Otra Cosa is a charity organisation in Huanchaco, a small town in northern Peru. It provides basic services to the poorest members of Peruvian society, and plays an important role in providing refuge to women who have had to leave their partners. As well as this, they also offer swimming lessons, which in a coastal town is of huge safety importance, English lessons, reading clubs and other activities to keep children out of gangs and in the education system for as long as possible.
Faye Connolly spent 10 months teaching English to the poorest children in Peru with Otra Cosa Network. Faye described it as “the most challenging year of my life, as natural disasters struck whilst also living in a completely different culture”. In regards to the teaching, Faye says she was lucky enough to experience educating “the craziest, but at the same time, loveliest children”.
“Teaching in a country like Peru also gives you a passport to travelling.”
The complete chaos and little discipline that Faye experienced “was an eye opener”. Lessons are cancelled without any warning, break times are often double the length they should be, and school often finishes early, or it does not even start at all, without reason. As a result, this made the school a confusing and unpredictable environment for the children as well as staff, making it a difficult place to teach in.
However, with lots of patience and the constant need to have a backup plan, these problems could usually be easily avoided. Faye describes the children as being “full of love and kindness” and although the discipline is sparse, this doesn’t stop them wanting to learn about the personal lives of the volunteers. Faye pointed out that this was helpful as she was “quickly able to establish connections” and gaining the respect of the children therefore “became a breeze”.
“Being fluent in a language other than your first can give a whole new travelling experience.”
Although the volunteering is a life changing experience, being in a country like Peru also gives you a passport to travelling. This enables you to explore the culture further whilst delving into some sight-seeing without the responsibilities of teaching.
Máncora, in the very north of Peru, Lake Titicaca, in the most southerly part, and the mountainous regions of Huaráz and Cusco are places to see. It can be easy to forget that travelling is more than just sight-seeing and taking photos of pretty views and historical monuments. Travelling is also about meeting the people who live where you are exploring and getting a taste for their culture, which could be completely different to what you’re used to. Peru is no stranger to this, whether it be their way of living or the simple friendliness and genuine helpfulness of Peruvian people.
The people of Peru are renowned for their kindness in ways that you may not expect if you were exploring the streets of London, for example. They are more than happy to help you to read a map and point you in the right direction, whilst also giving away free cocoa tea to help with altitude sickness or volunteering to help with your Spanish speaking skills. Spanish is the Peruvian’s lingo and diversifying yourself into their culture and language not only creates a sense of respect, but being fluent in a language other than your first can give a whole new travelling experience.
“You will be changing other people’s lives and you need to allow your life to be changed too.”
Whilst travelling in Peru, a place not to be missed is Cajamarca. The Andean city presents the encounter between two cultures; the Inca and the Spanish. It also offers some
of the most historical sites in Peru as well as breath-taking views and idyllic country-side settings. One of Cajamarca’s bestselling points is that it is home to the largest production of dairy products in the country.
Only 8km northwest of the city are the Otuzco Windows. The Windows are famous for their archaeological past and are the site of a pre-Inca civilisation. These can be visited all year-round. The Windows were once used for converting grain deposits and the site can now be further explored through some Window openings into the dark and mysterious galleries which are set to inspire imaginations surrounding the ‘secret’ passage’s creation.
Teaching itself is an unforgettable experience. It is a vocation recommended to everyone and anyone who wants to make a difference not only to the children’s lives, but the community’s lives. But don’t forget that there is a whole new country to explore when going to teach abroad. Immerse yourself in the culture that many may not know about because although you will be changing other people’s lives, you need to allow your life to be changed too.