- Study Abroad
- Volunteer Abroad
- Teach Abroad
- Intern Abroad
- High School
- Gap Year
Urubamba, Peru - a little town nestled high in the Andean hills that I had never heard of until the opportunity to volunteer with ProWorld came along. While the car carved its way along the cliff face and dropped into the valley, I stared out at the homes clustered through the expansive valley and wondered which one would be mine.
I felt the tight pull of homesickness settle across my stomach as we turned right at the solitary grifo (gas station) - one of the few on the way to Machu Picchu - and crawled through the quiet, dusty streets. Although it had only been an hour, I already missed the cobbled sidewalks, the cathedrals that cut out the Cuzco sky, and my new blend of Peruvian and ex-pat friends. One of the hardest parts about a volunteer trip around the world is all the people you have to leave behind.
Determined to hide my anxiety about my upcoming two weeks, when I would be living with a family who didn't speak english, I swallowed hard and organized the contents of my backpack as we bounced over the grassy "driveway" and pulled up to the ProWorld gate. Although ProWorld promised that the family had been carefully screened and that living with a home-stay would help me truly experience the Peruvian hospitality, I wondered how I would possibly communicate my food allergies and after 4 months on the road, I was craving my own space (preferably with the chance to cook for myself). But, aside from a couple of close dietary calls (gluten is a tough one to explain), I should not have worried. It took exactly two minutes to fall in love with my host family. They instantly welcomed me as one of their own and with a lot of patience (on their part), we stumbled through with my very basic Spanish. By the end of two weeks, I didn't want to leave my Peruvian Mom and Dad - who nicknamed me Terrisita and sent me off with hugs, tears, and a beautiful hand-woven alpaca backpack (complete with a llama on the front).
Living with my wonderful host family was just the beginning of an incredible experience with ProWorld in Urubamba. Over my two weeks there, I had the chance to participate in almost all of the projects. It surprised me how much I enjoyed the feel of cold clay in my hands as I built a cleaner burning stove against a backdrop of mountains and blue sky, so pristine it looked like a movie set. I didn't even mind the blisters on my palms as I wielded my Snow-White-And-The-Seven-Dwarves pick and dug up the earth to plant trees on a reforestation project. I fell in love with children and women's artisan groups and came home with more scarves and jewelry than I had room for (but there is something incredible about knowing exactly who you are supporting with your purchases). Mixed in with my volunteer projects, I had plenty of time to enjoy traditional meals with my host family, to hike up to viewpoints so beautiful they quite literally took my breath away, and to cook volunteer meals in the communal ProWorld kitchen.
It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to the people of ProWorld Peru. If you are considering a project with ProWorld, I strongly encourage you to sign up. I had the chance to witness how ProWorld works in partnership with locals to deliver sustainable projects to meet their needs. Instead of building their projects around what the volunteers would like to do, they are creating sustainable changes in communities and making a difference for generations to come. This sustainable, ethical approach to volunteering is exactly why I can't wait for my next ProWorld project.