I did the High School Special Care and Community project in Cusco, Peru, with a good friend from home for four weeks this past summer, and I loved every minute of it! Prior to our departure, our parents were a little weary of allowing two teenage girls to travel to a different continent alone, but the Projects Abroad staff were extremely reassuring and provided a ton of information about not only what we were to expect in the country, but how to effectively prepare before and afterwards. Communication with the program was always timely and informative. When we landed in Cusco after a full 24 hours of traveling, we were met exactly in the way that had been described to us previously: with a Projects Abroad sign, by our first and last names, and with a friendly smile. In Cusco we always felt safe, and although the program was structured with activities like building furniture and painting games for schools in the area, we had plenty free time in the afternoons to explore various markets around the city and go to the mall.
The "care" aspect of our project was time we spent in a daycare. We were placed in a local, government-run program for anemic children. There, they were provided with two meals (breakfast and lunch) and a lot of fun toys to play with. Most of the teachers were also parents of a child in the center, so I think our help was very appreciated as they had their hands pretty full. We assisted mostly with feeding the kids and keeping them entertained during the day so their mothers and fathers could go to work nearby. They were all so cute! Around halfway through our time at the placement, my friend and I wanted to switch to helping the older children at the placement. Projects Abroad accommodated this change without hesitation. These kids were around four and five years old, and so we were able to actually help teach them in addition to playing. Their teacher had us make a lot of posters to hang up around their classroom as well as teach them the colors of the rainbow in English. We did lots of chalk drawings outside on the pavement too.
Our host family was amazing as well. We stayed in a house composed of five or so floors, each described as its own “apartment”, which ended up being pretty accurate. Each floor had around three bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and living space. Our bedroom even had an ensuite bathroom, which was very nice. Even though we were prepared to sacrifice the showers we usually took at home, we were pleasantly surprised by the pressure quality and the hot water available to us always. Everything in the house was also very clean and organized. Because it was winter when we arrived, it was fairly cold in the house, as none of the buildings in Peru really have indoor heating; however, with a warm blanket, socks, and a jacket, we were fine. They provided us with three meals a day, which typically consisted of pan (a sweet bread) with butter and jam for breakfast, and rice with a meat (chicken, beef, etc.) for lunch and dinner. Overall, I had an amazing experience in Peru, and I recommend the High School Care and Community special to anyone looking to make a positive difference and get a taste for a new culture/country!