Friday, 19 July 2013

The significance of Wednesday...

The Significance of Wednesday… An odd title I agree! What is so significant about Wednesday? And regardless of any significance whatsoever, why are OCN‘s marketing staff spending precious hours writing about Wednesday‘s when they have far more pressing work to do. These are natural questions to ask. And yes, I have to admit I probably could be doing more important things right now. But, I think sometimes we should all follow the advice of an old lady I met a-top a mountain en-route to Machu Picchu which was, ‟HEY YOU! Stop and smell the roses!″. In more colloquial terms, take your time, and not be so keen to press on that you forget to reflect on things and see the value in them. So it‘s with that piece of advice in mind that I feel I should share with you all a reflection of one particular Wednesday. But first, purely because I and probably you have never looked at Wednesday‘s with such interest before, and since the title of this tale demands it, let‘s delve into the significance of Wednesday some more. Did you know…Buddha, was the god of Wednesday, or that in the famous children’s book, Winnie the Pooh, the disagreeable weather is attributed to it being ‟winds-day″ (Wednesday). According to the Thai solar calendar, Wednesday is the also the color green, and in recent research it’s been concluded Wednesdays are a good day to ask for a pay rise but a bad day for driving. And for over a decade now phone network giant Orange has sought to add to the reputation of Wednesday as a significant day by offering cinema goers two for one, terms and conditions apply! These are good reasons to think Wednesdays are ok, but the particular Wednesday I am concerned with however, was the 3rd July. Ahaa you say, well then maybe I am talking about 3rd July 1871, when the famous Jesse James robbed a bank in Corydon, Iowa for a sum at the time of $45,000, somewhere equivalent to tens of millions in today‘s money. Or 3rd July 1863, when The Battle of Gettysburg came to an end, serving as a turning point in the American Civil War. Or perhaps even this date in 1994, when the 108th Wimbledon Men’s Tennis Final saw Pete Sampras beats Goran Ivanisevic (76 76 60), or when ten years later, in 2004, Maria Sharapova as a 17 year old defeated two time champion and top seed Serena Williams sparking the beginning of ‟Maria Mania″. Perhaps finally and for all you movie junkies you might be thinking Im referring to the 3rd July that either Tom Cruise, Julian Assange or Sebastien Vettel were born, without whom the world would be a far less interesting, noisy and action-packed place. True. But these are not the Wednesdays or 3rd Julys I am talking about. Sorry to disappoint. No. And here is the climactic ending … Wednesday 3rd July, the most significant of them all was the OCN PUB QUIZ! All this over this over a quiz…! And isn’t it true that the quiz takes place every other week, SO WHY ARE YOU GETTING ALL JUMPED UP ABOUT ONE PARTICULAR WEEK!? Yes, okay you got me! But your missing the point! This quiz is something to be remembered and for all the right reasons . First and foremost, the quiz sets about to achieve great things, not only, of its participants on the night, who make that MENSA crowd look like a bunch of dummies and who help to create some of the most memorable faces when it comes to “pass the balloon between the legs” game, or even of its bar staff who serve some of the best cakes and beverages on offer in South America, not just these, no. Its undoubtedly the greatest feat of Wednesdays and indeed the pub quiz that every week through the generosity of the attendees it manages to fundraise and support one of our projects here in Huanchaco, the skate ramp project. If you haven’t heard about or seen the skate ramp its situated up in the hills on the outskirts of Huanchaco town. Set in the heartland of a shanty town, called the Cerrito de la Virgen, its inhabitants originate from an area which suffered from the ENSO phenomenon. ENSO, or El Nino Southern Oscillation, was a natural climatic reoccurrence that caused excessive rainfall about 13 years ago, and it caused damage worth over $3.5 billion. Because the government was unable to meet the needs of all those who suffered especially with regard to housing, many were settled in arid landscapes, one of these in La Libertad, Cerrito de la Virgen. With little to no support from the government, with not even electricity and water available, inhabitants since have led difficult and simple lives. Education and social activity for the families and their children have been put to one side, as their lives become more concerned with the most basic human instinct, survival. However, Otra Cosa Networks volunteers saw potential and an opportunity to make a difference to the lives especially of the children here, and began a process which in its final product delivered a skate ramp on a plot of land donated by a local surf school. Pub Quizmaster and Skate Ramp Manager had this to say about it all. “Helping at the skate ramp has really shown me how much the kids value this project. Often they are stuck outside all afternoon with nothing to do, waiting for hours since their parents are out working long hours. This project gives them a chance to play and learn in a safe environment for a time which they may otherwise be in much more dangerous and unforgiving environments. The project has very stretched resources and money from the pub quiz really helps since new materials are fundamental to sustain the project and the safety and enjoyment of the children and the piece of mind the project gives to the parents. A fun evening funding a great cause, viva la pub quiz!” So there it is, the significance of Wednesdays! Please come along and help support our efforts and we look forward to seeing you at Meri Hostel (near the pier) - 8:30pm (Peruvian time).

