplement with soup or Maria Elena would make me eggs if I was still hungry.

Security: I felt completely safe in the house. The house has 2 doors, both of which have a double lock, and I was also given a key to lock my bedroom door though I never felt the need to use it.

Friendliness: Maria Elena is so friendly and I could not have asked for a better host Mom! She made me feel completely at home and I am so grateful for how caring and supportive she was. I felt like I could talk to her about anything and we always had so much fun together. She made me feel like family and I will miss her a lot!

Quality: My host family surpassed all of my expectations. The living accommodations were all high quality, the beds were warm, and Maria Elena and her father were so welcoming. I cannot say enough good things about living here.

Sacred Valley ABV volunteers
Sacred Valley ABV volunteers

7.1.- Score the following from 1 to 10:

Quality of meals: _10__ if under 5, what was the issue:

Quantity of each meal: _10__ if under 5, what was the issue:

How clean was the house: _10__ if under 5, what was the issue:

How safe was the house: _10__ if under 5, what was the issue:

8.- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country: Airport, orientation, introduction to the program, schedule of the program, friendliness, solving problems?

Maria Elena, the a broader view coordinator, provided amazing support during my time in Cusco. I would not have felt as comfortable here without her support and guidance. She texted me while I was in Lima to give me advice on how to navigate the airport, picked me up when I arrived in Cusco, helped me plan all of my trips and excursions, and taught me everything there is to know about the city—where to withdraw and exchange money, where to buy bottled water, where to do laundry, how to take the bus, what to say in a taxi and how much to pay, and gave me a tour of all of the important places. She also was so helpful in getting me settled at both of my volunteer positions.

She took me there on the first day, taught me the best way to commute, introduced me to the directors, and made sure I felt comfortable in my role. She checked in with me daily to see how my position was going and was actively invested in all aspects of my time in Peru. She was a good listener and I felt comfortable coming to her with even the smallest of problems. I knew I could always count on her for advice and information. During my month here, I was amazed to see how committed she is to all of the abroader view volunteers. She spent all day checking in on current volunteers, coordinating housing and positions for upcoming volunteers, and working to make sure everyone felt comfortable during their time in Cusco. She truly goes above and beyond for her volunteers.

Gap Year Peru
Gap Year Peru

For example, one day I had to leave at 4:30 am for a hike and she woke up early to text me and make sure I did not miss my bus. Overall, she is so friendly, informative, and organized and I was so lucky to have her as a resource as my coordinator and as my host family during my time in Cusco.

Volunteering Opportunities

9.- Whats was a daily schedule at the program, hours volunteered, activities you did?

 I worked in 2 different places during my time in Cusco so my daily schedule varied from week to week. During my first week and half, I volunteered for 5 hours in a kindergarten where I taught English to 5 year olds. During my second full week, I continued volunteering for 5 hours at the school during the morning and began volunteering in the orphanage for 3 hours in the afternoon as well, giving me a full 8 hour day with a break in the middle when I returned home for lunch.

After that, the school had vacation so the orphanage became my primary volunteer location and I volunteered for 5 hours in the mornings during my final week and a half in Cusco. During my time at the school, I rotated through the three classes of five year old students to teach English. Most of the time I was given complete control of the class for the day and led activities to teach basic vocabulary and concepts. I based my lessons on an English workbook the school had. I also got to spend time with the students in a non-academic setting: talking with them before class, eating lunch with them, and playing with them at recess.

At the orphanage, I spent most of my time in the ceramics room where the girls work on homework, hang out, and paint beautiful plates, mugs, and vases. They tried to teach me how to paint as well (which I was terrible at) but I had so much fun talking with all of the girls and listening to music while we painted. I tried to get to know as many girls as possible because it was important to me to be more than just another random face—I wanted to truly get to know them on a personal level and be a friend they could feel comfortable with.

They would ask me a million questions, tell me all about their day, or sometimes just want to sit with me in silence—either way I knew it was important to just be present in the moment and interact with them in whichever way they wanted on a given day.

Inca ruins near Cusco
Inca ruins near Cusco

10.- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:


Accommodation:  My favorite memory with my host family is when Maria Elena, the two other volunteers living at the house, and I went out to dinner at a nice Peruvian restaurant. We stayed for hours laughing, talking about everything, and enjoying the delicious food (we ordered 5 desserts for 4 people). It was such a fun, relaxing night and really exemplified how close we all had become and how comfortable we were around each other. It truly felt like we were a family.

Program:  It is so hard to pick a favorite memory from my volunteer experience but one of my favorites was on my last day at the school. All of the students were sad that I would be leaving and wanted to keep in touch so they all spontaneously organized themselves to make me a sheet of paper with all of their names on it so that we could be friends on Facebook.

It was hilarious to me because they are 5 years old and definitely do not have a Facebook but it was also so touching because it showed me that I had made an impact on them and that they would miss having me at the school. I was sad to be leaving and knew I would miss all of the students a ton so it was so nice to have something from them to bring back home with me. To me, the fact that they decided to do this on their own exemplified that the relationships I had formed with them and the connections I had made during my time at the school were real and genuine.

Country: my favorite memory in Peru was reaching the top of Rainbow Mountain. The hike to 5200 meter altitude was the hardest thing I had ever done but the view was so amazing that it made it worth it. I felt so accomplished for being able to complete the hike on my own because I had been nervous I would not be able to do it. It is one of the most incredible places I have ever been. Standing at the peak with the friends I had hiked with was such an amazing moment and an experience I will never forget.

11.- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling? Emails, chat online, calls, volunteer guide:

The ABV USA support was so helpful prior to my trip. I spoke with Sarah on the phone and emailed with her several times when I was trying to decide what program to do and to ask her a million questions once I had chosen to come to Cusco. She was always so informative and helpful and her replies were very quick. She answered all of my questions and helped me feel excited and comfortable about coming to Cusco. I also used the online chatting system to get advice when choosing my flights. Again, the support was detailed, informative, and quick to respond. I also used the Peru guide when planning what to pack on the trip which was very helpful.

12.- What do you think about the reservation system online?


I found the reservation system very straightforward and easy to use. I appreciated the rapid response to my application.

13.- Who did you find Abroaderview website
?

 I knew I wanted to volunteer abroad for a month during the summer and found the a broader view website when I was googling different options for programs. The organization was listed as one of the best options for volunteering abroad so I looked for the website to see what programs were offered. The website was easy to find and straightforward to use which made it easy to look for programs I was interested in.

14.- Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?

Definitely!

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