Richard Bartlett - General Teaching Projects in Peru
Between March and June 2005 I spent 3 months volunteering on a teaching project with Projects Abroad in Peru. I lived with a family in the village of Calca in the Sacred Valley and taught in an all-boys school called Humberto Luna. My months with Projects Abroad were part of an 8 month trip covering the majority of South America. The trip was part of my Gap Year between school and university.
When looking for a company to go with there were many requirements I was looking for. I wanted a company with a good reputation and lots of positive feedback from volunteers. I also wanted a company that could offer lots of flexibility as I was not sure about what date I would arrive in Peru until a couple of weeks before. Projects Abroad fulfilled both of these requirements and was one of the few gap year organisations which offered a solely volunteer program without any rigid start date.
In the school I worked in I took all the English lessons myself with another volunteer. The English teacher from Peru only spoke the most basic of English so I had the chance to plan and deliver all the lessons. At first this was a little daunting as there was anything up to 35 children in each class, but after a couple of days I settled down into the routine of teaching and found the whole experience enjoyable and very rewarding.
I felt very involved in the life of the school and that my input was important and it was nice to be able to see progress and improvement in the students when they had their end of term exams. It was very important to accept the laid back life in Peru and that days at school may be cancelled without any real warning - I used to find out about days off sometimes the day before. This can be frustrating but it is all part of the experience of teaching in Peru.
I lived with a family in Calca who had four children, though two were normally in Cusco studying for university. I really enjoyed being with a family as you can experience life in Peru and you also feel like part of the community rather than an outsider. I was involved in day to day life of the family, from eating with the family every meal to taking part in feast days and parties with them. The family I stayed with were very caring and did everything possible to make sure that my time in Peru was enjoyable.
Projects Abroad also has an office in Urubamba which is just down the road from Calca and easily reached by local bus where the administrative side of the project was handled. All the staff there were really helpful and could help you out with everything, including confirming flights, teaching aids and doctor visits etc.
During the weekends, most of the volunteers went to Cusco to enjoy the nightlife and the sites or spent time exploring the Sacred Valley which has much more to see than you find in the guide books. At the end of my project I had two weeks to travel when I visited the north of Peru as I had already visited the south earlier in my trip. I found the north of Peru fascinating to visit; it is sadly not as well known than the south but is well worth the time if you have it!
Before starting the project with Projects Abroad I travelled extensively in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru and loved it. South America is a very diverse continent to visit with everything from big cities to Inca ruins and from the Andes to the Amazon Basin - there is something for everyone. I really felt that 3 months getting to know one area and putting something meaningful back into the community complemented my travelling really well and was very pleased with the decision to go with Projects Abroad.