Volunteer stories : Jane M., General Care Projects in Peru
An experience of a lifetime – October - December 2009
Maybe it was a mid-life crisis or maybe it was just a desire to do something different, exciting and something I had never done before but when my friend said to me “your only regrets in life are the things you never do” I went ahead, albeit it with slight trepidation and booked my 6 week placement in Peru working in Care.
Not being a spring chicken I have a lot of work experience both in the field of care, working with children, sport and also importantly a mother of two teenage daughters. What I didn’t have was the amazing confidence of the gap year students who seemed to do all sorts of daring and scary things and take so much in their stride! This made the decision about what to do quite difficult but, weighing it all up, I decided I would enjoy working with very young children again (hopefully not getting too broody!) which is how I ended up working in a day centre for under 2’s.
What a life changing and memorable experience it was. The children in the day centre were adorable, cute, naughty and hugely energetic, providing me with a new lease of life, making me glad I was fit as I raced about the playground chasing, catching and cuddling them and I realised that no matter where children come from and what their backgrounds are, having fun and learning new things is what they love most; well that and their food! Peruvian babies eat so much and there is no room for not liking things as everything gets hoovered up, vegetables and all!
The teachers in the school were really appreciative of my help and I think being older and being used to looking after children was very valued by them. Even my bad Spanish improved a lot (not difficult as I could hardly say anything to start with) but the children didn’t mind when I spoke the odd word in English and in fact seemed to really like my rendition of Old Macdonald that I sang regularly in English, I suppose the animals in Peru make the same noises after all!
My host family was wonderful, Elizabeth, Sydney and children Rodrigo (8) and Maricielo (3). I felt so at home, welcomed and cared for and really got to know them as friends as well as my family. Myself and Elizabeth got on really well and shared many stories about the trials and tribulations of bringing up children and husbands!! We regularly watched films together and I introduced Elizabeth to the joys of a glass of wine with the film! The children were wonderful and even put up with my bad Spanish, I will never forgot the day I was chatting to Rodrigo in Spanish thinking I was doing really well when at the end of the question and discussion I was having he looked at me bemused and said “Que?”! Oh well I tried!!
I met so many lovely volunteers, some as young as my daughters and a few my age, which was great and allowed me to go off and do things that older people do! Having said that, the young volunteers never made me feel out of things and I always felt part of all the activities. I saw most of the wonderful attractions within the Sacred Valley and spent a few great weekends exploring Cusco and Lake Titicaca. After a few weeks of being without my family I really started to learn about a whole other side of myself that I didn’t know existed and know now that I will travel alone again and I will do more volunteering again. I have developed a new found confidence.
Leaving the day centre and leaving my host family was one of the hardest things I have done in my life and for someone who is not overly tearful I shed enough tears on my last day to last for the next year! They were happy tears though and tears that are full of memories that will last a lifetime.
For anyone who is just thinking about doing some volunteering work with Projects Abroad particularly, if you are of more mature years, then I would say think no more just do it, you will love it and will have so much fun – I did and now I’m a convert! I’m already wondering when my new employer will allow me to take time off to do some more!
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