Like bungee jumping, dyeing my hair red and marrying George Clooney, volunteering in Peru was something I’ve always talked about doing but never actually did.
I knew one day I would do it but… not on my next trip. Or the trip after that trip. Probably when I’m 30 or something. That’s when people start taking travel more seriously, right?
On my last trip, I found myself getting serious at a Loki Hostel in Peru.
A favorite among backpackers, Loki hostels are located in four cities: Lima, Cusco, Mancora, La Paz (Bolivia). Not only are the hostels safe and clean, they also offer budget friendly ways to contribute to the area you are visiting.
After a day of sight-seeing in Cusco, (read: gasping for air on steep cobblestone streets), I flashed my wristband to the security guard and walked into the lobby to buy another huge bottle of water. A piece of paper taped on the lobby door caught my eye.
Volunteer sign up for Thursday. Boys orphanage in Oropesa, 30 soles, bring lunch and plan to return by 6pm.
Here it was. An opportunity to walk my talk. Would I finally try out my dream of volunteering in a foreign country?
I immediately put my name on the list.
Yet, despite my excitement over this opportunity, I still had my reservations. I worried about seeing the realities of life at an orphanage. I wondered how much I could really do in a day to help.
At 10 AM, I met the other 8 young women who had signed up to go to Oropesa. We split into small groups and looked for cabs outside our hostel. Once our volunteer coordinator negotiated a fair deal on the cab, we were heading off on the 30 minute drive to Oropesa.
We arrived at a brightly painted building that seemed a little too quiet for a place that housed 12 boys.
The couple that ran the orphanage greeted us and explained the boys were still at school. They asked if we could work in the fields until they returned. So off to the fields we went.
It was tough work. The strong Andean sun beat down on our necks as we tried to break up the hard dirt to make it usable for farming. Intense manual labor wasn’t exactly what I pictured when I signed up, but to be fair, I didn’t really know what to expect.
Then the boys came home. When they saw us, we were immediately overwhelmed with shrieks of excitement and introductions made in broken English. The boys pulled us inside, eager to show us around.
We spent the rest of the afternoon helping the boys with their homework, practicing English and making book covers. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.
The boys gave us long hugs as we said our goodbyes. Our day with them was over too soon.
As you can maybe guess, I’m glad I took the time to volunteer. Even though it was only for a day, it was worth taking the time out to connect with the local community. It may not have changed the world but it made a couple of sweet boys in Peru (and me) smile.
Has anyone else volunteered with Loki? What are your thoughts/experiences on short term volunteering?