It started as an idea, something that popped up in my head one day, while thinking about what to do for vacation. 'International', I thought to myself. I'd never really traveled out of the United States before (full disclosure - a week on a beach in Mexico doesn't really count) and I wanted to finally experience a different part of the world. The spark behind the next thought ignited into something truly special, with the realization that I wanted to not just go 'International', I wanted to help, to spend my vacation making a contribution to a world very different than one I live in on a daily basis, and if I was lucky, authentically connect with the culture and people in the country I would visit.
By the time I found Globe Aware online, I already knew I wanted to volunteer in Cusco, Peru and I was happy to find what seemed like a perfect fit. As Controller for a nonprofit that helps low income students pursue and complete college, I see on a daily basis the tremendous impact passionate people can make when they help others and I was so excited for the adventure that lay ahead of me in a foreign land! The prospect of working with an organization that helped native Peruvian children obtain an education almost 5000 miles away from home spoke to my heart.
Algergue Hatun Socco Wasi, translated from the native Peruvian language of Quechua to English means Big Heart Home. It serves 25 students from remote villages in the Peruvian Andes, allowing them to access education beyond the limited resources of their own communities. The children, aged 10 to 17, travel two to three hours (one way) on a weekly basis to and from home to the albergue, returning with their payment for the privilege to access education... potatoes! Unbelievable. I quickly learned upon my arrival that the Globe Aware volunteer coordinator, Rocio, was not only overseeing our team of volunteers, but the children, the home, three dogs and all else that it entailed, she lived on site and was also enrolled in University, focusing on Environmental Studies! I was continually inspired bu Rocio and the passion and commitment she had for Peru.
It's funny what they say about volunteering, that you always get more than you give. I feel like I contributed in simple ways during my stay at the albergue; helping the children with their English, carrying mortar of mud and grass to the fathers of the children while they stacked mud and grass bricks, one after anorther, to make the walls of what would become two small buildings in the albergue's courtyard and stripping the bark off the logs that would eventually become roof supports for the buildings. Bringing a backpack full of supplies to a beautiful and simple Quechuan home high in the mountains above Cusco and being to tired after the steep hike to complete the original intent of the visit... building an eco stove for the lovely people living there!
As the resident and our driver used a mixture of mud and grass to quickly build a two burner stove, the other volunteers and I panted for breath in the thin Andes air. Overall, I can't help but feel that my efforts were such a small contribution compared to the amazing experiences of the trip - the very connections and exposure to the Peruvian people and culture most tourists would never experience. From the joy of singing along with the children to American songs, to the camaraderie with the other volunters, meeting a hard working woman who not unlike myself (though Rocio is a much harder worker than I ever could be!), countless smiles and laughter, to the party and our final evening with the children, these beautiful memories all became the true treasures of my volunteer vacation in Peru. - Aimee Little, November 2011