British volunteer Mary Richards had never really considered volunteering before she decided to come to Peru to work with Globalteer at Picaflor House, our community project just outside Cusco. Bringing up two children and working full time always meant that precious holiday time was usually spent recharging the batteries for two weeks before getting back to the grind stone once again.
But with the children now grown, and having been made redundant from her job as a project manager after fourteen years of service, Mary suddenly found she had the freedom to do a lot more with her spare time. Here she explains how she came to be a volunteer with Globalteer’s Peru Community Project and, shares some of the highlights – and challenges – of her time in Cusco.
Why would I be any good?
“When I first started thinking about volunteering I did ask myself, what skills have I got that might be useful? I’m not a teacher or a nurse but then I thought, actually, I brought up two children, I can do this! And whilst I do speak some Spanish you don’t actually need to in order to be a good volunteer. You can communicate in different ways if you are determined and use common sense!
“I noticed a difference in the children here immediately. They seem to have no malice, they want to share things and they are so kind. There are no gender stereotypes - the boys are allowed to like pink and glitter. And they are generally so well behaved – hardly any paddies or tantrums. I only hope that it will say like that.
Seeing change, before my very eyes
“It was also refreshing to see how quickly things are moving on at the project. When I arrived there was talk of starting a kindergarten for the children’s younger brothers and sisters. And while I have been here, funding has been secured and they are looking for a kindergarten teacher. It’s just great to see things really happening. I feel more important now, when a little girl comes and takes my hand than I ever did putting on my suit and going to meetings. My husband might notice some changes in me since I came here!
“With the benefit of hindsight I think I could have easily done this for two weeks when I was still working full time instead of, say, sitting on a beach in Mexico. It might have made me view my job differently too!
My Peruvian homestay
“I stayed at a homestay in Cusco, which was great for learning Spanish, and the food was brilliant. They really made me feel part of the family. It was the feast of All Souls while I was there and the family took me with them to the huge cemetery out of town. I felt a little bit like I was intruding, but when I got there, there was a group of Mexicans playing music by one of the tombs, and ‘my family’ were really keen to show me all the little offerings at the tombs. There was even a little Eiffel tower by one of them. I didn’t feel like an outsider at all.
“The homestays are comfortable, but obviously not to European standards, but that’s what you expect. It does get cold at night too and Peruvian homes don’t have heating! So bring lots of warm clothing with you and if you want to be near the action in the centre of town then let Globalteer know when you apply as I was a bus ride away, although that was fine or me.
What I liked about Globalteer
“I liked Globalteer’s approach from the start – I admit I nearly went with another organisation but something didn’t feel right. The volunteering side of things was treated as a kind of add-on but with Globalteer I knew all about the project and the sort of work I would be doing before I left, and I felt that there really was a need for me to help. I received lots of information before I left and the pack I received when I arrived was brilliant.
"With some of the other organisations I felt like the volunteering was somehow secondary in importance, people were doing it just to collect things to put on their CVs. And of course Globalteer is non-profit which is also important to me. There were lots of pictures on the website which I liked – it was nice when I got here as I recognised lots of things at the project from the website.
“I am already thinking of going to volunteer at one of Globalteer’s Asian projects and my husband and both my children are really keen to volunteer now too. If you’re thinking about volunteering with Globalteer I’d say, do it! Don’t think twice, just get on a plane and do it.”