OUR GREAT ADVENTURE WITH GROUP VOLUNTEERING - PERU 2017« Back
The first photo: Participants of the Travel with Mission trip posing together with children in front of the primary school in Chumbao, Andahuayas – Peru, where we travelled with our volunteering assignment.
Time flies by very quickly. It seems as if it was just yesterday that we returned from our last trip to Nepal, our previous volunteering mission, which had been so successful, that many of its participants decided to join us again for our next journey – this time to Peru. Monika, who travelled with us both to Nepal and Peru described the trips as „a magical and unforgettable experiences”.
But first things first. Our adventure with volunteering in Peru began on June 3rd 2017, when a group of 11 travelers set out on their vacations with a mission to help others and to discover new countries…
About the volunteering mission
What reasons can a person have to work during their vacations for free? Agnieszka, another participant of last year’s trip claims that „you need a bit of craziness in your head, some good in your heart, and an open soul to meet other people”.
Whatever the individual reasons of our volunteers, one thing is for sure - this initiative was very important for the local community, because it greatly improved the quality of learning for their children. Our mission to renovate the school in Chumbao in the Andahuaylas region was coordinated by the Peruvian organization ONG – ADSC Peru.
The community in Chumbao showed how much our initiative meant to them. Monika recalls that she was positively surprised by the official welcome party prepared for the group by the local authorities.
„We really appreciate that the Mayor agreed to let us work in his town and are grateful for inviting us to an official welcome breakfast. I would especially like to thank the school’s Director and Sonia for organizing a dancing and singing show, during which we could admire the children’s performances. They were all very heart-warming and fun to watch, and the kids were absolutely fantastic, curious and open”.
The walls of the inner courtyard were also painted by our volunteers :)
For Agnieszka, the best memories of the whole trip will be connected with the volunteering work she had done with her group and her experience with the local community – both parents and children:
„At first, we were a real puzzle for each other. Everyone observed what was happening with genuine curiosity, just to discover in the end that we are just the same :). On a more serious note, I was positively surprised by the parents’ involvement in renovating the school. Together with their children they participated in all the activities we prepared, helped us with cleaning the school up, and once the work was over even proposed to organize a mothers against volunteers tug of war contest, which we, the volunteers, utterly lost.”
As you can see, there is much more to volunteering abroad than just hard work. Among the best memories of the whole trip Monika recalls the children - their openness, curiosity, trust, and willingness to learn.
“One thing is for sure – I cannot say that our work was hard. We just had a lot of fun and felt tremendous satisfaction when we saw how our project inspired the parents of the school children to further activities” – Monika adds.
The trip was organized so that our travelers would have enough time both to help as volunteers as well as to explore Peru and learn about its culture. According to the program, the trip began with a visit to Lima, Peru’s capital. Next our group travelled to Cusco, where they saw the incredible market in Pisac and explored Ollantaytambo, a picturesque village paved with stones and where elements of the Inca culture were still present in the village’s architecture.
Our volunteers just couldn’t leave Peru without travelling down the Inca Trail and crossing the Cloud Forest or discovering the mysteries of the Lost City and Machu Picchu. Our group also had the opportunity to see the lines in the desert in Nazca from a plane up above as well as visit the city there. They finished their stay in Peru with a trip to the Ballestas Islands, where the team admired the biggest natural sanctuary for thousands of birds, sea lions and seals, where with just a bit of luck one can also spot a dolphin.
But what did our travelers admire about Peru most?
For Monika it was trekking and discovering the country’s exotic wildlife, during which she could also enjoy the views of the ancient culture:
„The walk down the Inca Trail fulfilled my expectations 100%. I could see the mountains, the ruins of Inca cities, the waterfall and orchids :) On top of that we had the best guides who told us about the surrounding nature and history with true passion. We ended our few-hour walk arriving at Machu Picchu. What more could you want? :)”
Among her favorite moments in Peru Agnieszka recalls experiencing Peru’s extraordinary nature, but not only that:
„I was absolutely mesmerized by the view of pelicans gliding just next to our motorboat when we were on our way to the islands. It seemed as if they were racing but also observing us with genuine curiosity. They flew so close to the boat, that we could see their eyes and feathers on their heads and wings. I am also a great fan of coffee, so I enjoyed my cup of this delicious drink with a view on Plaza Mayor in Cuzco – a truly unforgettable experience.”
The greatest adventure?
Of course, the trip to Peru was planned with much care for details, but still some unexpected situations happened. For Monika it was the occurrence of a mild earthquake.
„We knew that the earth in Peru trembles from time to time and all my friends warned me that I should be very careful. Now I can say that I know what an earthquake feels like. However, at first I wasn’t sure whether what I experienced was an actual earthquake or something else, and the real phenomenon is about to happen. Luckily, it ended with just a very delicate vibration, which some of my fellow travelers didn’t even feel.”
