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.