South America is a part of the world I had always wanted to visit. My Granny was born in Peru, which initially drew me to the country, however after doing some research I realised there were many opportunities to do volunteer work out there. I travelled to the city of Cusco where I was placed in a day care centre for children from disadvantaged families. I was involved in helping the children with lessons and homework, singing, arts and crafts, and teaching them some basic English. I also received Spanish lessons in the afternoons of the first week, which were very useful!
Before leaving for Peru I was quite nervous as I was travelling to a new continent with only a very basic level of the language. I was also aware of the potential dangers of being a young tourist and the crimes that unfortunately do occur there. However once I arrived I was given lots of advice and support and met other volunteers, which immediately made me feel comfortable.
I was initially worried about the language barrier with the children, however my previous experiences of working with children enabled me to overcome this. I managed to carry out fun activities using the Spanish I knew, and the Spanish lessons I received helped with this. I was also able to help the children with their lessons, for example learning about the local produce, by helping them to draw vegetables and choose the right colours. I learnt that the children are grateful for any help and really appreciate someone to do activities with while the teacher is marking work and preparing lessons. Even though they only have one room and a tiny outdoor area at the day centre, they make the most of their time there and the teacher does a brilliant job with the resources she has.
I learnt a lot about the culture during my time there, especially the way everyone contributes equally. The mothers of the children at the day centre take it in turn to cook breakfast for the children, for example rice pudding, or milk with quinoa. There was one morning where all the mothers brought in traditional Peruvian dishes for the children to taste. They were very generous and always wanted me to try their food! I was also lucky enough to be in Cusco during the festival period where everyone comes together to perform dances in the main plaza and in the streets, which was incredible to see!
After volunteering I was able to do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which was an amazing way to end my trip. I had an fantastic time volunteering and experiencing the Peruvian culture and am very grateful to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for enabling me to have this experience I will never forget.