Why did you choose this program?
I chose to go on a Global Volunteers trip because I have experience with the organization. I have always been impressed with how they run their programs. They follow a philosophy of always working with and for local community organizations as partners. They provide all volunteers with basic information and training on the best way to serve those they work with.
I chose the Peru program initially for two reasons. I wanted to work in a location where I could realize my desire to teach and I wanted a chance to use and improve my Spanish. I will be going back next year because of the incredible experience I had at Sagrada Familia. What Miguel, the community founder, is doing there is truly amazing and I want to do whatever I can to support it.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Global Volunteers take care of all transportation, meals, and lodging once you arrive in the country. They provided us with training prior to starting our work and contacts and assignments at the work location. They also provided translators where needed.
Travelers are responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from Lima. If you plan to do any sight-seeing or make extra purchases, that is up to the volunteers. For example, many of the people in my group planned trips to Machu Pichu either before or after the program dates.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Ventanilla, where the Sagrada Familia community is located is very, very poor. They do not have basic supplies that most Americans take for granted. Things like paper and pencils for school are available but scarce. Plan to bring things like copies of materials, books or magazines with you. They can be donated to the community via the Global Volunteers staff when you leave. The poverty is very real, but don't let it depress you. These people are joyful.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
We had breakfast in the morning at 7. Breakfast included a brief meeting where we read the prior day's journal and offered a thought for the day. Then we took a van to the Sagrada Familia campus where we got our work assignments for the day and met with the local staff and translators. Lunch was taken with the children at 1:30 followed by afternoon assignments until 4:00.
After getting back to the hotel, we had time to freshen up and explore Ancon until time for dinner at a local restaurant at 7:00 pm. Dinner included a chance to debrief on the day and share any stories or concerns we might have. Then we returned to the hotel to relax and go to bed.
Weekends were completely open for whatever activities the guests wanted.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear of going to another country is always fear of the unknown. I am jumping into another culture, possibly another language and I don't know what to expect. I don't want to be caught unprepared, nor do I wish to cause offense because of my ignorance. Paradoxically, this is also the thing I find most exciting and compelling.
The more I travel the more I am reminded that we are all human beings. We all share the same basic humanity. We all have family and relationships. We all love. We all get angry. We all get frustrated, or embarrassed. We all laugh and have fun.
What impressed you the most in this trip?
La Comunidad de Niños Sagrada Familia was founded by a father who lost his infant son and was moved to help the street children he saw standing outside the hospital who could not get care because they had no money. Ultimately he founded this community of children and gave over his entire life and everything he had to care for them. He is an extraordinary human being and he has built an organization founded on love and caring. I was, and continue to be honored to do what I can to help him in his mission.