Volunteer Name: Beth Schinoff
Project Location: Cusco
Program Dates: 6/20 to 7/3, 2015
Volunteered at: Girls’ orphanage
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
Maria Elena was fantastic! From the moment we stepped off the plane to the moment we finished with our program, she answered questions, helped us navigate the various parts of the program, and provided support in any way she possibly could. Just one example of how Maria Elena goes out of her way to help those volunteers under her care, I traveled with two young girls who wound up getting quite sick and being hospitalized. Maria Elena accompanied us to the hospital and then visited us no less than 5 times in the 24 hour time period we were there. She and our host family were incredible! We could not have felt more supported in what turned out to be a pretty scary time for us.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
-That most of the volunteers were college-aged. I assumed that there would be other families or slightly older volunteers.
- Our amazing Spanish school. We had the most wonderful experience with our professors, the woman who owned/ran the school, and pretty much everything else related to our Spanish classes. They were incredible during the time when both girls were sick. And continued to be unbelievably flexible, sweet, and knowledgeable. A hidden gem in Cusco for sure!
Our host family’s unwavering support during the time the girls were sick and their continued love for us. They are beyond caring, sweet, and friendly. We will definitely miss Mari and Melo!
The level of privacy that we had – we basically had a whole space, including a bathroom to ourselves. It was more than we expected and was very much appreciated.
No toilet paper or soap anywhere in town, we had in the host family
You can buy literally anything you need here. No need to bring it all!
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Laundry. We expected our host family to do our laundry for some reason. The laundromat in our area was constantly closed. And because of our schedule, we could never pick up our clothes during the day. Moreover, they stapled each piece of clothing. It was quite painful to remove.
ABV: in the website and in the orientation guide its states: no laundry or internet provided, some accommodations will provide this at a cost.
The days were really long. It felt like we had to forego something in order to have time to explore.
I never really felt like we got the chance to get to know the other volunteers. We’re leaving with a community in Maria Elena and our hos family, but not really with Abroader View per se. Part of that may have been our situation (we’re traveling with kids and a bit older than the other volunteers).
ABV: and as you said they are all college age, your daughters were sick and you wanted to have time to travel in the city, we tried to make the experience customized for your needs.
Our host family had a lot of visitors our second week here. While we had our own private area for the most part, I felt a little like an outsider once they arrived. It was harder for us to come back to the house, and, as a result, we felt like we saw very little of our host family, which was sad for us.
I expected really interesting meals and to come away with a better understanding of how Peruvians eat. I struggled with some of our meals as we were served pre-made soup (e.g., Alphabet soup) or even take out.
ABV: thats the immersion about to mingle with the family and the extended families, as you went in a holiday time many host families had visits of their relatives, an extra bonus to the experience. As your children were sick they tried to make it easier for them.You could always talk to the coordinator if you had any issue with the food.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
Take the time to just walk around and explore Cusco. This city is full of amazing, wonderful adventures every day/night!
Cusco is freezing by night– bring a winter jacket.
Volunteers should bring (or expect to buy) toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer when you go out, in the house you have everything.
Warn volunteers about money. We read somewhere that we should bring dollar bills because they would be really useful here. Unfortunately, one dollar bills are worth even less than other US bills. Additionally, stores will not accept any US dollars with even the slightest rip. US money is pretty much useless here.
ABV: bring 20 dollar bills to change in the exchange house, no rips, no old bills, before traveling go to your bank and ask for new bills.
Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
(thats not in the orientation guide)
Don’t expect to have consistent WiFi in your homestay. The internet in Cusco is pretty variable.
Create your own projects at your volunteer site. Ours didn’t have projects ready for us to do so we had to improvise and create our own. They really appreciated it!
ABV: Wifi is not included in the program as stated in all our paperwork and website, if you want internet you can use the cybercafes in town for a US$1-2 an hour or if you use at the house you should pay US$5 a week.
6- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
ABV provides a really unique way to immerse yourself in a new city. The ability to live with a family and give back to the community through volunteerism is invaluable. I highly recommend this experience!
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
On the whole, we had a very loving host family who did their best to ensure our happiness. While our homestay was not without its challenges, it was most definitely a rewarding experience. I never felt unsafe in Cusco, and found that people were generally friendly.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
Too many to count!
Program: Being picked up at the airport by Maria Elena. I’m smiling now just thinking of it!
Host Family: When our host mother and her mother came to the hospital to check on us. It melted my heart.
Country: Traveling to Arequipa/the Colca Canyon with one of my best friends and her two amazing kids.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
It was great! Sarah was super responsive and answered all of our questions. Maria Elena worked tirelessly to ensure that all was worked out in the end.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
It was easy to use and made it very easy to track where we were in the process.
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website
My friend Shelley found it.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?