I was on a gap year and looking for an organisation that would allow me to travel and do some kind of volunteering. I looked at many agencies but found that Quest Overseas really offered the right balance between these two aspects. I signed up however not really knowing what I was in for, just basing myself on a Skype interview and a few friendly emails exchanged between the team and I. I had no idea I was signing up for the best experience of my life.
Between the British staff who is incredibly involved, friendly and helpful and the Peruvian partners who have been working with the Villa Maria project for over 20 years and care about it like nothing else, I realised that this project isn't only about giving disadvantaged children the best summer of their childhood by providing them with the basic right to play, it's about carrying on 20 year long work and becoming part of a huge family.
When I first walked into the bedroom I was going to be living in for the next 5 weeks in Villa Maria, I, like many before me, got to read all the messages that previous volunteers had left on the walls - names, dates, inside jokes, advice - and immediately knew these 5 weeks would be unforgettable, and I was right. I made friends for life, with the other volunteers as well as with the Peruvians who worked with us, I discovered a new culture, I had the time of my life playing with children, I improved my Spanish skills, dancing skills (oh yes!), and everyday was a memory I will keep forever.
Up to the standards of the Villa Maria fun, the 4 week-long expedition that followed was as hectic and unforgettable. We had a great expedition leader who managed the whole thing and made sure all our money was being spent in the best way possible, not letting us worry about anything, all the while keeping our spirits up with a great personality and sense of humour. One small problem: you'll have to give up on sleeping for the next 4 weeks (it's all worth it though) ! Indeed, between sand boarding in the Peruvian desert, trekking in the Andes, kayaking on Lake Titicaca, climbing a mountain, parading in La Paz carnaval, mountain biking, crossing a border at 6am, and much much more, you quickly learn the importance of napping and knowing how to sleep on a bus.
All in all, I'm incredibly grateful for finding Quest Overseas and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different and fun to do on their gap year (or later on!). I can't stress enough how much Quest and all it's staff is involved, trustworthy and friendly.
You should also visit the Quest Overseas / Quest4Change facebook page as there's lots of photos and videos on there !