Reflections from a Volunteer
Sitting down and writing this blog post is strange because this really means my two months at Casa Hogar have basically finished. It doesn't feel like I have been here for that long and at the same time it feels like I have been here for forever. But I guess that it's a good sign because it means I have had an amazing time and felt comfortable where I was. And that is certainly true.
When I was on my way here in my head all these worst case scenarios came up: what if I don't like the volunteering position? What if the girls don't like me? What if I don't like the organisation? What if...
But all these worries were destroyed within less than 3 days.
I was greeted and welcomed by Megan and Marita so whole heartedly so that it almost felt like coming home rather than coming to a new place. It was obvious from the start how much the two of them cared about the project and the volunteers. From the beginning of the stay to the end, I knew and felt comfortable talking to the two about anything that was happening.
What about the project? Well, the girls are amazing. Within the first five minutes we were pulled around the house, lovingly, and everyone was keen to show us something whether it was a place, a belonging of theirs or a gymnastics trick. The girls were so open and loving towards the volunteers and each other and it really surprised me how quickly they got attached to us. Obviously, some of the girls found it easier to connect with us than others, but being able to stay to see how over time some of the girls that were more reserved towards us started to connect and feel comfortable around us felt almost more rewarding than the instant connection you had with some of the kids.
What did I do all day? Well, while there were tasks like helping with homework and chores, large parts of my daily routine were taken up by multiple girls playing with/ braiding my hair, playing uno and doing puzzles, assisting with gymnastic tricks and giving a lot of hugs and cuddles. The girls are keen to learn new things and loved playing with the frisbee I brought, kept trying to improve their volleyball skills and also wanted to learn the odd English word.
From time to time we also helped out in the kitchen which was a great way to connect with the full- time staff and made me personally feel like a more integrated part of the house.
Was it all easy all the time? If I said yes, I'd be lying. I spoke very little Spanish when I got here, so being around the girls was, at the beginning especially, exhausting. Only understanding every third word, generally, gets increasingly harder when three or more girls are trying to speak to you at the same time. Generally, being around a new language or different language all day is exhausting and takes some getting used to. But I can proudly say that I now understand a lot more and I am able to speak more as well. The girls are very patient teachers.
At the beginning I also struggled with severe jetlag and the altitude but that luckily regulated itself.
So what is my verdict of my stay? So worth it! Would I do it again? Most certainly. Being around the girls is such a rewarding experience. Getting to know them, seeing them learn something, making them laugh, overall just being around them made it all worth it. Saying goodbye to them is the one thing I am currently dreading because the trip from Scotland to Peru is sadly not as easy as I would like it to be.
I want to say a big thank you to Marita and Megan for being there for me and giving me this opportunity and a big thank you to all the other volunteers that were there with me as you all made this trip more fun.