Friday, 5 October 2012


‘!Hola Karno!’ the mother and daughter of my host family welcomed me by giving me a hug at the roadside where our Piura – Sicchez bus had stopped. We hadn’t seen each other for one year. This was my second summer in Sicchezpampa.  There was little change.  The mother, the little girl, the donkeys which take us to Sicchezpampa, the dogs, the turkeys, the house, the host family, the villagers, the farm work (mainly harvesting organic fair trade coffee in summer) … all haven’t changed much.

However, there are still SOME CHANGES.


‘?Cuantos patitos tiene?’ the new OCN manager, Alton was telling the ‘Ugly Duckling’ story.  He was using one of the story books that we brought from Trujillo.

‘Hmmm… Un, dos, tres, …” The kindergarten kids were pointing to the picture in the story book and were counting seriously. They were very cute.

‘Ma, Me, Mi, Mo, Mu’  The primary teacher was using the newly bought pronunciation cards to teach the primary one kids.  The kids were attentive and were trying their best to learn.

This summer both the primary and kindergarten had small CHANGES – Book Corners.  They were large book shelves containing newly bought teaching materials, educational toys and books.  The teachers were very happy with the Book Corner especially with the teaching materials because they lack these things.

The kids in Sicchezpampa are lovely, well-behaved and intelligent.  However they lack access to knowledge.  I hope that this CHANGE (the Book Corner) can help them to know more about the world.

There is still a lot of space in both the Book Corners.  Next time if you volunteer in Sicchezpampa, we would be grateful if you bring some children’s books (in Spanish) or teaching materials or educational toys.  !Muchas Gracias!


Wow!  Cerviche!  Yummy!  Mothers of primary and kindergarten kids took turns to prepare nutritious lunches for the school kids.  Today the mother of my host family, one other mother and I prepared Cerviche.  The school (i.e. the government) provided rice, cooking oil, salt and something like soya milk powder while the families provided corn, onion and fish.

Thanks to the CHANGE – the newly built stove as shown in the above photo. We can stand cooking there. We have fewer tears because the smoke is drawn up the chimney.


Last year, the freshly picked red coffee beans were put under the sun to dry.  Then the dried black coffee beans were sold to the local market.  This year, there is a small CHANGE.  The skin of the freshly picked red coffee beans was immediately peeled.  Then the inside white coffee beans were washed many times before being brought out under the sun to dry.  This white coffee was sold to the international market (e.g.Germany) with 3 times the market price of the black coffee.


There is a CHANGE in the number of members in my host family.  The new members are Violeta (the cute puppy), several chicks and little turkeys. The mother turkeys took several weeks to hatch their eggs.  They were very patient.  They always protected the eggs.  They were GREAT mothers.


I could not take off all my clothes and enjoy a real shower until the middle of my stay.  Before this, I had to wear my swimming suit and use a bucket to have a ‘shower’ as shown in the photo left.  Thanks to the CHANGE – I had a real shower.  I like this environmentally friendly and creative ‘shower room’.  All the materials in this ‘room’ except the pipe and shower head are made from recycled bags, recycled plastic sheets and tree branches.  Having a shower surrounded by plants is really ENJOYABLE!

