Debbie Smets was only with us at AMAUTA Spanish School in Cusco, Peru for 3 weeks, but she accomplished a lot within her short time here. Debbie begin her time with us taking Spanish classes for one week along with some private, Peruvian music classes, and continued to take private Spanish lessons during her two weeks of volunteer work in Cusco to improve her speaking abilities. Debbie is from Belgium and before coming to Peru she collected a large amount of money from friends and family to give to her volunteer project. With this money she was able to buy a lot of much needed materials for this small after-school program, including: paper and books for origami, fun games like Twister and Jenga, puzzles, and wooden blocks.
The volunteer project was so grateful and they showed their appreciation by giving Debbie a cute bracelet and a very nice book about Peru. Debbie said the teacher and kids were so thankful. “The professor really appreciated my donations and also the kids are so happy because now they can play some other games.”
Debbie enjoyed her time as a volunteer greatly at her project, but there were also some cultural differences that she noticed right from the start, the main one being punctuality. The first couple of days, Debbie had to wait about 30 minutes for the professor to come. Debbie: “I was thinking that she wouldn’t come anymore but finally she came. I just accepted it, this is how life is in Peru.”
Nevertheless, there were a lot of amazing aspects during her volunteer work in Peru. She mentioned the friendliness and kindness of the kids when doing the activities she prepared for them and their excitement to learn and try new things. Debbie shared: “The kids are so happy when you do something with them that they had never done before or they can’t do every day. They really liked the origami and they were all jumping in front of me asking my help or showing that they could do that step by themselves without my help. They really want to hear that they have done it very good and they are so proud of everything they have made… I was also surprised to see the kids helping each other, they are really nice and seeing them all so happy makes my day.”
Debbie wanted to do something special for the kids on her last day so she put together a little party her last day with snacks, drinks, and presents. The afternoon was filled with picture-taking, throwing confetti on Debbie´s head as a blessing, laughter, and lots of love. The project was sad to see Debbie go, but they will always remember her. While there they named off all the names of past volunteers, and Debbie´s name is now added to that list of sweet volunteers who gave of their time and money to these precious kids.
Debbie loved her volunteer experience and time in Peru so much that she has plans to come back some day. She stated it was a wonderful experience thanks to the professor the kids and of course thanks to AMAUTA and the volunteer coordinator! “I wish I could stay longer in Peru but now I know that I really like volunteering in an after-school project in Cusco so in a few years I probably will come back and stay longer. It is so nice to just play with the kids or make such simple things and they are so happy and thankful.”