Tell us a little about Otra Cosa and your role at the company.
Sarah: Otra Cosa Network was started in 2004 by a Dutch couple as they from their vegetarian restaurant developed a small, low-cost volunteering agency supporting a few local projects with the help of volunteers. In 2007, our current directors, Peter and Juany Murphy, took over the organisation and now run it from England with the assistance of our on-site Operations Manager Alton Germain and Assistant Manager Laura Hoskins. Otra Cosa Network works with several different Peruvian charities and organisations to which we send willing and capable volunteers. Otra Cosa Network also has its own projects, HELP (Huanchaco Education and Learning Program) projects, started by volunteers who saw opportunites in helping the local community in Huanchaco in different ways. Most of the projects supported by Otra Cosa Network are supporting children and communities through teaching but we also work with projects supporting community health, animals, organic farming, etc.
I have been working with Otra Cosa Network for a little over 2 months now. I am working on my master's degree in Development and International Relations in Denmark and I am doing a 6-month internship in Peru with Otra Cosa Network. I work in the office along with our operations manager, assistant manager and a few other volunteers and interns. My work mostly consist of online marketing, trying to recruit more volunteers in order to make it possible for Otra Cosa to keep supporting their current projects and expand their projects to support a larger part of the local community. I also introduce newly arrived volunteers to the work of Otra Cosa and life in Huanchaco, Peru. Otra Cosa is a small NGO which means that everyone in the office is involved in a lot of different tasks on a day-to-day basis and we are mostly working on our own initiative as a lot of faith is put in our abilities and passion to help Otra Cosa Network have more of an impact on the local community and help the people here who need it.
How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?
Sarah: I am very new to the volunteering industry as I am still a student. I study Development and International Relations at university in Denmark and as part of my study program I am doing an internship this semester (my 2nd semester of my master's studies). As a student of development, working with an NGO is highly relevant and interesting as I get to see how development work is carried out in practice.
Until now, my experience and knowledge of development work was purely theoretical from my work at university. So far, it has definitely shown me how volunteering can play a big part in helping a community develop and how organisations like Otra Cosa Network can make a difference in the lives of people who due to less fortunate socio-economic circumstances can benefit greatly from a little help of generous volunteers.
What makes Otra Cosa unique?
Sarah: Otra Cosa is unique in a several different ways. First of all, we offer low-cost volunteering opportunities. We do not believe in charging excessive amounts for enthusiastic people eargerly wanting to help out by volunteering at worthwhile projects in Peru. Our location also makes us unique. A lot of volunteering organisations working out of Peru are located in the Southern part of the country (mainly Cusco) but Otra Cosa is located in Northern Peru and working with a lot of local projects.
This brings me to another area that makes Otra Cosa unique. We have a very broad range of volunteer projects. We do not just work with English teaching, animal care or health care. We offer many different types of projects which makes us attractive to a wide range of volunteers with different interests.
In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?
Sarah: A good international volunteer is first of all open-minded. Working and living in a completely different culture can be an overwhelming experience but with an open mind and a lot of patience, it can be a life-changing experience. It is also important to be flexible. Tasks can change from day-to-day and working life in a different country can be very different from what you're used to back home. Other important characteristics are motivated, creative and hard-working.
What does the future hold for Otra Cosa?
Sarah: Otra Cosa is always working on recruiting more volunteers to keep supporting the projects we are already working with. It is also of great importance to us to be able to expand our projects and find new ways to help the local community. Our volunteers have many great ideas as how to improve and develop our projects and it is our goal to be able to do this.