I missed the life in Sicchezpampa.  Every day I woke up at 7:00 and went to bed at 21:00 (10-hours sleep)!! The farm work was not tough.  Usually it was the harvesting of organic fair trade coffee beans which took about 5-6 hours.  There was no internet in the village, so I had plenty of time to read books and play with the kids.  I had exercise for 45 minutes almost every day because I had to walk down to do the farm work and then walk back up home.  This kind of life is not possible in Hong Kong!!  The Sicchezpampa life is so RELAXING, SIMPLE, HEALTHY and HAPPY!  !Muchas Gracias!

For more information about this project and to apply click here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My return to Peru

I am Juany Murphy the International Liaison Manager of Otra Cosa Network. I wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit about the work I have been doing over the past 2 and a bit months. Since I started work with OCN in 2005 we are now a well-established Peruvian NGO and English charity where I have had the privilege to be able to work in both England and Huanchaco- Trujillo, my place of origin. I am now based in England with my family and wanted to share with you the time I spent back in Huanchaco and Peru where I welcomed and inducted our new management team in Peru.

Going back to Peru every year is a fantastic opportunity to see the projects and the work in action. Part of my role is to disseminate the work of OCN and create awareness of the political, social and economic issues facing Peru through our projects. This year I took my 7 year old boy Joseph with me.  It was very hard to leave my husband Peter and my other two boys behind as we have never been separated for longer than a week.

I arrived in mid-June with both the new Manager from North America and Assistant Manager Laura from England. We were so excited to start our new phase at OCN. The first week went so quickly just introducing them to their new life and taking them to as many projects as we could fit in.

The second week of training included a trip to Yanasara, a small village in the middle of a valley 6 hours up in the Highlands of La Libertad department. We were welcomed by the school as dignitaries. The Head teacher organised the Official Welcoming Ceremony with one of our volunteers working there. This special welcoming ceremony included the National Anthem and greeting our national flag with singing and dancing. They also took this opportunity to express their gratitude towards the help that OCN has provided them with. It was such a special and emotional ceremony.

We had a beautiful day with all the students who wanted to talk to us and get to know us. In Peru we demonstrate affection through food. And no matter how poor the ‘campesinos’ are they prepared a nice ‘cuyada’ - Guinea pig roast dinner. Many families have learnt to grow guinea pigs so this is the most exquisite dish here.

We were appointed ‘Padrinos’ (godparents) for the ‘promocion’ (high school graduation). This means that the 14 students of fifth year will receive some kind of economic support providing them many opportunities in the future.

We left on a lorry on a Sunday because there were no “micros” (minibuses) to go back and we could have missed our bus from Huamachuco to Trujillo. So there we were travelling in a lorry. The panoramic view is just amazing and after 4 hours we took our bus to Trujillo. The bus broke down twice but finally we took another bus. After a long journey we finally arrived home at 4:30 in the morning. Expedition achieved!

The third week we started with the Skate Ramp, an OCN project where we work with more than 25 children in a tiny shanty town, Cerrito de la Virgen. They go there to learn skating and also once a week we take them to the beach to learn to swim, surf and enjoy the beach. We also use this as a space to help the children with their homework as most of their parents only have primary school education.

We work in this community with more than 250 families. The children have absolutely nothing. With the initiative of one volunteer we decided to create a space where the children could be supervised and play freely and protected as many of them were just been left alone in the streets all day long while their parents go to work. This has proved to be an incredible success. For instance the Surf school has made surfing a sport accessible to the children of Cerrito.

Week 4: We went back to Cerrito de la Virgin a community of more or less 250 families where we have had a presence here for 2 years now. We are trying to create a women’s space with a group of mothers there where they can feel free to talk about women’s issues. One of the sisters from the Catholic Church told me that their local Priest had been given a sewing machine. We had one of our volunteers willing to fund the women’s project. I felt so excited and spoke with the other women in order to assess their needs and what they would like to do. We had the centre, the sewing machine, the willingness to learn something that can help not only to make their uniforms for schooling next year but maybe create a little income. Therefore, we decided - yes let’s go ahead.

