Why did you decide to volunteer with Skip in Peru?
Krishan: Having previously worked for a number of different NGO's in Peru and Nepal, I had had various experiences working with international grass-root NGO's and had found that in many occasions, whilst done with good intentions, the programs lacked a focus on being managed in a professional way and employing methodologies which emphasized sustainable change and empowerment of local communities. My search consistently solely of trying to find the right organisation regardless of which country it might be in.
After doing some in-depth research about SKIP, I decided to apply for a volunteer position with SKIP as it seemed like an organisation which had not only good intentions but also good work practices and was founded on the right methodologies and principles. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it met, if not exceeded my expectations. This is not to say that it is perfect but SKIP certainly uses a very well thought-out methodology and strives to implement sustainable and empowering change.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Krishan: My day would begin at 9am, I would work mainly for the volunteer house, my diary would almost always be full with things that needed to be done. As a volunteer coordinator, a Monday morning would start with a breakfast meeting with the rest of the volunteer coordination team where we would discuss on-going issues, short term goals as well as ongoing projects we were working on. This would set out the main projects we would be working on during the rest of the week and other subsequent meetings would be organised accordingly. Arrival of new volunteers would be organised, volunteer review meetings and other feedback would be discussed as would the requirements of each of the departments within the organisation and ideas for potential improvement would be shared. The volunteer coordinator role consisted of a very wide range of roles and responsibilities and the above simply demonstrates a few of the things that were involved in the role. After the meeting, the team would branch of and begin their daily allocated tasks.
People would break for lunch as their schedule would allow them to and depending on the roster of the day, we would sometimes be required to go to the SKIP centre in the afternoon to help out with sports, homework help, economic development or whichever other department you were helping out with (all SKIP staff members were required to have some contact with the actual users of the SKIP service to have a first hand understanding of how the program was providing support for the users - this was especially important for people such as volunteer coordinators or finance/administrative staff where direct contact with the users would otherwise only very seldom occur). The SKIP group would go to the SKIP centre at around 2pm, cramming as many people into the taxi for the 15-20 minute ride up to the district El Porvenir where the centre was located and where the SKIP users typically lived. We would return to the house at about 6pm. Often we would have work to complete before taking some time to cook dinner and have a few beers with the rest of the 20 to 24 residents in the volunteer house!
A day in the life of a SKIP volunteer was unlike any other... It was exhausting and rewarding, challenging and frustrating, but definitely worthwhile. Apart from Saturday and Friday nights, people would hang out in the volunteer house but there were never any big parties as people were either too tired, or would head out to a bar or club to allow those who wanted to rest to do so in peace and quiet. We often used to go and play football in the evenings and at one stage were going to thai kick-boxing classes, some people had Spanish lessons and others would mingle with local friends they had made in Trujillo. SKIP was an incredibly intense experience so taking some time off in the evenings was an important part of maintaining one's sanity!
What made this experience unique and special?
Krishan: Without doubt, the people were what made the experience both unique and special. This is not only limited to the international volunteers, but also includes the local Peruvian volunteers and the SKIP users with whom we worked. For me, the ability to practice what was very broken Spanish when I first arrived was also a big plus.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Krishan: To be honest, at this stage, I really don't know because it has only been 6 months since I returned. I think it has made it clear to me that I would like to pursue a career in the social sector although exactly where amongst this incredibly large and diverse sector is still something I am working on. Without a doubt, it allowed me to develop skills and abilities which I would have not been able to develop in another place in such a quick period of time. I learn to work with people from a very large demographic background (age, culture, language), learnt to manage a project, manage people and speak a new language. These are just a few of a vast array of skills I learnt and developed at SKIP which I believe will help me in whichever profession I end up in in the future.