Did you know AMAUTA Spanish School organizes interesting volunteer placements in Peru for Spanish Students? We think this is a great way to give back to Peruvian society. For the volunteers, working in Peru, Cusco, gives them the opportunity to meet the local Peruvian people and to have an extraordinary living and working experience while improving their Spanish abilities. AMAUTA selects the projects that we work with carefully. Combine this with all you will experience during your travels in Peru, and you will easily understand why Volunteering in Peru is a once in a lifetime experience!
In this blog, we happily introduce you to Amandine. As many others, Amandine choose AMAUTA Spanish School for their Spanish-language experience and for volunteering in Peru, thanks to our over 20 years of experience working with volunteer projects in Cusco, Peru. If you’d like to know what it is like to be a volunteer in Peru, in Cusco, read about the work our Spanish student Amandine did volunteering in Cusco!
Amandine is originally from the city of Lyon in France, but has been living and working as a teacher in Hong Kong for several years. Right after her Spanish classes in Cusco, Amandine volunteered in a shelter for children in the Sacred Valley.
During my volunteering in Cusco, there was a special situation: a teachers’strike. The kids couldn’t go to school! Because of that, I helped out a lot with the children´s chores for much of the day, including cleaning the home with the girls or going to work on the farm or cut firewood with the boys.
Under normal circumstances, the children are at school until 2:30 p.m. if they are in primary school, or 4:30 p.m. if they are in secondary school. I’ve heard from former volunteers, that usually goes for a hike, read or help to cook lunch while the kids are in school and then will play with the kids, organize activities and help with their homework when they return. There is a nice outdoor area where you can spend time with the kids.
The social roles are quite rigid here at the Peruvian countryside: boys do the physical labor and girls do the domestic work. But that did not necessarily surprise me too much. One of the most amazing things was to see just how tough and self-sufficient these children are!
They work over 80 percent of the day (including school time) and some of the work is extremely difficult. On Saturdays, their free day, they still will clean or travel to the “chakra” or farm to tend the fields or to cut giant logs and carry them down the hill!
The kids are also extremely sweet, and although guarded due to what has happened to them throughout their life, they will eventually open up and be the sweetest kids you will ever meet.
Although I feel like I gave a lot to the kids through my volunteer work, I feel like they gave me much more. They have so much wisdom to impart at such a young age and, if you´re willing to take the time with them, they will happily teach you.
The young girls can basically cut vegetables and cook like a Michelin star chef and the boys are full-blown farmers at their tender age as well. One of the phrases that I will always remember from my time there is “me quedo admirada” or “I am amazed!”
I was more shocked by how capable the kids were. But one other thing that might surprise future volunteers is the lack of hygiene that is exhibited at the project and in Peru in general. The kids do not take showers every day and, if they do, they are quite brief. This all makes sense because they are bound to get dirty right away so it does not make much sense.
It is also not common to wash up before you eat. But, the opportunity to do so is always there for the volunteers or anyone else. As I said before, these kids are tough so a little bacteria probably doesn´t hurt them!
This might seem a bit cheesy, but, I never knew how I could grow to love someone so much so fast. After days, I was already smitten with these kids and felt so strongly about them. I was never attempting to replace their parents, and I would never try to, but I wanted them to know I cared about them as a friend.
I feel like I have no choice now; I have to come back and see these kids again because I love these kids so much now. And I will! To see how a simple kiss goodnight could make all the difference in the world to these kids is amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. They have all been through a lot and probably know more pain than any of us will ever know in our lives. But at the same time they gave me so much happiness and that is the amazing thing.
I would say that you should try to teach them whatever it is that you are passionate about. They are very eager to learn, even if they might seem uninterested at times (this is just because they are shy). So if you are passionate about something then they will be happy to learn.
I was happy to read to them and teach English and this was definitely fulfilling for both myself and for them. I know one previous volunteer loved to cook so she taught them how to make pizza which they really enjoyed. They also love games! So whatever games you know and can teach they will eat those up as well.
More importantly, it is crucial that you realize that the kids have been through a lot in their lives. As a result are hesitant to open up to you right away. Especially the first couple of days, they might not smile too much or be very expressive, but that is because they have been let down before and are therefore protecting themselves.
Eventually, this will all change and they will grow very fond of you. You should also never ask if you can help out in any way because they will always say no! It is a cultural thing. You should just be assertive and jump in!
I believe that anyone who wants to Volunteer in Peru could get lot out of this experience, but it is crucial that, above all, you give back to these kids. You should not be just another person passing through in their lives. They deserve all the help and love they can get, so you should do your best to improve their lives.