Week 5: We commenced the preparations such as purchasing the materials and finding the sewing teacher. Nanna, a Danish student volunteering with us, was appointed to look after and help organise the micro-project which has now continued to grow into a project much more than just sewing classes. It is a place where we can help empower women.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Paul & Lucy Volunteering in Huanchaco …!

Six months into our travel through South America, we were lucky enough to find ourselves in beautiful Huanchaco. After spending a few days in town we were seduced by the long days of sunshine and relaxed atmosphere and decided to look into some volunteer options, as it´s such a perfect spot to stop for a while and enjoy life by the beach.  We emailed Otra Cosa Network and had a reply from the lovely Laura within half an hour, enough said a few days later we were all organised with volunteer positions to suit us both. Paul in the office 4hours a day, as his background is online marketing. I (Lucy) am a nurse in Australia, and was keen to be working with children. I was placed in a Wawa Wasi a daycare project for 4 hours each morning (20hrs a week).

Paul had a great time in the office, helping the Otra Cosa Network team with new ideas to spread the word and encourage more volunteers to come and help in this great part of the world. Wawa Wasi is a fantastic government funded project, which selects a mother living in a disadvantaged area to provide daycare for 8 children every day, so their parents can try to find much needed work. The children are aged between 6months to 4 years, and as you can imagine, that is quite a handful for any one person. I was able to get involved and help straight away as there was always something to be done. The children were absolutely gorgeous and a pleasure to spend time with, as was my Madre (mother) Anita, who was running the Wawa Wasi I was volunteering at.

An important part of the Wawa Wasi was mealtime, and the food provided is fantastic. The children get breakfast, a hot lunch, and lots of fruit and snacks in between. For most of the children this was the main food for their day, as they may otherwise have been eating white bread and rice, not what growing bodies need! I soon learnt not to look the other way during mealtime, otherwise their hands would be straight into the bowl of food and suddenly it was across the table, chair and any other child nearby!

After traveling through South America for so many months, we had been through poor areas but it was quite different to be involved and see the poverty first hand. An eye opener, especially for Paul as he had been in the office, was the day trip to visit all the volunteer projects Otra Cosa Network are involved with, which included many schools, homes for orphans and the rubbish tip, where there are many families actually living, or surviving amongst the rubbish.  This was such an important day, and I encourage all volunteers to go along.

When I finished I gave the children a book, which they absolutely loved, as they only had one other book there to read, and they wouldn´t put it down! I felt empowered whilst volunteering at the Wawa Wasi and it was a nice change for us to have a break from traveling, help and be a part of the community. This is what volunteering is about, an experience that Otra Cosa Network was able to provide. THANK YOU!

We are now continuing our travels north towards Canada, feel free to check out our travel blog here:

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Diego's time teaching English in Huanchaco

My name is Diego, I was born in Brazil and raised in Spain. After finishing my bachelor in Economics I decided to travel to Peru to volunteer as an English teacher for 6 weeks. So, I arrived in Huanchaco on the 17th of July and the day after I had my induction with Otra Cosa Network (OCN).

On my first day of work the OCN’s assistant director, Laura, walked with me to the school I was supposed to teach at, Escuela Primaria Maria del Socorro which was two blocks away from the office. I was introduced to the school principal who offered me a working schedule after a long and interesting conversation. In the beginning I was supposed to work only three days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 8h15 until 12h00 and teach 3rd, 5th and 6th grade. At the end my schedule was changed so I could teach every class of every grade but I still worked less than 20 hours per week.

