Staff Member Spotlight: Elisa Vescovi

Title
Volunteer Communications Manager

What is your favorite travel memory?

I usually like thinking about the beginning. I have lots of amazing travel memories, but there is one that I consider the best.

It was the 20th of July 2017; with lots of different feelings in my head, I got off the plane and felt the humid air of Lima. In a couple of days, I would be starting my adventure with The Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI). Outside the airport, the Coordinator of LLI was waiting for me with a welcome sign. Everything was happening the exact way it was supposed to be. We took a taxi, and we started the ride to Huaycan, my new home for the next 12 months. I remember looking outside the window, the city passing by, people, colors, houses, the sea... And then we arrived at Huaycan.

The impact was at the same time exciting and frightening. Would I be able to learn and do my job? How would this new culture accept me? Will I be able to break cultural barriers? I had so many questions that usually mark new beginnings, and there were few answers at that time. However, I got them now! Thanks to the help of an amazing staff, a very welcoming community, the happiness of the participants, and the support of other volunteers, now friends, this experience has been one of the bests of my life!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Thanks to my experience at LLI, I am now more aware of the struggles that less advantaged people have to deal with everyday. I feel like I have a better understanding of the complexity of the world, and I have understood that you have to work very hard, when volunteering abroad, to have a positive impact on the community you are serving.

Volunteering abroad is not being a tourist, this is so clear to me. You have to learn a lot from the hosting culture and other people that very often, you feel like you have so little to give back. This is what happens; we are grains of sand participating in a long term process, and the only thing we can do is contribute in the best way we can, responsibly.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I have heard a lot of success stories from our former volunteers. Some of them had the opportunity to find good jobs in International Cooperation or Education-related fields after their experience with us. Some others come back to visit Huaycan as soon as they can during their holidays, gap year, etc. Most of our former volunteers still continue to support the organization by participating in fundraising events, becoming members of our sponsor programs, or as donors.

I think these are the best stories of LLI’s return volunteers: seeing that their relationship with the organization, our programs, and the local community doesn’t end with the end of the volunteering experience; there is a strong link lasting for a long time.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

This is a hard question. I think all of LLI’s programs are deeply beneficial for the local community. We have a great team working in projects for kids, teens, and women in Huaycan. In addition to that, the fair trade project Huaywasi is a great empowering opportunity for artisans and women.

If I should choose one, however, I think I would still be interested in working in the Volunteer Program. The program allows me to have a direct and constant contact with applicants and people from all over the world, introduce incoming volunteers to Huaycan and our programs, explain to them our ethical philosophy, and work in the promotion and advertising of the organization.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

It makes me genuinely happy to be working for a company that really takes local development seriously. One of the biggest achievements of this organization, which I am very proud of, is being able to offer a monthly fair wage to 10 local people. They are permanent staff members of the organization who found a decent and secure employment with us. I am pretty sure that this number will grow in the future!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

An important factor in being a successful non-profit organization is involving the local community in order to understand what the real needs are and the right path we can follow to solve specific issues. Communication, listening, and letting the community be part of the decision-making are other very important aspects.

Local communities' participation in decision-making is essential in guiding the organization towards success. We don't try to impose any decisions because we do not know what's the best for local people; it’s the locals who know what’s truly best for them, and we are just here to help them achieve that.