Meeting the kids at the various groups (4 – 5 groups whilst I was visiting) I understood instantly why Jim felt as passionately as he does about helping them. Lively, smart, funny and eager, kids of all ages, from 16 way down to just a year would turn up each week, watching out for us to arrive, insisting on carrying our bags up the hill for us, hugs all round. Art proved to be the favourite (very messy!) activity. Jims magic tricks get him called over to entertain in the streets. And I was surprised just how many children would actually ASK to do maths (writing a math lesson in Spanish remains one of my life’s proudest achievements J ). William, a fantastic local volunteer English teacher, wowed me with his patience and dedication. He also gave me Spanish lessons and proved to be just as patient with slow, confused 20-somethings as he is with loud, crazy children! Being invited to be part of everyday family life was lovely too, birthday parties, the arrival of a new baby, seeing how people really live- the ways in which we are all different yet all the same- I definitely got to see a side of the “real” Peru.
It was brilliant to see how much I was able to contribute, just with thoughts and ideas- creating new games to help with English, the arrival of materials from England that my friends and family collected for us, being used right from the moment they arrived. The whole experience was so hands on, I never felt I was just there to fill a bunk and pay my way- I was there to help and I was making a difference every day.
Jim was a great host during my staying, making sure I knew my way around town, how much to pay for food, taxis etc, making sure I was happy and healthy throughout (I was). Great conversation and great knowledge of the local history and area, never a dull moment!
If you are thinking of volunteering, I say go for it. If you have any doubts or any questions, just ask Jim. He’ll be honest with you. You can make a difference, these kids don’t have a lot and they are keen to learn. And if you are worried you don’t have much to teach, don’t worry, they will just be thrilled to meet you, and, like me, you’ll find your feet when you are there.
So, finally, I would just like to say thank you to Jim, William, Jim’s wonderful partner Choco, Anthula who rented me a room in her house, and everyone else who helped make my stay with Changes for a New Hope so wonderful and rewarding. And last but not least, to all the kids who kept me challenged, entertained, exhausted (how do they run up hills like that!?) and delighted. I can’t wait to go back for my next visit. By Rebecca James in the United Kingdom