By that time, I had never taught English before and it was a challenge for me to be able to control a class of around 20 students in Peru. I was surprised to see that the children behaved really well and were delighted with my Spanish accent. Soon after, I was known in the neighbourhood as “el teacher Diego” and I was really pleased with their eagerness to learn.  I would say that if you want to be an English teacher in Huanchaco, the better you speak Spanish the more control you can have over the class but, in the other hand, I truly believe that the most important characteristic needed in this case is the teacher’s personality and his/her charisma with the kids. In fact teaching English in Peru is an excellent way for non-Spanish speakers to improve their Spanish.

A few weeks after my arrival, I was invited by some other volunteers to have a look in the afternoons at another local project, called the SKATE RAMP in the humblest part of Huanchaco, called El Cerrito de la Virgen. Our goal was not only to keep the children away from the streets but also to help them with their homework, take them surfing or to the cinema. Gradually I was seduced by the existent freedom to create any activity we wanted over there. As money was the biggest barrier to our ideas, we decided to raise some funds by ourselves. As an example two volunteers, Agathe (France) and Andy (England), decided to sell juice on the beach and raised more than 100 soles. Some weeks after, Andy and me, we thought of doing a charity quiz at a local hostel by the beach and we raised 146 soles. The quiz was a success in every way and we will repeat it every two weeks. Right before I left we were meeting up with all the volunteers implicated in the project in order to decide how to invest our own funds. Probably we will build a ping pong table and a play house at the ramp.

On weekends we are free to discover the surroundings of Trujillo, the biggest city near Huanchaco. Two places that no one misses are the Chan Chan Ruins and the Huaca de la Luna Ruins. The first belonged to the Chimues culture during the fifth century and the second belonged to the Moches culture 10.000 years ago. It is also possible to travel to other important cities over the weekend, like Chiclayo (3 hours trip) or Huaraz (8 hours trip). I’ve been to both and I loved them. Chiclayo is famous for its Señor de Sipán Ruins and Huaraz for having the highest mountain in Peru called Huascarán. If you are planning on doing a bigger trip, you can always ask permission from OCN and to your school and take some time off from your project to travel. Usually what most people do is to finish their project one week before their departure day, so they take some holidays.

Where to stay in Huanchaco? Basically there are two options. First is to stay in a local family house and second is to stay in a hostel. I would say that hostels are the best option to socialize with new people while a family house is recommended if you want to get more involved with the local culture. During my stay, I was very lucky to contact a previous volunteer from Mexico who recommended me a hostel called Mc Callum. I could not imagine my stay in Huanchaco without Mc Callum as almost every single day I met new interesting people, however I understand it is not the best choice if you want silence from 10 o’clock in the evening. It is not the cheapest option either (single room is 20 soles a day while others charge 10 or 15) but it offers 24 hours a day internet connection and all day hot water shower. Besides it is very safe, has a good location and the owner, Patricia, is a sweetheart. Referring to family houses I would recommend Luis’ House as the owner is a very interesting person and the volunteers staying there are very happy.

My experience was very positive. I feel that I learned more from the kids than I taught them. I tried to make them associate learning English with something really fun and I would like to believe that I succeeded on making them see that there is life outside Peru and English would be a key to many future doors.  Please feel free to ask OCN to give you my contact details if you would like to contact m with any questions. And as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse but treat a man as he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”

Click here to apply and find out more about teaching English in Huanchaco. Or click here to apply and find out more about the Cerrito Skate Ramp project.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Katie at Casita de Madera!


