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“I was in Arequipa with Traveller Not Tourist for 6 months as part of my year abroad. I took a chance by going to South America and it was more than worth it, and I wish I could have stayed out there longer.
When I first arrived, it felt so strange to finally be there, after so many months of planning. I was welcomed by the staff and current volunteers straight away which made the transition from England to Peru that much easier. The city is just as beautiful as advertised, and there were so many things to see.
The culture and lifestyle of Peru is so incredible and really changed me in the best ways. It was also so easy to go visit some of the most popular sights in Peru, such as Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and Cusco, made all the more better by the volunteers and other travellers that join in on the adventure.
My time as the volunteer coordinator with TNT was some of the best months of my life and to be involved in such an amazing organization really was the best part of the job. Even though I usually spoke with the volunteers in English, I improved my Spanish so much from speaking with the projects and tour companies and of course the locals and it really made an impact in helping me understand what I want out of a future career.
To meet people from different countries, backgrounds, and experiences was an added bonus. To give these people the opportunity to not only see an incredible country but to also make an enormous contribution of time and happiness to the children here in Arequipa made me feel so great, and just shows what incredible work Traveller Not Tourist is doing.
Some of my best times there, were showing the new volunteers around the city, showing them the incredible sites in the centre and of course showing them how to use the craziness that Peruvians call a bus service. Also going around the markets and finding out about the “witch” area where I was once offered a gecko to improve a wound or spending lunch in the picanterias to experience local food, which is delicious. There was no comparison to the day to day life I had the pleasure of enjoying there.
The projects that Traveller Not Tourist is involved with are doing incredibly good work. I would like to mention the Kindergarten in particular, as I became very close with the amazing lady running it. Their main priority is giving these children a good start in education, in a safe environment when their parents need to work. I remember one day, when I went in to check how the volunteers were doing, I got to go round and judge the classrooms for the first day of spring, as each year group had made decorations and hung them up around the room. Seeing how excited they were was just incredible and the kindergarten as a whole gives me hope that these kids can achieve great things in the future.
Towards the end of my time in Arequipa, I got to be a part of a big push forward in the construction of the new Casa Hogar. Alongside members of both Pachawawas and Stitching, and of course the incredible local volunteers, we sanded and painted the walls in what will be an incredible future for the project. I can’t wait to see it finished and see the chance for more kids to get the help they need.
For me, the reaction that really showed me how truly valuable my time with Traveller Not Tourist was, was when I arrived back home and went for a big dinner with my family and everyone kept saying how much I was smiling and how healthy and happy I looked. I wouldn’t trade my time in Arequipa for anything, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to make a difference not only to the children out there, but also their own life. And to all the amazing people involved in the projects and of course the beautiful children I met as well, I miss you all, and will be coming back at the first possible chance.”
Kimmy, March 2016
Following their recent fundraising event, where they raised over £1,800 to help build the new Children’s Home, we thought it would be nice to post the blog written by Hannah and Stu while they were volunteering with us back in February and March 2014. So here it is (read the original here)
We spent a wonderful month volunteering at a children’s home in Arequipa, Peru. Casa Hogar cares for up to 21 abused and abandoned babies and children at any one time. It is run by local volunteers (who get bed and board but are not paid) – called “Tias” or aunties – and relies entirely on donations as it does not receive any government funding. At the time we were volunteering it was home to 9 children under 4, and a further 6 older kids up to 12.
Volunteers work in shifts – either 7am to 12 or 1 to 6pm, playing with the children, helping with feeding and nappy changing as needed, and completing domestic chores such as peeling vegetables, sweeping and mopping floors, and laundry – and you can imagine how much washing is created by 15 children.
We travelled to Casa Hogar by bus each day, walking into central Arequipa, standing on a street corner with a great view of El Misti on a clear day, and flagging down the appropriate bus. The buses were the size of a small transit van, with about 15 seats and more space for standing – which is actually more like crouching, even for us shorties! 20 minutes later we would shout “Baja” as we approached our bus stop, and walk another few minutes to the orphanage.