Agnieszka, on the other hand, who already had been to Peru during her previous travels, decided to focus on the less obvious charms of the country this time. This is what she told us:
„I would say that among my most enjoyable experiences from Peru were walking down the Inca Trail, the all night festival and dancing at the small city of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, and of course Andahuaylas, where we worked as volunteers. As always, I was breath taken by the Paracas National Sea Park and Cuzco – my absolutely favorite place in all of South America.”
Our travelers were very lucky that their trip to Peru happened at the same time as the festival in Ollantaytambo, because they could see for themselves how amazingly energetic the celebrations of Peru’s colorful patron Choquekillka holidays are. There was no end to dancing and singing, up to the point that when our volunteers left for the train at 06 o’clock in the morning to head for the Inca Trail, they met…. people, who were still celebrating. :)
What are the Peruvian people like?
The Travel With Mission team discovered that the people of Peru, depending on which community they belong to, are either very open or very withdrawn. There is one trait, however, that they all share – and that is curiosity. Monika mentions, that in every city where our group stayed, local people always asked them where they were from:
„Not so long ago, when we said that we come from Poland, the immediate association was John Paul II, while today their first thought is Robert Lewandowski. Times, they are a changin’ :)”
Our volunteers also noticed that traditional culture is very much alive on the streets of Peru - colorful skirts, hats and shawls are elements always present in the wardrobes of Peruvian people. The sight of tradition doing so well in everyday lives in Peru was extremely comforting, especially, that in Poland we have only rare opportunities to admire our traditional Polish outfits which are worn only on special occasions.
What are the people of Peru like? One of the participants of our volunteering mission noticed, that Peruvians have one trait, which differentiates them from all Western cultures: „in a moment” is a phrase which is very relative for them, and this “moment” tends to last and last. They are never in a hurry and always have time, which is quite striking to us, who live in a constant rush and whose life’s motto has become „faster, faster.”
The culinary side of the trip
Travelling to exotic places such as Peru creates new opportunities also in terms of trying new food. What novelties awaited the Travel With Mission team?
Monika describes her experience in this matter:
„I was looking forward to the opportunity to try cuy*:) However, I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy my first bite. The experience was a failure and the taste was not what I imagined it to be. A few days later, in a small booth standing next to the road I tried grilled cuy, and this time I really like it. Up till this day my friends from work cannot believe that I had the courage to try this Peruvian delicacy. Another thing about Peru’s cuisine which surprised me was that I wasn’t aware that you can serve potatoes with macaroni or rice as a single dish.”
Agnieszka too found some tastes in Peru which she became fond of:
„I personally think that the food in Peru is absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, it wasn’t every time that we could indulge in the pleasures of eating, but the outstanding guacamole which I tried in Peru still to this day brings a smile to my face.”
There were a few. For example, did you know that there a few thousand kinds of potatoes in Peru? What is more, you can also buy dried potatoes at the market. Apparently, in order to prepare such potatoes for eating you should keep them in water for about two weeks before consumption.
The participants were really surprised by these discoveries. Monika says:
„It’s just unbelievable that an ordinary potato can come in so many shapes, colors and tastes! The same goes for corn, which you can find in Peru in an abundance of shapes and sizes.”
We were amazed not only by the vegetables, but also by the fruit. Monika continues:
„As for fruit, well, this is a subject which will be difficult to describe. The taste of avocados, bananas, pomegranates, mangos and pineapples we know so well from Polish super markets is incomparable with the taste of the same kind of fruit but grown in Peru. They are much sweeter, full of taste and juicy, as if they have a new dimension. It’s simply unbelievable.”
For Agnieszka it was the weather that turned out to be the greatest surprise:
„I didn’t realize that there would be such differences in temperature. At night there was only 2 – 6 degrees Celsius, while during the day the temperature reach as much as 26 degrees. We put on our warmest clothes for the night – some of us dressed even in everything they had, just to take them off one by one during the day, until all we wore were shorts and a T-shirt. Despite such weather conditions nobody got sick or even caught a cold.”
We can definitely qualify our volunteering mission in Peru as a great success! As our adventure came to an end, we asked our participants about the advice they would give to someone who is still hesitating whether to go or not. Monika says:
„I will always repeat that there is nothing to be afraid of. Uncertainty makes us more careful, which is good, but fear can paralyze, and this is not something you should take with you to Peru. It’s always worth listening to experienced guides – Agnieszka, chapeau bas to you! Before the trip we received information on how to prepare, and all our questions concerning the trip were answered.”
Agnieszka adds: „ as the organizer I didn’t have any doubts – Peru is such a beautiful country, that it will make everyone fall in love with it! I was sure that my fellow travelers would be happy and fulfilled. Volunteering missions provide us with an unique opportunity to get to know the country and the people in a way not possible for regular tourists.”
These words are the greatest award for us, the organizers! And we literally felt elevated when we asked one of the participants if she would consider repeating this experience and heard “yes, of course, anytime and anywhere, even to the moon - as long as it’s with you!” :)
We are very grateful for these kind words, and would like to thank all the members of the Travel with Mission team with whom we travelled to Peru for the great experience, help and wonderful adventure. If you have any questions – write to Lidia at firstname.lastname@example.org
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We hope to see you somewhere on the road!!