Last Saturday saw an expedition force of Otra Cosa volunteers descend on Casita de Madera all in the name of redecorating.  The goal for our paintbrush wielding task force was to redecorate Casita de Madera in Villa Los Angeles, on the outskirts of Huanchaco.  Casita de Madera is a daycare centre for children aged 5-8, aimed at improving their skills before they enter school.  The building which houses the kindergarten, as the name suggests, is a little wooden house and although recently weatherproofed on the outside, the inside was a bare, dusty and pretty uninspiring place for the children to spend their time.  And so armed with paintbrushes, paint and a rake or two we arrived ready to transform the Casita....
Cue problem number running water at the Casita.  Its quite amazing the things you take for granted.   Having had to beg, steal and borrow paintbrushes and rollers we were a little concerned that our chosen colour scheme might come to nothing since we couldn't clean our brushes.  Never fear, a rummage around the room later and we had volunteers armed with the children's mini  paintbrushes ready to brighten up the room.  While the female of the species were busy redecorating inside the Casita, the guys took charge of the heavy lifting outside, transforming the existing, rubble strewn 'playground' into a safe area for the kids to play in.  Utilising landscape gardening skills I don't think anyone knew they possessed, rubble was cleared, paths were built, slides were painted and the whole area was raked clear of debris.  Whilst all the work was going on we had local mums and children casting a watchful eye over proceedings, keeping the volunteers in check and also providing us with some much needed cold refreshments.  They day also lent itself to some impromptu English lessons for the kids as they learnt new words from the guys in the playground and then ran up to the Casita to practice them with us girls.
Whilst the sauna conditions in the Casita, combined with the spiders and flies led to moments of complaints from us all at some point, they also provided moments of reflection.  You realise that these are the conditions the kids are living in everyday, worlds away from the bright and well equipped daycare centres that we are used to back home.  Seeing the end product of our day, how just a little bit of paint and a clear up transformed the Casita into a much more cheerful place was massively rewarding.  It was also a really great opportunity for me to do some hands on volunteering.  I work here as an office volunteer and so don't get to spend as much time as other volunteers with the kids at the projects, so getting to work outside and see tangible results at the end of the day was hugely important.  Experiencing the conditions at Casita, with the multitude of flies also motivated the volunteers into a fundraising drive to raise money for fly nets.  Such a simple addition but something that will make a massive difference for the children who attend Casita.   And at the end of the day, helping to make a difference to peoples lives is why we are all here.

Click here to apply and find out more about volunteering at Casita de Madera.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Lessons learned by Lucy


The sights, sounds and spirit of Latin America were calling me back.  Having spent time in Mexico I was desperate to get back to that side of the world from the drizzly UK.  But backpacking didn’t really appeal.  I wanted to spend some time in a place, to be part of a community and to do something fulfilling that would help others and myself.  So I decided to volunteer.  I persuaded my boyfriend Ed to come with me and after comparing numerous volunteer options all over South America we eventually settled on Otra Cosa.  It offered a wide choice of projects in which we would both be able to use existing skills and develop new ones and it seemed to be a well-run and successful organisation.  It was an added bonus that we would be living in the traditional fishing community of Huanchaco with its year-round sunshine and kilometres of sandy beach.  

I have worked as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) Teacher for about 2.5 years so the Otra Cosa project which appealed to me was the EFL Co-Ordinator role.  HELP English is the branch of OCN which provides free English classes in school and community settings in Huanchaco and surrounding towns and it would be my job to organise and develop these classes. 

Through very efficient contact from OCN staff Emily and Najin, our project roles were finalised and our accommodation arranged – we were to live in the OCN volunteer house – and in February we arrived in Huanchaco.  Our first day as official OCN volunteers coincided with a project tour.  All the volunteers (about 25 of us) piled into a bus and with Emily and Najin as designated tour guides, complete with microphones, we visited 8 different projects that OCN is involved with. 

The tour was a real eye-opener and great insight into some of the valuable work that OCN is doing.  Particularly prominent memories for me include the Puesto de Salud in Huanchaquito which caters for the health of an entire town on a budget of 100 soles (about 35 dollars) per month.  Also the El Milagro project which reaches out to a community who have set up home on a rubbish dump as it provides them with a source of income.  Driving into El Milagro and seeing how these families live was quite a shock and it is somewhat humbling to know that there are people out there who are willing to help them. 

