Volunteer Name: Olivia Wilson
Project Location: Cusco, Peru
Program Dates: 6/3 – 7/22/15
Volunteered at: Health Care Center
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
The ABV coordinator has been wonderful from start to finish. There are many volunteers here, so she’s always busy, but if you ask for help she’s always there when you need her.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
Program: I was impressed but pleasantly so that there were so many other volunteers here at the same time as me.
Host Family: They had hot water! I set my expectations low for luxuries like this, so it was a wonderful surprise.
Country: There are so many people! I had no idea how busy Cusco would be. June and July are extremely festive months here. I loved it!
ABV: hot showers in every house volunteers need to ask how it works and no hot water in the faucets as locals don’t use that.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Program: I struggled with the language barrier more than I expected to within my volunteer setting. My Spanish is at an intermediate level, but still struggled – especially in the clinic where patients speak very quickly. Definitely do-able but challenging at times.
Host Family: Certainly not a “challenge” but there are a lot of potatoes. I would suggest getting familiar with the supermercado to supplement your diet!
Country: I had an easy time getting settled and finding my way around but just cared definitely be acknowledge for someone not willing to get out and around. I struggled at times with all the people and animals in need of food, warmth and shelter. There are so many people in need here even despite it being a cosmopolitan area.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
1. Learn how to get around the city! especially if you are here for a long time. Feeling comfortable with your surroundings, makes for a better, safer time in country. Pay attention to landmarks, walk, use the bus!
2. For girls especially – buy some Kleenex packets and ALWAYS have them on hand. Hand sanitizer too. Lots of places don’t have toilet paper or soap.
3. If you’re going to bring US dollars, make sure they are PERFECT. No rips, writing, wrinkles – or basically they are useless here.
4. Memorize your passport number! Or have it written down somewhere and keep it with you. Necessary for bus tickets, using credit card at some places, etc. ALSO people who are students, bring your student ID!!! Discounts!
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
(thats not in the orientation guide)
a. It is up to you to be proactive about everything. Your volunteer work, traveling, making new friends. Ultimately you and only you are responsible for having a good trip, Be prepared to spend more money than you expect or be really disciplined with your budget. There are so many opportunities to spend money – eating, shopping – that you should prepare yourself.
b. Being in the volunteering setting can be really overwhelming. Sometimes you feel in the way or stressed out because you are not able to communicate effectively. It’s ok!! There will be tough days – especially in the clinic – but that’s when you take a few breaths, remember why you came and open yourself up to the unexpected –and at times- uncomfortable.
6- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
While ABV and its in country staff here have been invaluable to my experience, being a positive one. I stand firm by the idea that YOU must be proactive in regard to all aspects of your trip. ABV makes it very possible to have an amazing time, but you must be willing to go the extra mile to make the trip what you wanted it to be. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity and to have met the people I did. There were definitely drying times but I wouldn’t give up any of it!! All in all it’s been a fantastic experience and I would recommend ABV to anyone.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
My host family accepted me in their home with open arms from Day 1. Meals vary in how appealing they are, but I have found it’s always best to ask for a smaller portion if you’re unsure. That way you aren’t rejecting their hospitality nor are you wasting a lot of food if you don’t like it. I have felt safe at every moment of my trip. Be smart, be safe – don’t forget that you are in a different country and everything looks different at right. But I have never felt unsafe during my time here. Be friendly to others and almost always they will be friendly to you! I have had no issues with anyone here.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Program: Through ABV, I met fantastic people who were volunteering in the same place as me. Some of my favorite memories were traveling with these people.
Host Family: One night I spent a couple hours helping my abuela with some crafts – it was a special time sitting and listening to her stories.
Country: I loved my time in the Sacred Valley – specifically Pisaq + Ollantaytambo. I went with some friends – without a tour guide and we had an unbelievable time exploring and surrounding ourselves with the beautiful sights Peru has to offer.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
The ABV support staff was amazing. I got responses to all of my questions on the same day. Phone calls were always answered, even when I called multiple times. I felt supported.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
Simple, timely, I had no problems.
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website
Through my university global studies program. Previous students from my university here traveled with ABV.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Note: Spanish Immersion Lessons were fantastic. My trip would have not been the same without them. They were invaluable to me as an intermediate speaker.