Stuart spent a lot of time helping the lovely Tia Sonia in the kitchen, where she prepared all meals from scratch. Meals nearly always have fresh vegetables, potatoes, pasta or rice and often fish or meat. Stu enjoyed learning some useful Spanish words and teaching Sonia the English equivalents, with only a couple of minor mishaps through instructions being lost in translation! Hannah had a good joke with Sonia when she (hannah) briefly forgot the word for cake in Spanish and could only remember the French – and told Sonia, tongue-in-cheek, that she liked baking “gateaux”. Given that “gato” is Spanish for cat, you can imagine the hilarity that ensued! Hannah also enjoyed chatting with Sonia about the difficult balance between discipline and love, and helping kids who’ve had a hard start in life to learn to make healthy choices.
Given our lack of fluency in Spanish we spent most of our time with the littlest kids, who loved songs, dances (the hokey-cokey became a firm favourite), peek-a-boo, and silly animal voices, as well as improvised puppets made out of discarded socks, and percussion instruments made out of ripped dustbin liners and nappy bags. At one point there were 5 kiddies miaowing like kittens and crawling round on all fours as their imaginations expanded on Hans cat impression. They especially liked being turned upside down, and being spun around like an aeroplane. We also introduced a couple of games to the older children, including the cereal box game (where you pick up an ever shrinking cereal box up off the floor with only your teeth, and only your feet can touch the floor) and “Hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades” (where you move to the next chair when your card is called). With so many children it was inevitable there would be birthday parties, and we watched more games like musical chairs, with jelly and cake served up to excited kids. One of the littlest ones would search the room for leftover jelly and, if not stopped first, would polish everything off. Pińatas were always hung as a birthday treat for the evening.
Hannah also spent some time helping the on site teacher, Yessenia, with stimulation time for younger kids, and Stu also engineered a trip to the local park for footie and ’round the pole’ with the older kids.
One of the Tias was a hairdresser, and Han also took the opportunity for a haircut, once all the necessary implements had been located (combs etc had been scattered by inquisitive children)!
We were lucky to join the children on two outings while we were there. First, we took a minibus to the countryside. We had a bit of a trek with all the children plus lunch, drinks, games etc when the bus couldn’t navigate the steep and narrow lanes to our final destination but after two barefoot river crossings we were rewarded with a delicious rice and chicken lunch under the trees. Wandering down to the riverside, one of our colleagues was advised by the one of the Tias not to get the children wet. When he returned 10 minutes later he was met with the sight of almost all the children stripped to nappies or underwear splashing about in the shallow water! Han spent much of the day with one little girl, C, whose delighted but cautious reactions revealed the novelty of the whole experience.
Our second big trip was with all of the younger children to the beach (the older children had just returned to school and another beach outing for them was planned at a later date). We got taxis to the local bus station and then took a 2 hour bus ride to Mollendo. The sea was choppy so the kids enjoyed exploring water and sand in two hired paddling pools. You can imagine we were fighting a losing battle in trying to keep sand out of the lunches, despite repeated washing and dryings of hands. Some of the children enjoyed seeing sandcastles magically appear from buckets, others helped in digging a hole big enough to stand inside, and others loved just pouring water. None liked the cold showers afterwards! We shared Hannah’s homemade chocolate carrot cake on the bus home, and everyone fell asleep, except for one of the twins, sitting with Hannah and another volunteer, who squirmed for half an hour and seemed to have a major sugar rush from all the cake!
The beach was our last day at the orphanage and it was with great sadness that we got the children ready for bed and said goodbye to the dedicated, hard-working Tias.
As Casa Hogar relies on donations we wanted to provide some educational toys and Han spent a fun and guilt-free afternoon shopping with another volunteer, Natalie and Yessenia the teacher. Another volunteer who sadly wasn’t well enough to come gave a donation. With the pot of donations Han helped with selecting and bartering for wooden puzzles, musical instruments, toy doctors kit and puppets in the local market, as well as simple items like thread and beads and washing line and pegs – the children love helping hanging washing and the latter items have apparently already proved a hit!
A day or two later we took a taxi with Mel, the volunteer coordinator, to see the new building which is currently under construction in a village in the countryside outside Arequipa, with roof views of the volcanoes. The current home is not really big enough for the Casa Hogar family, with 5 babies in one small room, the play area sharing space with the washing line and water tower, and no safe garden space. One of the Tias who is an architect has designed a new, bigger, 3 story building, and construction of the first and second floors has begun. The building will host up to 30 children. Unfortunately the charity has run out of money and needs to raise more before construction can be completed and the children can enjoy more space, in a better designed environment. We are planning some fundraising ourselves this summer.
