Service, Sights, and Rainbows!
Many of you have shown interest and asked what it's like to spend a week of your vacation time volunteering abroad. We want to devote this post to showing you how a week of volunteering abroad can bring you so close to one country while giving back and simply...traveling.
We traveled with GlobeAware who organizes volunteer vacations which are typically one week; they are structured to give you time getting to know the community, work on various service project, spend time with locals, and of course see the surroundings like a tourist all in 7 days.
You heard us right, SEVEN days only! That still sounds too long? I did this over Thanksgiving week and only took 3 vacation days, yep, that's not a lot and I'm sure you can skip one year of Turkey. Your family will forgive you.
Here's a taste of the Cuzco program day by day.
Day 1 - Arrive in Cuzco!
Arrive early AM. Have a light breakfast, take a nap until the afternoon to catch up on unslept hours in the air.
We didn't think we were hungry yet but boy were we in for our first surprise - the incredible lunches! Lunches seemed to be the larger meal of the day, usually starting with a delicious rice soup and today we experienced quinoa crusted chicken! It's as delicious as it sounds - crispy & tender - why don't we have this?
After Lunch, Rosio our wonderful host, takes us through a walk through Cuzco city. I had no expectations of the city but the pure romance of it really captivated me. There were cafe's, restaurants, pubs, and shops with beautiful local artifacts.
Don't be surprised to see locals dressed in native bright dress walking with dressed Alpacas. Selfies are welcome for a small tip!
Quick Tip: Don't rely on debit cards to withdraw local cash - bring some cash to exchange in case the ATM's don't work!
Day 2 - Touring Cuzco and the Sacred Valley
Yes! Another chance to see Peru: we were taken on a full day tour of the Sacred Valley. The trip included an overlook over Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Pisac Market, Salt Mines, and other stops.
Couldn't help but pull over and take in the Sacred Valley Views.
Day 3 - First Work Day
We've done so much so far, time to work!
One of our big projects included helping with painting the outside of the Alberque and building brand new bunk beds.
The House, or referred to al Alberque, also translates into Hostel, hosts kids that live in rural areas during the school week. The kids need to attend secondary school which is not primarily available in villages outside of Cuzco so their parents send them to the city during the week to live and attend school. Secondary school is highly valued in Peru and families will do whatever it takes to send their kids to continue their education. The Alberque hosting program is not readily available to any kids and due to lack of resources can only host a handful of kids at once.
The GlobeAware volunteers play a big role in sustaining the hosting program for these kids so they can continue their education.
We spent the day prepping the outside for painting and began painting.
As mentioned earlier, the lunches were something to look forward to.
Each afternoon after lunch we got the chance to take a rest or nap. Working in high altitude could tire you out if you're not acclimated. Then back to work until about 5:30 pm each day.
Dinner is also meticulously prepared for the volunteers; always a delicious surprise!
Day 4 - Work Day
We spend Day 4 in a similar manner: paint, lunch, nap, paint, dinner, and activity with the kids.
It was important for us to spend time with the kids at the Alberque, each night we were to create an activity for the group - we opted for Yoga! The kids were excited, loved the poses, and actually tuned into meditation. Try to get 20 teens to stay quiet an still for 10 minutes - it was miraculous!
My friend and co-volunteer Cassie inspired her team at Michigan Office Solutions and one of her clients to donate brand new clothes, tooth brushes & shoes to the kids staying at the Alberque.
One of our activities was to talk about dental health and the importance of brushing your teeth the correct way.
Finished painted building.. we got some help but it was a HUGE project complete! Also there are like 7 sides to the building!
Day 4 - Macchu Picchu
This was our free day and of course we spent it exploring the World Heritage Site - Macchu Picchu.
This Cuzco program really allows you to experience Peru as a tourist and a local. With two and a half days of available excursions and tours you feel like you're still traveling while providing value to the local community.
Day 5 - Work Day Village
In the morning we picked up some fruit for the kids at a local market. I could have spent hours at this market eating, taking photos, and just taking in the local life.
Once we arrived at the village outside of Cuzco, with our bare hands & feet we created clay and put together a stove for a kindergarden class.
After lunch we helped with the construction of a large community greenhouse.
The volunteer program does require a donation which varies depending on where you go. The donation you bring goes toward materials used in the projects and the community you service. We were excited to see that this community could have a green house to continue growing fruits and veggies for their families.
It's just as interesting interacting with the kids, watching women dig & plant potatoes, and living life in this moment.
Just as we were about to leave, one of the families of the village wanted to treat us to a special dinner. They knew it was a special holiday for us (Thanksgiving Day) so they prepared something special for us:
Guinea Pig and Potatoes.
Tastes like chicken.
Day 6 - Last Work Day Building Beds
Because of previous volunteers, the Alberque was able to purchase materials, mattresses, and build brand new bunk beds for all of the kids. Us volunteers spent the day taking apart old bunk beds, putting together brand new ones, and furnishing them with fresh mattresses and pillows. By the end of the day we had put together 11 bunk beds for the girls section of the home. They were so excited!
some of the old bunk beds we took apart
On the last day the kids put on a huge dancing and singing production for the volunteers. It was a nice farewell!
2 AM - Leave for Rainbow Mountain.
Seven Day Adventure in Peru Complete.
Do we recommend it?
- The week is very organized
- Projects vary from day to day
- The food is plentiful, home cooked, and delicious
- The host (Rosio) makes you feel welcome and part of her family
- You get to see Sacred Valley and Macchu Picchu (can't go wrong there!)
- You feel fulfilled with the work and relationship you made with Cuzco, Peru, and the community
- How can you get involved?
Go to Globe Aware (http://www.globeaware.org) and sign up for this or one of their other great programs.