After one week in Cusco, I have become a little more accustomed to my surroundings, learned more about the city, and fallen in love with the area. I have always wanted to visit South America, and after taking a Spanish class focused on the Andean region, I knew I wanted to come to Peru. After finding Ubelong through Opportunity Hub, I researched the organization and I appreciated its bottom-up approach to volunteering through listening to the needs of the local communities. I also admire that the organization values providing relatively cheap, accessible opportunities to volunteer abroad because they want to give many people the opportunity to volunteer their time and learn about global issues. I worked in a summer camp for one summer in high school, and through that same organization I volunteered for a very short time at an orphanage in Honduras. Thus, Ubelong’s program to work in an orphanage interested me.
Every weekday afternoon for five weeks, I take a 20-minute bus ride to the orphanage and spend about 3 hours with the children after they return from school. The orphanage is comprised of several different houses with around 7-10 children and a ‘mother,’ each within the same age and gender range. This past week I was in a house with seven 8-9 year old girls, and one baby boy. I found the sisterhood and teamwork within the house heart-warming, and I enjoyed coloring with them, helping them with homework, and playing outside with them. My communication skills with them have improved, but there are still many times that what they say goes over my head, and I have to improvise. I begin Spanish classes tomorrow, so hopefully this improves my language skills as well.
Mother’s Day is a massive celebration here, so when I arrived to the orphanage on Thursday, everyone was in mass. Following the mass, we went into a meeting room and all the house mothers sat at a table and received gifts and everyone was served a meal. A band came to perform and most of the kids had prepared and performed dances and skits for the mothers. It was so amazing to see after the girls had been talking about the dance the entire week.
During the weekends, we are welcome to plan excursions or activities, and yesterday I went with two other girls to hike Rainbow Mountain. The altitude made the hike a little difficult, especially towards the top, but it was well worth it and it was a fantastic view.
This week I hope to form stronger bonds with the children, improve my Spanish skills, and learn more about the region.