We continue our “In their own words” series with a post from Mel, who has been our Intern Volunteer Co-ordinator for the last year. Here she gives us the lowdown on working for TNT, living long-term in Arequipa and, of course, the kids.
“I have in been in Arequipa with Traveller Not Tourist 11 ½ months – I am leaving this week – I can´t believe it! I have been completing an internship as Volunteer Co-ordinator, and have absolutely loved it.
Arequipa itself is a lovely city, I felt at home straight away. A beautiful place, the people are friendly and everything I needed.The combis (generally tiny buses carrying too many people at once) were a novelty at the beginning, which has definitely worn off – being tall does not go in my favour! There is plenty to do in Arequipa and really easy to travel to places like Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and Cusco.
I really enjoy the job itself, meeting so many different volunteers from different backgrounds, cultures, motives for travelling, travelling routes etc – 14 nationalities over the course of my time! I have met some of the best people I have ever met and hope I keep in contact with them – a reunion trip to Dublin has already been planned!
I enjoyed having the responsibility of showing new volunteers around the city and the Casa Hogar, although I have had more than 1 night spent worrying about where a new volunteer is and if they´re lost – they never are though! I enjoyed the marketing, although it could be monotonous at times, and seeing the numbers of volunteers increase over the year was great! Translating the tours, helping people plan their trips and seeing their photos after was also really nice and I am so looking forward to planning my own travelling.
I have also been involved in the new construction, being the middle man for Pachawawas (the registered charity in England and Wales that supports the projects TNT works with) and the Casa Hogar (The Children’s Home we work with). I think it´s a great achievement that 3 small charities have worked together to be able to build 2 stories of a huge purpose built house and I look forward to returning to Arequipa to see the finished thing (we still need lots of money to finish. Please donate here!)
And of course, the most important thing – the beautiful children of the Casa Hogar. They all have really stolen my heart and it is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done to leave. To see the ´babies´ progress – from crawling to walking to talking. Hearing them say my name for the first time is amazing! Not forgetting the older children, the way they are growing up shows how good of a place it is and how good the work of the Tías (long-term local volunteers) and Traveller Not Tourist volunteers is! A 4 year old boy arrived just over a week ago and did nothing but cry and was afraid of everyone, his cheeks were stained white from his tears. It was so sad to see, but within 2 days I saw a noticeable difference and by the third he was smiling and laughing. He has a long way to go but it really shows what a special place the Casa Hogar is.
I have had the opportunity to take the children on some fantastic trips including the zoo, the park, the countryside, the cinema and of course the beach – trips I will never forget. To see the children when they arrive back to the house and tell the Tías what they have done is amazing! I hope I have made a hundredth of a difference on their lives as they have on mine. Of course, some times in the Casa Hogar are stressful, when the Tías aren´t helping as much as you think they should or all the children are all in a bad mood but the good times definitely overrule the bad! I would recommend to anyone who hasn´t been to go and volunteer, and anyone who has been, go back and see the progress!!
It has been a rewarding, yet sometimes tough 11 months, especially sharing a room and not seeing my friends and family for so long (although some of them used it as an excuse for a holiday in Peru!) but it really has been the experience of a lifetime. To walk into the Casa Hogar and for the children to run up and jump on you excited to see you is a special feeling. I am dreading leaving yet at the same time looking forward to my next adventure – travelling and then returning to England, with the kids always in my heart.”
If you are interested in doing an Internship with Traveller Not Tourist, or in helping in anyway, please contact us.
This is the first of our “In their own words” series, where we invite volunteers to pen some of their thoughts and share them with the readers of our website. Here are volunteer Kate’s first impressions of Arequipa…
“Hi there, I’ve been a week now in Arequipa and am settling in well.
The White City’s centre is just as the travel books describe it, regally elegant and stunningly bright. Constructed of ashlar, the remaining rock from volcanic foam-like material that spewed across the Cerro Colorado district first 13 million years ago and more recently 2.5 million years ago. Ashlar is used for it’s reflective qualities and keeps the interior of the buildings cool.
I live in the Cayma district (barrio or borough) which is the most modern of all the barrios of the city. It’s really useful for us westerners to allow adaptation. Along the little street where I live, called Las Arces, there are many many many little cake and coffee shops – the Arequipenans love their cake!
