Alumni Spotlight: Judy Hurst

Judy Hurst is from Toronto, Ontario and works as a travel agent specializing in adventure travel. She volunteered in Peru in May 2012. She is the mother of two young boys and is looking forward to sharing the world with her family. Judy also works part time as a marathon coach for Team in Training, a charity that raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Volunteers in Peru with CCS

Why did you decide to volunteer with CCS in Peru?

Judy: I have wanted to do volunteer trip for a long time, the CCS opportunity just landed in my lap, and I couldn’t say no to this incredible chance to pursue a dream trip.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Judy: My days changed a lot during the time that I was there. Each morning we would get up for breakfast and get ourselves ready for the day. At 8am we then boarded the vans to take us out to our various placements. I volunteered two mornings at Los Martincitos a facility for at risk seniors, and I worked in the kitchens preparing lunch, and then serving it. Playing games with the clients and dancing.

There is always dancing! On one day, we did home visits to some of the clients who are too ill to come out and we check on them to see if there are things that they need from Los Martincitos to do for them (get medical care, prescription meds, wheelchairs, etc.) Seeing the people of Villa El Salvador in their own homes, and learning from them, directly what they struggle with was eye opening for me.

I did also have the opportunity to volunteer at a pre-school working with the 3-5 year olds and that was just so fun! The class room and structure felt so much like volunteering in my own children’s schools that I was touched by the similarities. They were preparing for their mother’s day celebrations so I enjoyed being a part of that.

Most schools and centres close in the afternoon, so that people can go to work, so our afternoons were free. We would go back to the house for lunch, then have something that had been organized for us. Whether it be Spanish lessons, a guided tour of the museum or archeological sites, there was always something. Then after a busy day, we would once again gather for supper, spend some time emailing or Skyping friends and family back home, then all fall into our beds….. Hardly anyone was up past 10pm!

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

Judy: I think the thing that made this experience so special for me, was the support that we received locally. Anyone can go to a country that is struggling with poverty and volunteer, but without context the experience can be shallow (think, rich North Americans coming to save the poor Peruvians). We had a number of people who provided history and context to what the citizens of Lima (Villa El Salvador more specifically) have struggled with, where the successes have been and what is needed for the future. I have an affinity and an understanding of the country that I didn’t expect to come away with.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Judy: I think the biggest impact is in how I have come away more committed to volunteer locally, and to be a more active member or my own community. This is the thing I saw the most when I was there, that so much of the great things about Lima came about by local Peruvians working together, and I want to continue that work in my own life. These are lessons I also want to pass along to my children.