Why did you pick this program?
Cusco has long been a top choice travel destination for me. After researching and speaking to other travelers I discovered how much need there was for volunteers in health care and thought it would be a wonderful experience to not only see Cusco, but help out where I can.
Prior to this, south east Asia had stolen a huge piece of my heart. What stuck the most was how much the people gave to the travelers and asked for nothing back. This was my chance to give back even a little bit of what people have given me.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My program providers provided my housing (with a wonderful local Peruvian woman whom I still keep contact with), airport pickup, orientation to the program, and orientation to the clinic (Santa Rosa in my case). The doctor who orientated me also took us by bus to and from the clinic on the first day to show us where to get on and off.
My host mother provided us with breakfast and dinner. I took care of my flight and lunches. Also, I saved a bit of spending money for souvenirs, tours (the Machu Picchu trek was unbelievable), and salsa nights!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Keeping an open mind would be the best piece of advice. The lifestyle in any country is going to differ from your own.
Embrace those differences and you will be rewarded with some of the greatest memories and life changing lessons. I frequently think about how little the people of Cusco have, and yet how happy they are.
It makes me so much less worrisome about small problems in life, and much more appreciative for even the littlest of things.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Typically in health care you wake early, getting on the bus by 7:30 to get to work by 8. I worked half days from 8-12, but was happy to stay later based on the need of the clinic. Usually by noon the lineup to the walk-in clinic was gone and we'd be waiting to see if others would come in.
If I left on time I would go back to the Plaza des Armes by bus for lunch and have 2 hours of Spanish in the evening. After that, a quick walk home for dinner, sleep, and repeat. My roommates were both in the childcare program so we all had lots of heartwarming stories to share over dinner.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?
My fear, as I'm sure most can agree, was safety. We have a tendency as travelers to often hold on to bad experiences and share them to warn others.
It's certainly good to be aware and vigilant, however we need to remember that much like in our own countries there are way more good people than bad. Of course keep money and passports close, but also don't miss opportunities because of fear.
Go with friends and enjoy nightlife and cuisine. Watch your drinks, be vigilant as you would be anywhere else, but don't go away to do and eat things you would at home. Embrace the culture and its people. You'll be glad you did!
What is the best advice you received prior to your volunteer experience?
I was told to bring as many medical supplies as possible as things do not come as easily there as here. I sent e-mails at work and posted on my Facebook asking for anything people were willing to donate. The hospital, friends, and family were more than generous and next thing I knew I had to ask for a donated suitcase to bring everything!
The clinic I worked at usually cut gauze out from a big roll; they had tears when they saw that I brought over 200 prepackaged gauze of various sizes, among other things. I was overwhelmed by the support and I only wish I would have taken a photo to send back home to show just how appreciative my clinic was for all of the supplies.