At the end of the street is a main road on which it’s possible to catch a ‘combi’ bus to just about anywhere you could want to go. 80 centimos (approx. 20p) will get you a bus ride to anywhere, any distance, within the city and it’s suburbs. The combi bus is a cultural experience in itself. The fare collector, man or woman continually calls out where the bus is, lets the travellers on and off, and tells the driver when to stop to pick someone up or to go on again. The variety of passengers is intriguing to watch. There are Peruvian ladies of indigenous backgrounds with their long plaited hair, their voluminous brightly coloured skirts, waistcoats and of course the essential bowler style hat perched on top of the raven black silken hair. Little black eyed children wrapped up in a variety of brightly coloured clothes and a wooly hat, just in case they catch a chill in the 18 degrees that is cooler than the usual 22! Youngsters in their tight jeans and sassy style tops going into the town centre to meet with friends as it’s the holiday season here from Christmas until the end of February and the end of the heavy rainy season. Old folk with bundles of laundry or shopping carried in baskets or crates or big brightly coloured bags. But no animals. I haven’t yet seen an animal on the combi buses, but there’s time yet.
Crossing the main road at the end of my street is by way of a large metal stairway structure. I haven’t attempted it in the rain yet and plan not to as the steps are somewhat shiny even when not wet – they are certainly well worn. Once crossed there is a taxi rank full of little yellow diddy size taxis that toot at you to catch your attention for trade. They are so small it’s hard to imagine that they would fit even two full sized westerners let alone the reported five or six that the girls in the flat tell me they’ve managed to squeeze in before the law of no more than four passengers at a time has been more strictly enforced. This takes us to the shopping centre where there is anything one could want or need, supermarket with recognisable brands and types of fruit, pharmacies, a full range of clothes shops and, at the back, a leisure area made up of a KFC, MacDonalds, Chinese food style foodcourt, a cinema complex with a great range of subtitled English/American films and a range of dubbed too and a gym. It’s pleasantly, undemandingly familiar and regular, where little if no language is required for the majority of transactions.
Outside on the street you can eat from many different restaurants, local, Chinese, burgers, eat corn from the street sellers, pop into the fruit and veg market and choose from the familiar varieties or the unpronounceable and unfamiliar exotic selection. Walk all the way into the city centre down the street taking in the hubble and bubble of Arequipan life, calling into shopping centres, markets, call centres, mobile phone shops, cake shop after cake shop until you cross the big white bridge with the fast flowing Rio Chili which splits the city. On one side of the river bank is a small shanty community, with it’s corrugated walls and roofs, it’s mud floors and it’s washing lines, with little dirty faced and clothed children running around playing with what they can find and pick up. On the other side is the start of the city centre with it’s beautiful architecture, it’s cobbled streets, shops selling alpaca wool items, postcards, business offices, churches and monasteries, restaurants and bars. It’s just a 20 minute walk to the city centre from my apartment but an experience of enormous proportions. All of which, I’d like to add, so far and in general are safe and pleasant and interesting. This is not a threatening city, neighbourhood, or people. They are kind, sweet and generally a little shy, quick to smile and make a little joke, happy to help and offer good service.
These are my first impressions of Arequipa and they are positive. It appears to be a promising place to spend a significant amount of time, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the city the people and the culture.
Ciao for now amigos, Kate”
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We believe that communication is one of the keys to a really interesting and meaningful volunteer experience. The better you can communicate, the more you will get from the children and the Peruvians you meet during your stay with us…and … Continue reading
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Our dedicated volunteer accommodation is situated close to the centre of Arequipa and a few minutes away from a handy shopping and entertainment centre. The rooms are shared so you will have no problems making friends, and there are communal … Continue reading
Well, it has been a long time coming but we have finally launched our new website! Jay wrote the first one with no experience and a black market copy of Dreamweaver back in 2007. It served us well, gaining over 100,000 hits and attracting lots of wonderful volunteers but we know it left a lot to be desired! We hope this new site, kindly designed by volunteer Kiroh, will be easier to navigate and have more functionality, whilst being both as friendly and as comprehensive as the old one.
In the same vein, we have decided to mark this new era with a new logo, which was also generously donated by a volunteer – Alyse. It’s a slightly fresher and more simple reworking of the old one (which Luis designed also back in 2007 and with a black market design program We hope the new logo speaks of connections, travel and positive interactions. Let us know what you think!
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Colca Canyon is a canyon of the Colca River in southern Peru, located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Arequipa. It is Peru’s third most visited tourist destination with about 160,000 visitors annually. It is more than twice as deep … Continue reading