"To anyone thinking about coming I would say, just come. Don’t think about it too much. It’s the best thing I have ever done."
23 year-old Theo from Cambridgeshire in England had recently qualified as an audio engineer but was working as a waiter when he thought, ‘that’s it, I have to do something different’.
Despite never having owned a dog – he had made do with “small pets” like goldfishes and hamsters as a child - Theo had always wanted one and that, coupled with his belief that helping the less fortunate is just “the right thing to do” meant that volunteering ticked a lot of boxes.
So he started saving and in October 2013 he became Globalteer’s first ever volunteer at the Peru Dog Rescue Project just outside Cusco.
We asked Theo what made him why he chose Globalteer and to tell us a bit about his experience volunteering in Peru. This is what he told us.
“I chose Globalteer for lots of reasons. Because everything was explained really clearly on the website, where the money goes - I particularly like that Globalteer is a registered charity - because they don’t try to advertise volunteering as a holiday which was important to me. This was about working and helping out, not having a holiday! Other organisations also seemed more interested in just getting my money than in what I would achieve as a volunteer – for myself and for the project. Globalteer wasn’t like that at all.
“The Globalteer set up here in Cusco is really good too. You are met at the airport, I was taken up to the project by a member of Globalteer staff - that really put me at my ease - and although you are thrown in at the deep end, there is always someone there to help if you need them.”
You really do make a big difference
“It has been an eye-opening experience – even just getting the bus to the project each day, through really poverty-stricken areas. I feel like I have actually done something to contribute at the project too. You really do make a big difference - to the dogs and to the people helping at the project. It looks like it’s really tough work but the Project Director is very relaxed and she understands how it can be hard work, especially early on at this high altitude - and is very flexible. She is happy for you sit down, chill out and take a rest whenever you need to. But you really want to just keep on working!”
Apart from the work being quite tough at times, Theo was pleasantly surprised by the variety of tasks he got involved in and was impressed by the project’s strategic approach to its goals.
“I have done way more than I ever thought I would. It is hard work – taking food and water to the project, lugging building materials like these really heavy adobe bricks up the hill to make improvements to the project. I have helped to deliver and resuscitate a litter of puppies, and I am going to assist at a neutering operation too (all done by a qualified vet). And if there are no volunteers the project director has to do it all herself or rely her friends. She is amazing. I’ve never met anyone with so much determination nor with so much passion.
“I love the two prong approach of the project too – caring for the animals and educating people so they stop abusing them. Going into a school with the project was interesting, not just because it was good to see the project director in action teaching the kids - you know they are sometimes taught that animals feel no pain - but also as it showed me another side to Peruvian life, what schools are like for the kids (Theo went on to volunteer at Globalteer’s Peru Community project after volunteering with the dogs).
“I am not sure if it will have changed me – maybe I will notice more when I go home and see how people take everything for granted. This kind of experience can make people appreciate what they have more which is a good thing. It is a shock to see people looking for food in the bins, people and kids trying to sell you stuff, anything, for pennies, just to make ends meet. The poverty is in your face, it is everywhere”.
“To anyone thinking about coming I would say, just come. Don’t think about it too much. It’s the best thing I have ever done. Everything is different to what you are used to – the food, language, culture, what things cost, the people you will meet…but everyone is really friendly – the other volunteers and the locals And I have always felt really safe here. The Social life is really good too - every night of the week if you want it. And even if you come here on your own and there are no other volunteers, the dog project director speaks English and she and her friends are all really friendly and really sociable, so it’s hard to feel lonely.
I’m already thinking about doing it again next year…”
If you would like to help Cusco's street dogs and the amazing staff at the Peru Dog Rescue Project, now's a good time to take the first step. Just fill in our Peru Dog Rescue Project application form and who knows - you could be helping to deliver puppies just like Theo!