Elizabeth Clark - General Care Projects in Peru
My First Impressions of Urubamba and Peru
Arriving in Cuzco wasn’t too much of a culture shock to me as I’d been travelling for 5 months prior to my placement in Peru. I remember looking out of the plane over Cuzco and thinking how amazing it looked; the mountains and scenery were phenomenal to see.
I was instantly welcomed by a member of Projects Abroad staff at the airport. They led me to my taxi driver, who turned out to be my host family’s uncle. Immediately I could tell how kind the people were there. We had an hour or so drive to Urubamba, I spent the whole time looking out the window at the views around me. I knew I was going to love Peru!
Staying with a host family in Peru – 12 course meal!
I arrived in Urubamba and got shown around the small but beautiful town. It was I’d say one of the larger towns along the Sacred Valley, but in my eyes was not ruined by tourism. We walked around the plaza and market before being taken to my host family. They lived on the main street in Urubamba above a little shop. It was a little scary walking into someone’s home knowing I was going to be living here for the next month, but they welcomed me like one of the family, they cooked me a large welcome meal, I thought this might be because I’d just arrived, but no no, they like to feed you. It’s their way of showing love and hospitality. And that they did.
After a few days eating two very large meals a day I got used to the fact they liked big portions. But on Easter Friday this year, I spent it with my host family. I found out they cooked 12 courses for lunch, I expected 12 dishes on the table and you help yourself, but instead I learnt that we got 12 dishes each! The funny thing was in my family we had only three mains, then nine desserts! Insane! Surprisingly I couldn’t finish them all!
All in all my host family made my time in Urubamba great, they welcomed me immensely and were so kind and helpful. My host mother was especially caring and always worrying about me.
My Community and Care Placements in Yucay
My first week in Urubamba I spent with all the other Care Volunteers doing Community Work in the local areas. We made slippers for a kindergarten in Chinchero, we practised games that were going to be introduced to teachers when the schools went back, we gave free fluoride cleaning to children in different local villages, some of whom had never owned a tooth brush! That was tough, but it really felt like we were making a difference by teaching them basic care for themselves.
After one week I started on my Care Placement in a kindergarten in Yucay. Yucay is a very small village with a lot of Inca history. I travelled there by minibus every morning with a few other volunteers who carried on to other towns after me. The bus usually filled up to the brim which was an experience.
At my placement there were 4 classrooms, with children aged 0-5 years old. I was in the youngest class with little beautiful babies aged around 6 months to a year and a half. It was the first week back after the strike so the babies had to get back into it again, so a lot of the mums stayed periodically throughout the day. At first they had to get to know my face, but after a few days of seeing the same babies, they let me feed them at break time, play with them in the class room, or go for walks around the school, as they all wanted to be outside playing.
The kindergarten looked small to me, but apparently was one of the biggest that Projects Abroad work with, having more than 40 children in all. The staff there were so lovely, I found the main lady in my classroom was amazing, I thought of her as a ‘mother hen’, she was just fantastic with the babies, and all the mums seemed to look up to her. Really inspirational. One of the days in my placement I brought in the simple materials of flour, salt and water. Yessica my care supervisor suggested it to me as a way of engaging with the children.
We made aprons out of plastic bags and gave one each to the oldest children in my class. About 5 ended up joining in, making play dough with the materials, they really enjoyed playing with something different. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Yucay and I would hope to go back one day in the future to see how my class has grown!
Travelling Peru During and After my Placement
During my placement I couldn’t miss the amazing visit to Machu Picchu. Though I did not do the Inca trail due to time and money, I went for the night to Aguas Calientes with a couple of other volunteers, and then early the next morning we walked up to Machu Picchu. We refused to get the bus, even though it killed us when everyone drove past, but we wanted it to be worth it when we got to the top!
I remember seeing some of the ruins when we still had about a half hour walk to go, it was just so exciting. We raced through the ruins to get to Huaynapicchu, which was the toughest walk up ever! But just as we reached the top of the ruins, the clouds cleared and we looked down over Machu Picchu. Best moment of my trip! I had such an amazing day there, and the sun was beaming down, got a tad burnt, but best experience of my life to see such amazing ruins.
After my placement I spent some time in Cuzco as well, a city well worth visiting. There is a lot of history all around the place. I visited a few other Inca ruins and museums which were very interesting. After Cuzco I headed for Puerto Maldonado and continued with Projects Abroad on the Conservation Project, another amazing experience. I wish I could have spent longer in Peru as there was so much more to see and learn about, the culture is fascinating and the people are amazing, I’m sure I will travel there again one day!
Libby Clark, 20, UK
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.