Emilie Gouzien - General Care Projects in Peru
After an exhausting 24 hours of travel I finally arrived in beautiful Cusco and it was definitely worth the journey. Once I arrived in Cusco Airport, I was greeted by a friendly young Peruvian who took me to my host family in nearby Calca. I immediately became aware of how warm and welcoming Peruvians are and how patient they can be (especially when trying to learn Spanish). Even though I was exhausted, I stared out of the car window in disbelief. I couldn’t believe how incredible the views were.
Living with a host family in Peru
I have to say that living with a host family is the best way to learn Spanish, as the majority don’t speak any English at all. My host family was great; they made me feel right at home as soon as I had arrived. Once I had been introduced to my family, my host mother advised me to rest for a couple of hours and told me I should unpack.
Soon after this, I sat down with her at the kitchen table and while preparing lunch we exchanged stories about our families. I really enjoyed my time with my host family; whether I was talking about politics with my host mother's brother, or helping out around the house and watching films with my host brothers.
My family gave me enough privacy and I had my own room and bathroom. They also gave me valuable advice when I went out to meet other volunteers in the nearby town. Peruvians love big meals, which I soon became aware of. Good Friday, though, was a different situation – 12 dishes were served to us, yes twelve! Understandably I couldn't finish, but at least I tried!
My Care Placement
As the children didn't go back to school until mid-March, I was involved in community work. This included practising and making games for schools to use in the area. We made little slippers for a local kindergarten and helped children and parents understand the importance of cleaning their teeth.
After this I worked in a kindergarten in Sillacancha, 15 minutes from Calca by bus. I decided to work in a kindergarten with three to five year olds, because I knew it would give me the perfect opportunity to improve my Spanish as they wouldn't know English. At my placement there was one class with 26 children and only one teacher – a lot of work.
After my first day I was known as 'Amiga Emilie', which made me feel very welcome. The kids were great and I loved seeing them smile for simple things, like making necklaces out of pasta or making hand prints. Every day we would pray in the morning and then sing in Spanish, Quechua (the local indigenous language) and English (which they would try and repeat).
It was very rewarding to work with the children and you won't believe how much you laugh. They absolutely love the attention you give them – whether it is telling them how well they have done or giving them little hugs, as many don't get this sort of attention at home.
Travelling in Peru
All the volunteers were very lucky to live near Cusco, as it is a very beautiful and vibrant place with a lot of culture and history. We usually spent most of our weekends there; visiting the typical tourist sites such as the cathedral and the Inca Museum.
We also tasted cultural meals (such as guinea-pig –a delicacy!) and of course seeing the nightlife that Cusco provided, which is particularly entertaining. Also there are a lot of archaeological sites that I had the chance to visit by using my tourist ticket, these were great to see and I learnt a lot about the history of the Inca Empire.
Of course, I didn't miss the opportunity of visiting one of the Wonders of the World – Machu Picchu. Everyone asks me what is was like and I never have a proper response, the only one I have is ‘amazing’! After spending the night in Aguas Calientes and waking up at 4am, we started our walk up to Machu Picchu.
Once at the top you have a full view of Machu Picchu beneath you, which is incredible. I have to say we were extremely lucky that day, as the weather was very sunny and there were few clouds so we got to see everything at its best. I didn't get to do any more travelling after my project as I continued on to another country, but I can safely say Peru will be seeing me again. It was one of the best experiences of my life (so far anyway) and it will be a memory that I will treasure forever!
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.