Review Volunteer Rae McKee in Peru Cusco at the Orphanage program
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
It was extremely helpful. Maria Elena got me connected with the orphanage quickly and I was given a lot of freedom, but she was always there to help with the arrangements or contact the teachers there. My experience was a little different because I had surgery while in country (appendicitis), but I had an overall easy experience through Maria Elenas help.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced? Name 2
Program: How simplistic it was. I liked that I was just living life with the girls and learning ceramics. It wasnt labor intensive and I think I enjoyed creating the relationships more than I would have if I was doing intensive work.
Host Family: That I had all the amenities of a home in the United States. Maria had a house that had wifi and TV, but it still came as a surprise to have it all.
Country: It surprised me how urban the city was. Cusco is a beautiful city and functions much like any other city, with some very unique peculiarities.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Program: The language barrier with the girls, I smiled my way through so many conversations with little idea of what was going on. However, taking Spanish lessons really help with being able to understand and communicate with the girls.
Host Family: Probably the different types of food. While I did like the food, how the whole big lunch system works out and the types of dishes they serve are unique and the tastes were somewhat difficult to adjust to.
Country: Cusco is a dusty city so I found that I had congestion almost everyday. I got used to it after awhile, but it definitely affected my ability to sleep an entire nights worth.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
a. Bring more clothing than you think you need. Having to wear dirty clothes while you are waiting for the laundry mat is no fun, plus the airport lost my suitcase the first week, so I was trapped in one sweatshirt and two pairs of jeans.
b. Bring pictures to put in your room. I didnt think I would get homesick, but I did. I think a large part of that was because I was in the hospital (appendicitis) for part of my stay, but I definitely wish I had something that made the room seem a little bit more like my own, as opposed to a guest room.
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
a. This is a very independent project. Once you get in the groove of your day, youre pretty much free to do whatever you want and come and go as you please. I know they mention this in the orientation guide, but you definitely need to feel comfortable being in charge of your own schedule and willing to go out and learn through experience (such as navigating Cusco)
b. If you dont know the language, I HIGHLY recommend taking the immersion Spanish lessons. I dont know how I would have survived and enjoyed my experience without them. Being able to communicate makes homesickness decrease and makes overall communication with different vendors and your host mom immensely easier.
6- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
I loved getting to hang out with the girls of the orphanage each afternoon, despite the language barrier. I learned how they do ceramics, I got to help teach them English, play volleyball, and just learn about the girls lives. This is why I came and I am pleased to say this went well. My trip was filled with obstacles that are not normally present in an average volunteers experience. I didnt have my suitcase for the first week and during the third week I had to go to the hospital and have my appendix removed through surgery, my coordinator and host fmaily help we all the way. Despite the difficulties, I have to say that my experience was a good one. It challenged me in new ways, but it allowed me to grow.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
I thought it was all better than expected. I became good friends with Maria and I loved getting to talk with Alejandra, who cooks lunch, about the different meals she made.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
Program: Learning how to do the salsa with the girls after we finished painting ceramics.
Host Family: learning about my host moms life outside of work.
Country: Going to the Plaza de Armas and experiencing the hub of the city. I loved eating at Jacks!
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
They were incredibly helpful. I needed a lot more support than the average volunteer because of delayed flights and my trip to the hospital and having to reschedule my flight home two weeks early. I didnt ever talk to them, my local mom did that. But it was an easy experience that made everything a lot less stressful. They did a lot for me from afar.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
It works well.
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website
Through volunteer websites that presented different program options.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?