The project tour fell on a Friday so we had the weekend to settle in to Huanchaco life before starting our projects the following Monday.  Living in the volunteer house meant we were in the hub of the OC social life with a stream of people coming and going.  This was a little overwhelming at first but it turned out to be a great way to get to know the other volunteers and make new friends and OCN does seem to attract a certain breed of fantastic people!  Our first Friday in the volunteer house was a good example of OCN’s lively social aspect with a full-house for a volunteer despedida.  Saturday was the first of many laid-back Huanchaco beach days and on Sunday a group of volunteers including myself and Ed set out to climb Cerro de Campana, the rocky hill that looms over Huanchaco to the north.  But that’s a story for another blog! 

My EFL Co-Ordinator work was based in the Otra Cosa office.  This was the first time I had worked in an office one floor above my bedroom, adorned with Justin Bieber posters  and with such entertaining chat from my colleagues. It was a very pleasant working atmosphere and, despite the unconventional set-up, I managed to get some work done.  During my 2 months as EFL Co-Ordinator I made a start on bringing some structure to HELP English.   I used knowledge gained in my previous EFL work to develop curriculums for the children’s and adult classes and also made a series of lesson plans and gathered materials and activities to help future volunteer teachers. 

In addition to my office work I also taught classes.  On Monday – Thursday I spent one hour per day at Las Lomas Primary School and on Tuesday – Thursday at 4.30 – 7pm I had adult classes at Huanchaco Library. 

My experience at Las Lomas school was exactly that – an experience!  Las Lomas is a deprived community and the operation of the school differed dramatically to what I was accustomed to in the UK.  The school has no running water (((????))), very limited materials and a different system of rules and discipline in place which meant classes could sometimes be a little chaotic to say the least!  I was also limited by my lack of Spanish and had to urgently learn some common commands – sit down, listen, stop trying to kill each other etc!  And even then it was questionable whether the kids would listen to my commands, correct or not.  But there were positive aspects too.  The kids are very sweet and affectionate with each other and with the teachers. I was always greeted with hugs and kisses.  Also the teachers who worked in the school in these difficult conditions were an inspiration.  They had patience and humour and just the right balance between kindness and strictness.  And the classes weren’t always chaos.  When the children learned something and enjoyed themselves it was very rewarding. 

My adult classes at the library were an entirely different story. Aside from the obvious lack of discipline issues (adults rarely jump on tables and pull each other’s hair!) the classes were easy and enjoyable and that was down to the students.  Although some didn’t have a great level of English they were hard-working, enthusiastic and fun.  In class we talked about everything from cake to politics, education to salsa music.  The students learned new grammatical structures, vocabulary and increased in confidence when it came to speaking and conversing in English. Getting to know my library students and helping them to learn was one of the highlights of my volunteer experience. 

Life as an OC volunteer in Huanchaco wasn’t all about work.  Free time activities included studying Spanish, trips to Trujillo and the nearby archaeological sights of Chan Chan and Huaca del Sol, yoga, games nights and Latin dance classes.  And of course there is always lots of food to be sampled and socialising to be done!   Surf is always up in Huanchaco and watching the ‘surfistas’ cruising the waves was another favourite pastime.  My own attempts on a board mostly consisted of toppling awkwardly into the water but the few times I did manage to stay standing and ride a wave to the shore gave me a taste for it. One day............... 

Living in Huanchaco, although sometimes in a bit of a gringo bubble, was also a good introduction to Peruvian life and culture.  During our stay we witnessed Carnaval, a vibrant and colourful procession and fiesta the likes of which is very lacking in the UK.  Also ‘El Palo’ – a traditional event that sees people old and young indulging in paint-throwing, tree-climbing and plenty of eating, drinking and dancing.  And there were the quirky elements of day to day life – the sound of the bread man on his bicycle, the ‘hola amigos’ from complete strangers, the chanting of the bus and collectivo workers, the bargain menu lunches and fantastic fruit juices and the inescapable musical soundtrack.  Huanchaco life has a flavour all of its own. 

Overall my time with OC allowed me to contribute to something worthwhile, make new friends from all over the world, gain experience for my future career, learn about a different culture and provided me with a myriad of happy memories.  The experience will stay with me and I would recommend it to anyone. 

Click here to apply and find out more about volunteering as an EFL Co-ordinator or English teacher.