Volunteer Spotlight: Kiri

Kiri was just 18 when she volunteered at Globalteer’s Peru Children’s Project at Picaflor House for two months in 2011. Inspired by her godparents’ tales of South America and Cusco, and encouraged by her godmother’s accounts of volunteering with Globalteer in Cambodia, the decision to volunteer with the children at Picaflor was an easy one for Kiri:

“I just love the energy, playfulness and curiosity of children. They need to know everything right in that moment and I love the never ending questions. And of course…children are the future and knowledge is power so anything that I could do to possibly brighten a child’s future...who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Having done some voluntary work with disabled kids back home in Australia, and helped out with children’s sports during a school trip to East Timor she had an idea of what was in store for her when she embarked on her trip to Peru. Here she recounts her experience.

First impressions

“I’m not sure what I was expecting, I had seen lots of photos of Cusco and the real thing did not disappoint. I had already spent several days in Chile before arriving in Peru, so I was already over most of my culture shock. I had chosen Globalteer as it was much cheaper than other companies that offered basically the same thing and for me as a student on a gap year that was really important. I also had a very high recommendation about the company from my godmother who had volunteered with Globalteer in Cambodia.

“The journey for me was quite hard as I was alone and spent 4 days in Santiago (Chile) before travelling to Peru. I was in culture shock and I experienced some anxiety in such a big strange place completely alone.”

But once Kiri was in Oropesa things soon slotted into place.

“The bus to the project was fine, the first day Annie took us and then the next couple of days Denise (one of the other volunteers) showed me around Cusco and how to get to the bus stop etc. There were always volunteers there that you could organise something with in the morning and travel in together so there was never any issue. I knew absolutely no Spanish when I arrived but I had no problems with communication – you would be surprised at how much you can get across with hand signals and a couple of words.

“The best part about the volunteer accommodation was being in the same place as all the other volunteers that meant there was always someone around if you needed them. The wi-fi was also great because I could Skype with family and it didn’t feel like you were completely at the end of the world.”

Highs and lows

“I had so many highlights. Meeting such amazing people from all over the world who you know will be lifelong friends. There were too many highlights with the kids to count. One day we took them to a wildlife rescue centre, another day we got a TV and watched The Lion King in Spanish!

“There were also a lot of challenges, probably the biggest for me was not having my family around as a support unit when I got sick, had my wallet stolen, also when my Auntie passed away and I wasn’t at home to support my family. Skype was great and I had a phone for emergencies. The best thing that helped me through were all the other volunteers, whether it was giving me crackers when I couldn’t eat dinner or coming with me to the tourist police or even just there for a good hug, the other volunteers helped me through so much.

“I think the best impact we had with working with the children was just being there. Giving them a reliable safe-house where they could learn and play with their friends after school. Also that there were constantly new volunteers with different strengths from different places - that made the kids really curious about the world around them.”

The final farewell

“Leaving felt strange because I had lived there for 2 months. It was really hard to have to say goodbye, especially to the children. It had its challenges but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Thank you so much for the great experience and special thanks to Annie because she was a fantastic project manager and has done so much amazing work for Picaflor House!”

Kiri is eager to do more volunteering as soon as she can, and has even started discussing a reunion with some of her fellow volunteers at Globalteer’s Children’s Project in Cambodia.

“Of course I love volunteering so I will definitely do it again...soon.”