Volunteer Name: Kelsey Ward
Project Location: Cusco, Peru
Volunteered at: Medical Center
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
Beatriz was a goddess. She was always accommodating – offering advice about tourist destinations, places to eat and the best ways to get the most out of our trip. We were able to visit all the ruins of the ‘tourist ticket’ with the guidance of Beatriz and of our host family. Additionally we spent the whole weekend in Puno at the suggestion of Bea.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
Program: The standards for sanitation in the clinic are much lower – no toilet paper, no soap, no towels. Also the staff will trust you to do a lot, so be prepared to say “No” if they expect something from you that is above your level of training.
Host Family: No hot water in any of the sinks, and the houses are pretty cold.
Country: So many kids, so many dirty diapers. The altitude took a bit of adjusting to – steps must be taken slowly at first; even though I expected some shortness of breath it still took me by surprise.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Program: My Spanish was VERY limited before traveling here, so it was difficult to work in the clinic at times because staff can be too busy/disappear, and I had few skills for communication, especially in the beginning.
Host Family: My Spanish skills were also challenged at home. After a whole day of attempting to speak and understand Spanish, it was hard to continue attempting to speak and understand Spanish at the end of the day.
Country: Resisting the temptation to eat street food. I made the mistake my first day here, but sometimes the food looks so good…
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
1. Just buy hand sanitizer. Buy some for the clinic and have some on your person. Muy necesario!!
2. Bring a body towel and a hand towel. As previously mentioned, the standard of cleanliness is probably lower than what you are used to.
3. Warm socks for sleeping! Not heat in houses. Slippers are good too when hanging out in cold houses.
4. You can do tours w/o tour guides! Ask your coordinator or host family about taxi and bus stations for visiting sites. The guides tent to rush you through the sites and if you enjoy ‘hiking’ you’ll want more time.
5. Donations: The clinics are in desperate need of supplies – Medshare.com can help with supplies and they will be much appreciated!!!
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
(that’s not in the orientation guide)
If you are a picky eater, bring filling snacks with you. Or buy locally.
Breakfast tends to be pretty light and NO real coffee. French press is cheap if you must have coffee in the morning.
You need snacks to keep you going o/w 8-1 or 2 pm.
Layers, layers, layers. Yo can go from tank top to sweaters and jackets in no time!
If traveling w/ others, local cellphones are inexpensive and a good way to meet up if people are in different schedules.
6- Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
This experience has been very eye opening in regards to sanitation levels. It’s so basic but so necessary. Education and resources are lacking and this has been a good reminder how far simple changes can take you. We have so much in the U.S.A. and this trip has been a great reminder of the myriad ways that exist to give back.
7- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
Safe, sound and delicious. My family owns a vegetarian/vegan restaurant and most of our lunches are taken there. At night we have the option of eating w/ the family or going out. Just remember you are living in someone else’s house - do your best to go w/ the flow, help out when possible, practice your Spanish and try a different and new way of living. Everything has been great (except the early morning cold showers…good thing Cusco is dry and cold)!
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
Program: Taking the ambulance w/ the nurses and other volunteers to Pumamarca - a community just outside of Cusco. We did height, weight, vision, hemoglobin levels and vaccines for the kids in Pumamarca. Fun!!
Host Family: The 2 kids play music as did another volunteer, so nights sitting around after dinner playing music, hanging out and chatting.
Country: Going to Puno / Lake Titicaca with four other volunteers for the weekend. If you go to Puno, stay at “La Casa de Manuelita”! She is absolutely the sweetest, cutest, most accommodating innkeeper. Just go to Puno to meet Manuelita.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
Very easy. Sarah was very communicative and provided lots of info and was free to assist in case I had questions.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website (keywords, search engine, word mouth to mouth, recommended by .., other)
Another classmate in medical school.
NOTE: If you like hiking, plan a trek well in advance of your stay in Peru. Who know if you’ll make it back. Views will be great. I’m certain (haven’t trekked yet) and it is a great opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime physical and mental challenge.